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Portrait of Anna Liuzzo in her school classroom.

Timothy Cauller, of the English Language Institute, teaches a class in Baldy Hall.

Published June 26, 2018

English language proficiency is key to international student success

Improving the English language skills of international students

Enhancing language support and reducing impediments caused by language are among priorities at UB to promote international student inclusion and engagement, and enable students to achieve their educational and social goals.

“I think it is fair to say that every international student who gets on a plane to come to the U.S. has a dream of earning their degree and making American friends,” said Stephen Dunnett, UB vice provost for international education. “For many, their biggest challenge to realizing this dream is English language proficiency.”

UB has been addressing this challenge for over 45 years through the English Language Institute (ELI). The institute has been offering English as a second language (ESL) instruction and programs since 1971, and ELI has been part of the Graduate School of Education since 1981.

Rough estimates indicate that through the years, close to 30,000 students have benefited from ELI instruction and programs. In addition to earning advanced degrees at UB and other U.S. institutions, graduates hold senior positions in academe, the professions, business or government in their own countries.

Timothy Cauller, program director for ESL instruction in ELI, said most international students who are pursuing degrees at U.S. colleges and universities — and at UB — have already put in eight to 10 years of English study.  

“And whatever amount of English language study they may have had,” said Cauller, “once they arrive in the U.S., they are taking on a very complex, challenging and cognitively demanding task. From that perspective, the first part of what we do at UB — and what most students need — is to continue the trajectory of English language learning.

UB has been successful in improving the English proficiency of its international students. Dunnett said he has heard that firsthand in conversations during trips to meet UB international alumni overseas. “More than a few individuals have told me, ‘I had a great experience at UB. I got my degree and I now have a good job in my field, so I am happy about that.’"

“Building international students’ familiarity and proficiency with the English language is a highly integrated part of the UB character,” said Cauller. “UB has been doing this well for a long time.”

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