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Pilot Program to Expand WCU's International Enrollment

Through a new collaboration between West Chester University and INTERLINK Language Centers, more prospective international students will have the opportunity to study at WCU by improving their proficiency in English. The INTERLINK Center at West Chester will provide English-as-a-second-language (ESL) training and cultural orientation programs for international students planning on studying at the University.

INTERLINK has conducted English-as-a-second-language programs at American universities and abroad for more than 30 years with other centers on the campuses of Indiana State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Valparaiso University, Ind., and Al Yamamah University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Their programs concentrate on linguistic proficiency but also develop students' awareness and understanding of cultural and global issues through practical and experiential learning, including community service. The curriculum encourages personal growth, covering a wide range of subjects such as computer literacy, current events, public speaking, test-taking strategies, and more.

As a pilot program beginning March 18, initial enrollments will be small, with the first students coming from Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Sessions run nine weeks, with additional 2013 sessions beginning May 27, Aug. 5, and Oct. 14. Depending on their prior English skills, students stay in the INTERLINK program from two to 12 months.

West Chester University has a long tradition of welcoming international students and scholars from all parts of the world, and currently enrolls 95 international students from 35 countries. Staff members at the University's Center for International Programs (CIP) provide special assistance, advising and programming for WCU's international community. Now in association with INTERLINK, CIP will serve the language and cultural needs of a wider group of international students as well as those applying for admission to WCU.

Bringing more international students to West Chester through INTERLINK has multiple advantages, notes David Wright, WCU's Assistant VP for International Programs. "The collaboration with INTERLINK promotes diversity and global awareness on campus and in the community. It advances international cultural understanding through education as we focus on trends and opportunities in the rapidly growing world marketplace."

INTERLINK's Mariana Syrotiak, who speaks English, Romanian, French and Spanish (and has studied Russian and Thai), will direct the West Chester University INTERLINK Center. She holds two master's degrees from SIT Graduate Institute (formerly the School for International Training): Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and Intercultural Management.

Syrotiak's intercultural career spans nearly 20 years. She served SIT for 11 years, including as adjunct professor, teaching English for Academic Purposes and graduate courses in organizational behavior and intercultural communication, and as the manager of SIT's graduate certificate programs in peace-building and conflict transformation. She has worked with professionals and graduate students from more than 80 countries, and traveled to Europe, South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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