ESLi classes to educate nonnative English speakers

Noah Moore

From international festivals to refugee centers, Bowling Green distinguishes itself as a leading city regarding diversity. Although diversity is a critical component of the city’s makeup, many face difficulties in assimilating to U.S. culture. That’s where ESLi comes in.

ESLi, or English as a Second Language International, is a program designed to help students become fluent in English to be admitted into universities. Dawn Winters is the director of ESLi and has seen a tremendous impact on students from the many classes offered.

ESLi was founded on WKU’s campus in 1999 when WKU had almost entirely domestic students. Over the past 18 years, ESLi President T. Ryan Hall has witnessed the shift of the university from a commitment to internationalization.

“When ESLi first came to campus, internationalization was in its nascent stages,” Hall said. “Most of the services on campus were designed for domestic students, and ESLi and WKU worked together to make WKU a more welcoming and effective environment for international students to come and study.”

The program has developed from 10 students to over 175, even with internationalization being on the decline as of late. The program’s evolution has been predicated by a yearn for helping motivated students.

“ESLi is dedicated to its core mission of serving students who have academic goals; however, we have plans to serve students who have language needs for different purposes, which is what this program aims to do,” Winters said.

This evolution has sparked new class opportunities for its students. ESLi has innovated a BSA (Bachelor’s of Science and Arts) English class for Spanish-speakers, designed to help them further their reach in the business world through linguistic abilities. The reactions have been positive.

“The students are so engaged in the material because it directly impacts their day-to-day lives,” Winters said. “They all clearly enjoy being in the class. It’s amazing to see how their English has improved on a collective and individual basis.”

This program, if successful, could lay the framework for new classes for non-English speaking students in a path to fluency for the ESLi program. With a new university president and a changing national climate, ESLi is orienting their goals in new ways.

“My hope for ESLi on WKU’s campus is to continue to build relationships with departments and campus leaders to help achieve international goals. I would like for ESLi and WKU to work closely together, just as we always have, to develop new strategies and innovations to serve the ever-important international student population,” Hall said.

ESLi stays true to its core mission of serving students who have academic goals and will continue to have a direct impact on the students’ quality of life and goals, whether it be in the classroom or the world itself.

Reporter Noah Moore can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noah_moore18.