Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) English Language Institute (ELI) is now assisting full-time international students who need to improve their English comprehension.
Southwestern Ph.D. candidate David Sanchez teaches a class of international students in the English Language Institute, designed to prepare English-language learners to study and communicate in English at the academic level and use English for global ministry.
“Students who couldn’t study here before at Southwestern now have a pathway,” said Caitlin Yowell, ELI director.
“The intensive English program is a fast-paced study program. As practical preparation for the ministry, the ELI prepares English-language learners to study and communicate in English at the academic level and use English for global ministry,” Yowell said.
The 36-hour program – three years in the making – includes instruction in grammar, speaking, listening, reading, writing, theological vocabulary and academic skills. The program is for incoming students who score high enough on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to have basic skills but not high enough to begin a degree program.
“It allows us to train F1 visa students whom we were never able to reach before, and allows remedial English assistance for existing students who need help,” said Michael Wilkinson, dean of Scarborough College, the seminary’s undergraduate school. “Also, current students’ wives can enter the program to be a help to their husbands in their ministry.”
Support is provided through formal classroom instruction, computer-assisted learning and cultural immersion opportunities. Classes are taught by Yowell and David Sanchez, a Ph.D. candidate at the seminary. Students who successfully complete the program will earn a TOEFL waiver for bachelor’s and most master’s degree programs at Southwestern.
The ELI was first conceived in a Scarborough College faculty meeting three years ago, Wilkinson said. “It was envisioned as a way to certify Southwestern students to teach English internationally. Then, we met with Andy Morris and realized that it would allow us to reach out to an entirely new group of students.” Morris, Southwestern’s director of international student ministry and services, suggested that the ELI could aid incoming international students in English language proficiency and began the process of requesting federal approval for that role.
The U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reviewed the program for approval to admit international students, which was granted in July. SEVP, under the authority of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is education.
“We are incredibly excited that this door is now open so that we can ultimately train and send out even more workers for God’s harvest around the world,” Morris said.
The program is up and running with students who already live in the Fort Worth area. Yowell said that, by fall 2019, the seminary hopes to have a full-fledged cohort of incoming full-time ELI students.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Julie Owens of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)