Lincoln University Uses Fulbright Awardees from Abroad to Teach Foreign Language Classes

Paige Chapman, “Small University Uses Fulbright Program to Bolster Foreign-Language Teaching,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 24, 2010:

Lincoln University, in southeastern Pennsylvania, has long had a global outlook. The historically black institution notes, for example, that its graduates include the first presidents of Nigeria and Ghana.

But in recent years, international interest among its students has flagged. Lincoln has been forced to drop two-thirds of its language offerings over the past seven years; only about 40 of its 2,000 undergraduates studied abroad last year.

Now Lincoln is hoping that four participants in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program on the campus this year can help jump-start its ambitious plan to restore students’ global perspective. Among the university’s new priorities are increasing foreign-language enrollments and more than doubling its study-abroad numbers.

“We’ve always had a strong international connection,” says Constance Lundy, the study-abroad director. The teaching assistants “just heighten cultural awareness and sensitivity at the institution.”

The Fulbright program, known as FLTA, has brought 422 teaching assistants from 49 other countries to American colleges this academic year. It focuses on small, rural, or minority-serving institutions like Lincoln, for which the additional teaching support—along with the international exposure—can prove invaluable. In addition to their teaching duties, the assistants take courses and participate in campus activities.

Lincoln has long been active in the foreign-language-teaching-assistant program, tracing its on-and-off participation back for about 27 years. This year the four teaching assistants nearly doubled the number of faculty and staff in the department of foreign languages and literatures, to 10 full-timers.

“Without them, our department would be a different one,” says Abbes Maazaoui, an associate professor of French who is chairman of the department. Their expertise—in French, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic, the four languages Lincoln offers—has allowed the university to offer more introductory language courses and individualized language labs. Between 200 and 300 students are taking language classes there this year.

The teaching assistants make an impact outside the classroom as well. Among other things, they run foreign-language clubs and help out at college-recruiting fairs.

Beyond that, having young academics from other countries on the campus (the maximum age for participants is 29) has exposed students to different cultures. “Their presence is absolutely helpful because of their age,” says Mr. Maazaoui. “They’re integrated in the department, but they also sit in the same classes as students. That experience is unique, and the students fare well to that.”

Over the years, one-third of study-abroad participants at Lincoln have been referred to the program by Fulbrighters, Ms. Lundy estimates.

Exposing students to other cultures has often been seen as a crucial part of generating interest in study abroad. That is particularly important among minority students, who participate in study-abroad programs at lower rates than white students do.

Exposing students to other cultures has often been seen as a crucial part of generating interest in study abroad. That is particularly important among minority students, who participate in study-abroad programs at lower rates than white students do.

Badreddine Ben Othman, an Arabic-language teaching assistant from Tunisia, says one of his goals this year is to combat stereotypes about Arab countries. He hosts a language club each week in which students discuss current events in the Arabic-speaking world.

“Some of the students taking history and cultural studies are definitely very aware of the issues, while others don’t even know where the Pyramids are,” Mr. Othman says. “It depends on the student, but I try to provide pictures or experiences to provide a clear view of the Arabic world and culture.”

Floriane Jagueneau, a French-language teaching assistant, says she had wanted to work beyond her home country, France. A course she is taking, “The History of Black People,” has been one of her favorite experiences at Lincoln.

“I’m learning to have a different point of view on what happened in history,” Ms. Jague neau says. “Students here are open to new ideas and know that the American way is not the only one. And I’m learning about ebonics and black culture, too.”

Mr. Maazaoui says that his department will get student feedback at the end of this year to improve the program’s effectiveness, but that he feels very positive about the experience.

“In today’s world, we cannot measure the effect of interacting with people from other cultures,” he says. “It’s a must for our institution and should be a goal for everyone to increase their global perspective.”








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