Ethnic diversity at UMBC is a given. You do not need to walk through Academic Row more than once to realize that UMBC is home to a plethora of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. However, not many people are aware of exactly how many of UMBC’s international students become acquainted with the campus community.
This is where the English Language Institute comes into play. The ELI acts as a miniature school within UMBC, where international students can better their understanding of the English language while simultaneously creating fellowship and community among fellow international students. As of spring 2016, it hosts 189 international students who are taking up residence at UMBC.
The UMBC ELI was recently selected as a site visit to the International Teaching English as a Second Language conference that was held in Baltimore. Here, presenters including Dr. Yuliya England, ELI Director of National Marketing, and Sarah Gardenghi, head director spoke about the purpose, programs and various facets of the institute.
“The ELI offers customized training programs for special groups from around the world. Training may be conducted on campus, on site, via telecommunication technologies, or a combination,” explained the presenters. The ELI has taken part in customized education for students not only on the UMBC campus, but in programs located in Ecuador, Japan, Mali and India. In addition, the ELI currently trains Chinese teachers and Turkish government workers and operates a successful international “externship” program with Northrop Grumman.
As far as on campus training goes, the ELI provides top-notch training from 14 graduate or near-graduate level instructors, as well as five GAs and four student workers. Campus students, along with taking typical undergraduate and graduate classes, receive in-depth English training, which takes form in the Intensive (20 hours a week) or Academic (equivalent to 12 institutional credit hours) programs. The training specifically focuses on five aspects: speaking and listening, reading, writing, grammar and cross-cultural communication.
The ELI does much more on campus than providing english language training. According to the TESOL presentation, the ELI additionally “acts as a liaison for international students, works closely with student service offices, provides opportunities for scholars, interns and researchers, and provides intercultural training.”
Gardenghi acts as the academic principal of the “school within a school,” as she described. According to her, the ELI has plans of stretching its international reach in the coming years by expanding accessibility to the ILTS and TOESL online preparation courses. This will allow areas inhabited by low-income college-aged students to have access to online college courses offered through the ELI.
The ELI represents a fantastic name for UMBC and its focus on inclusion and diversity. As the program steadily grows on campus and plans to slowly expand outward to the international stage through its online presence and specialized programs in China, Turkey, Mali, Japan, Ecuador and India, it seems that the ELI has a bright future ahead. For more information, Gardenghi welcomes all students to the ELI office which is located on the second floor of the University Center, next to the Retriever office.