Connections Past Issues


Doors to the World

Nazareth's English Language Institute welcomes students from across the globe

by Joanie Eppinga

Mustafa Alhabib

Graduate of the English Language Institute Mustafa Alhabib '20 matriculated into Nazareth's nursing program this fall.

“We need to open our doors to the rest of the world,” says Nevan Fisher, associate vice president for global programs.

He’s talking about the purpose underlying the English Language Institute’s new initiative to invite students from other countries, particularly the Pacific Rim, to Nazareth. The ELI (formerly the American Language Institute) offers several different programs for international students, including short-term immersion programs, training for businesspeople, and summer programs. Fisher says the goal is to retain 65% of students who study at the ELI for matriculation at Nazareth.

“If we become a more diverse body,” says Fisher, “then we do our students a great service. A more complex culture here will prepare students better for their careers, wherever they have them.”

In pursuit of that goal, the first thing Nazareth did was to hire Hongzhuan “Sam” Song, who had successfully expanded an English language school at another college, as director of the ELI.

Since arriving at Nazareth, Song has traveled to China many times to build partnerships and spread the word about Naz. “Although it’s a very good school, many people in China don’t know about Nazareth,” says Song. “I tell people, ‘For your students to get the best education they deserve, they need a solid liberal arts education’.”

Fisher says the ELI now makes a point of blending its programs with the liberal arts fabric of the College so that ELI students have an experience similar to that of other students at Naz. “Student affairs, activities, housing—now it’s all integrated in every conceivable way,” says Fisher.

One ELI student who has appreciated that integration is Mustafa Alhabib '20, a nursing student from Saudi Arabia. When he arrived at Naz, Alhabib says, he quickly made friends with both American students and other international students. “Now,” he says, “Nazareth is my home.”

That feeling is what Fisher strives for. “To help students acclimate,” he says, “we work with the entire Rochester community and with Nazareth faculty to plug them into family home stays for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. This gives ELI students a taste of family life in the United States and increases their feeling of engagement in the community.”

Another strategy the ELI uses to integrate students into American life is called Conversation Partner. A native English speaker and a foreign student are paired to spend an hour in conversation each week. “Both people benefit,” says Fisher, “and not just linguistically.” Ideally, Fisher observes, relationships develop, and U.S. students make friends with people from all over the world.

How else does Nazareth benefit from having international students on campus?

“These students add experience and perspective to the classroom,” says Fisher. “They change how faculty deliver instruction, and they change the interaction in the classroom.” As a result, he notes, Nazareth students tend to see things in more global terms.

In addition, the campus benefits financially by welcoming students from emerging economies. “They’re paying full price,” says Song, “with no tuition reduction.” Fisher adds that those funds help Nazareth to stay strong in an increasingly competitive liberal arts environment.

According to Song, having more foreign students at Naz is a win-win. “They provide a different angle on culture,” he says. “And they boost the morale of the campus!”

Joanie Eppinga is a writer and editor in Spokane, Washington.