By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT – Some prospective students from other countries have been turned down for admission to St. Ambrose University because they did not meet English language proficiency standards.
A program in the works for a number of years will now offer international students the opportunity to learn or improve their English skills. It’s called the INTERLINK Language Center, said Ryan Dye, director of international education at St. Ambrose. The university will have just one of four INTERLINK language centers in the U.S — and the only one west of the Mississippi River. The other locations are at Indiana State University and Valparasio University in Indiana and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
St. Ambrose does not offer an English as a second language program. INTERLINK provides opportunities for linguistic, academic and cross-cultural success. The program will be open to the community as well as to prospective English learners from other countries, Dye noted. “The Quad Cities is more diverse today. This is a good service we can provide.”
The English learner program will begin in January 2017, with renovations underway at Hayes Hall to house it. Dye also is working with the university on housing arrangements and coordinating with the INTERLINK program on various needs. “Our partnership enables us to come closer to fulfilling our core value of diversity,” Dye said.
About 40 students can enroll in each nine-week program. Students are “conditionally admitted and treated as Ambrosians. They will live and eat on campus and have a student ID,” he added. Five levels of language will be offered to accommodate students’ needs – ranging from no proficiency to advanced proficiency in English. The average length of stay in the program is one year; the maximum is two years.
Classes will cover vocabulary, but also involve research and debate. At Valparasio, Dye sat in a level-four class. “They were debating about genetically modified foods.”
Last year St. Ambrose enrolled 117 international students from 26 countries. Many more applied, but did not know enough English. Dye said the most common undergraduate degree for these students is engineering. For those seeking graduate degrees, information technology management or business degrees are most common.
“A lot of countries place a premium on English,” Dye said. “The United States higher education remains highly respected worldwide.”