Launching New International Faculty Writing Program

2014-may_14-tara-11Our multilingual faculty has shared with me the unique challenges they face in their scholarly writing. Their desire for professional development opportunities that enrich their research efforts are explicit goals in PSU’s Strategic Plan: Goal 2, 1.3, “Make professional development for all faculty a personal and institutional priority”, and 3.2, “Create opportunities for faculty and graduate students to develop and enrich their research efforts.

While we have had a very successful Jumpstart Academic Writing Program in the Office of Academic Innovation, application of our equity lens for Goal 2 of our Strategic Plan calls for “committing internal resources to support academic, research and creative activities that diversify our scholarly portfolio and the knowledge we generate on campus.”  It is with this in mind that I charged an ad hoc committee to investigate the different approaches we could take to provide international faculty writing support.

Members included:

  • Janelle Voegele, Office of Academic Innovation
  • Margaret Everett, Office of Graduate Studies
  • Julie Haun, Intensive English Language Program
  • Wayne Gregory, Intensive English Language Program
  • Annabelle Dolidon, World Languages and Literatures
  • Dannelle Stevens, Graduate School of Education
  • Twila Nesky, Graduate School of Education

The committee set out to:

  1. Understand the needs of faculty who could potentially benefit from support for academic writing in English;
  2. Learn about academic writing support for non-native English speakers at other college campuses;
  3. Find immediate opportunities for support within current PSU structures;
  4. Make recommendations for sustainable faculty writing support that serves non-native speakers of English.

Great news! The Office of Academic Innovation, in collaboration with the Provost Office, created a position and hired a ‘Multilingual Academic Writing and Presentation Specialist’, and selected Applied Linguistics Professor Keith Walters.  I recently asked Keith to write about his plans for the program.

  1. Why did you agree to take on this role?2014-may_14-tara-10

It’s a great opportunity for me and for my department. My varied experiences also serve as great preparation for this role. I have considerable experience teaching ESL/EFL; have worked with doctoral students from many language backgrounds; have direct experience with the tasks faculty regularly engage in; and have co-authored two widely used college-level writing textbooks. I am bilingual, and although I have given papers in my other languages, it has been with considerable assistance. I have great empathy for those who are constructing professional identities in a language other than their native/preferred/stronger/strongest one(s).

  1. What plans do you have for how the program will be structured?

An initial task is to survey as many faculty who use English as an additional language to learn more about their specific needs in order to tailor a program to their needs. It will be important to document the specific needs of our institution as we begin to disseminate information about this program at conferences and/or in articles.
Additionally, with assistance from my colleagues, I am identifying current MA students and IELP (Intensive English Language Program) faculty to help individual PSU faculty with specific projects.  We have a long-term goal to create a practicum-type experience for applied linguistics MA students to provide them with training in particular areas and give them a chance to develop new skills by working with faculty who have requested language support.  We will offer some workshops this fall on effective professional presentations and handling Q&A sessions following a presentation.

  1. What do you think the biggest benefit will be to faculty?

The program should help increase their confidence in using English in professional contexts and improve faculty retention.  A formal program acknowledges PSU’s awareness of the nature of linguistic diversity in our own society and our institution. In short, we’re showing that we believe that institutions benefiting from such diversity should help support those who have an extra burden: not having the luxury of operating in the language(s) that might be their preferred or stronger/strongest one(s). By helping this faculty group, we are strengthening their programs and departments.

  1. Anything else you want to say about the program?

I’m excited and humbled to be part of these efforts. This is a great project, one that my colleagues in applied linguistics and I hope will help familiarize the campus with ways that our discipline can serve the PSU community.

PSU is committed to supporting faculty professional development, and this program is one way we enhance specifically the contributions of our multilingual scholars and teachers.  More information about the program is available at:

We had our first faculty member sign up for the program this week!  Please pass along this information to others you know who might want to participate in this program or have them contact Professor Keith Walters if they wish to help provide support for it.


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