Program helps students assimilate


Emani Burton

Sabah Abo Aafesh (left) and Amjad Alshahwan (right) study to become proficient in the English language.

Emani Burton, Staff writer

Mercyhurst’s International Admissions department restructured its English language course to better accommodate the International Foundations Program (IFP) which allows accepted international students to further their knowledge in the English language, all while pursuing a Mercyhurst degree.
The IFP and the related Intensive English Program (IEP) have seen a rise in applicants since the introduction of the programs last fall. Both IEP and IFP help prepare international students for the challenges of life at Mercyhurst. While often mistaken for the English as a Second Language programs. the IEP and IFP instruct participants in more than language skills.
Admittance into the Intensive English Program requires some English language proficiency, measured by the Test of English as a Foreign Language  (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Applicants must have the minimum TOEFL and IELTS scores to be considered for admittance into the program. Students are enrolled in classes covering the English language and university culture classes over a period of eight weeks.
Students must complete 24 hours of classroom instruction before progressing in and completing each level of English proficiency. There are five proficiency levels in the program. The IEP program’s new eight week time frame is the result of program reconstruction at the end of last year.
“We wanted students to be able to pass through the program more quickly, if they have the desire to do so,” said  Janelle Newman, academic director of the  Center for English Language Learning.
Newman was instrumental in the designing of the program and handles curriculum design as a part of her current role.
“When students finish level 5 (Advanced), they should be able to handle a full course load of academic classes at Mercyhurst,” said Newman.
The IEP program has the accreditation of Middle States Commission of Higher Education. It is an officially recognized “language bridge” program. Students who finish the IEP  receive a certificate completion, and graduates may choose to apply to the International Foundations Program to further their education here at Mercyhurst.
The IFP program, similar to the IEP, requires applicants to demonstrate a degree of English language proficiency. TOEFL and IELTS scores are taken into consideration, along with student transcripts. Acceptance into IFP offers students conditional admission to Mercyhurst.
The IFP is scheduled into semesters. Students must take general education courses in addition to two English language courses. This semester, students will be taking a special course called Digital Literacy, which will cover social media, computer and technology language. All classes in the IFP are credit earning classes.
“It’s a nice opportunity, where students will get a well-rounded English language experience,” said Newman. She feels the program perfectly aligns with the Mercyhurst mission to be compassionately hospitable.The program’s appeal extends further than international students abroad.
“Statistics are still unclear,” said Program Manager for Specialized International Programs Monica Clem, “but we have a lot of interest within the Erie community.”
Erie’s immigrant and refugee population have risen by 0.4 percent since 2010 and continue to rise.
“We felt that this program answered a need in the community” said Clem. “Our admissions has really doubled since last year.”
Clem handles the administration and admissions of both programs.  The IEP and IFP are multifaceted programs and are the products of extensive department collaboration.
“This is such a group effort. It wouldn’t be successful without the world languages department, Dr. Alice Edwards and the English department, the faculty, VP of Enrollment Joe Howard and of course the students,” said Newman.
Newman and Clem encourage Mercyhurst students to converse with their international peers and believe that doing so will engage student with new and exciting cultures.