Thursday, June 14, 2018

Listen as Argentine students reflect on their time at Virginia Tech

Andy Morikawa, host of Trustees Without Borders and executive director emeritus of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, talks with the visiting Argentine students about their time at Virginia Tech.

The students were part of the Friends of Fulbright Undergraduate Exchange Program hosted by the Language and Culture Institute this year.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Creating pathways to partnerships with Jordanian universities

Written by Patricia Parera

Patricia Parera, second from left, talks with the president of The Hashemite University in Jordan, Kamal Bani-Hani.
Virginia Tech was invited by the Eurasia Foundation (EF) to join a consortium of universities from the U.S. and Jordan. This consortium is being established under EF’s Creating Pathways to University Partnerships project with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. The project’s aim is to strengthen strategic and long-term institutional cooperation between U.S. and Jordanian universities and develop new mechanisms for bilateral cooperation that enhance the productivity and impact of university linkages.

Patricia Parera, associate director for partnerships at the Language and Culture Institute, was invited to participate in a mission to Jordan in March. She was accompanied by Venkataramana Sridhar, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

This visit marked a critical step in the formation of the network and helped to refine our priorities and strategic directions. In addition to research collaboration, we highlighted the need for joint capacity building and professional training to enhance the skills of faculty and staff to deepen and sustain international cooperation through collective action. We also acknowledged the need to diversify partnerships with key stakeholders in the community to elevate the visibility and impact of our work. We identified several concrete activities to advance these priorities as we continue to seek out opportunities for larger-scale funding and resources. 

In the pictures is our visit to one of the universities in the program. The Hashemite University (HU) is named after the Jordanian royal family — the Hashemites — and was established by a royal decree in June 1991. Over the past 20 years, HU has expanded its academic and research profile to reach 13 faculties and one institute with more than 225 laboratory in different colleges, all equipped with the latest technological equipment. Even more impressive is the university's increase in the number of admitted students, which has exceeds 26,000 students enrolled in 53 undergraduate programs and 27 master's programs at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.

HU’s comprehensive strategy for environmental management is directed toward a green campus and mitigating climate change. The university's environmental sustainability strategy is currently the leader in Jordan public- and private-sectors' institutions (especially in photovoltaics), and is one of the leaders in the region, with many of its expertise being transferred to several projects in Jordan and in the region.

Some of the areas for possible collaboration with Virginia Tech include renewable energy, arid lands, public health and nursing, and capacity building. HU’s focus on its students as ambassadors of change who can carry the message of environmental social responsibility in their careers and future jobs is very much aligned with Virginia Tech's motto, Ut Prosim, as a way of life and Virginia Tech's Destination Areas.
Sukaina Al-Zyoud, HU's dean of academic development and international outreach, who visited Virginia Tech in March as part of the State Department’s International Visitors’ Leadership Program, was our main host. She is a force behind the university internationalization effort. 

The Jordanian universities would be excellent partners for Virginia Tech and for the broader Consortium of universities. Initially, the Consortium has identified the following main research clusters:

  1. Water and natural resources.
  2. Infectious diseases and public health.
  3. Refugees.
  4. Food security.
  5. Education and market linkages.  
It is important to note that gender is a key constraint to achieving shared prosperity in Jordan. Gender disparities underlie a variety of issues, including poverty, inequality, and labor market dynamics. The U.S.-Jordan university consortium will strive to mainstream gender in its initiatives and propose solutions on key obstacles to women’s agency. In addition, a youth crosscutting theme will be incorporated in the consortium strategy. This could take the form of piloting a youth project; conduct analytical work on youth to inform policy dialogue, and foster youth inclusion.

Finally, we will continue to explore opportunities through Fulbright and other U.S. government programs to keep abreast of opening competitions in support of public diplomacy and leadership programs. The United States has few allies in the region, and Jordan is an island surrounded by many hostile nations to the U.S. in the region. Therefore, any effort that can promote broad-based engagement in research, professional and graduate training will go a long way.

Proposed initial collaboration with Virginia Tech and/or through the consortium of universities:

  1. Supporting strategic research and partnerships.  The University of Jordan’s Water, Energy & Environment Center (WEEC/UJ) and VT’s Center for International Research, Education, and Development (CIRED) are interested in research aiming at improving the livelihoods and raise standards of living in developing countries (i.e. refugees’ issues) in connection with water, energy, and food nexus.  WEEC/JU is interested in VT’s in the Graduate Certificate in Natural Resources (GCNR) offered by the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS). Such certificate program for students and professional seeking graduate-level education and training in environmental and natural resource management is of utmost importance for Jordan.  WEEC/UJ would like to participate in any executive training (certificate programs) to be offered to government policy and decision makers, NGO's officers and private sectors executives.
  2. Helping Jordan cope with the impact of refugee inflows.  According to a recently concluded census, the total number of Syrians refugees in Jordan has reached about 1.3 million, representing 19 percent of the population.   Twenty five percent of the Syrian youth [between 18 and 24 years old] were in higher education when the war started . We are eager to support the displaced and their host communities, working in complementary ways with the Consortium partners by conducting research that would contribute to Jordan’s development agenda.  There is an opportunity through research and eventually investment projects to design a multi-faceted response, helping Jordan cope with the impact of refugee inflows on its economic and social fabric and turning this shock into a development opportunity.  The Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) multi-disciplinary and multi-agency project on international refugee research  could be an ideal resource for this research cluster.    
  3. Train Jordanian faculty in data techniques, program evaluation, and randomized control trails. VT is in a position to organize short courses on these topics in Washington DC, by webinars or in country in partnership with the Department of Economics (Pamplin) and facilitated by the LCI.
  4. Equipping Jordanian youth and refugees with vocational skills is important for both economic and security reasons. The Department of Statistics of Jordan reports that 51 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed in 2016.  In addition, women are over represented in higher education institutions, but underrepresented in the labor market.  Al-Hussein Bin Talal University (HTU) occupies a unique niche in Jordan’s higher education market – one that aligns the skills they teach with tangible employment opportunities in a more direct way than other institutions.  HTU pursues this goal by integrating employers, in the form of large corporations, into the fabric of the school and tailoring educational paths – from the two-year technical certification to an associate’s degree to a four-year bachelor’s degree. A partnership between HTU and VT’s TVET and positive youth development program designed and implemented by Virginia Tech’s Center for International Research, Development and Education (CIRED) could serve both Jordanian and refugees youth.  

Video: Creative Minds in the Grammar Class

Students in professor Monica Mulholland's Grammar, Listening, & Speaking 450 class in Fairfax showed off their work last term in this video:

Thursday, February 22, 2018

LCI Fairfax students tour Air and Space Museum

Students and faculty from the Language and Culture Institute in Fairfax took a field trip recently to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The museum maintains the world's largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, encompassing all aspects of human flight, as well as related works of art and archival materials.

Below, read two students' essays about the trip.

Saud Alhokiar 

As usual, LCI provides every new season's field trip to please that seems interesting as U.S. museums or pike neck. On 7 February 2018, we went to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum that please present old things such as airplane and who old people create this airplane. I get a lot of important information it was very useful. The place was crowded because many people want to see something related to the previous centuries however I had a great time. It was a good time with my friends. In conclusion, I like places that related to the past because I like to think how these people can create something even though they do not have an ability like the ability which in the modern life. Overall it has pretty and amazing please and I hope to visit this place again with my family in future.


My experience during the field trip was amazing. It was my first time, I saw the Air and Space Museum before I did not had enough information about Airplane and Moon rockets and the machines that were used in the world. All the machines that we saw were in their original form which was interesting for me especially I had chance to touch the moon stone. Special representative was assigned for us to give the detailed information about the background and history of the machines which I really liked. Now I am interested to take my friends to this Museum. Using metro was also great experience, I learned how to recharge my SMART card for future trips and I will be able to travel next time by myself and can see more Museums in DC because all of the Museums in DC are free, which is great. I learned a lot and had fun with my classmates in this trip.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hokies women's soccer coach visits LCI

Follow us on Facebook to see more photos from Coach Adair's visit.

Thanks to Chugger Adair, head coach of the Virginia Tech Women's Soccer team, for speaking this morning at the Language...

Posted by Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

LCI faculty, staff lauded at OIA banquet

At the Outreach and International Affairs annual Celebrate Success banquet, a number of LCI faculty and staff were nominated by their peers for awards. Congratulations to all our deserving colleagues, and thank you for dedication!

Bonnie Sumner

Nominated for: Maroon & Orange Award

Bonnie Sumner exemplifies what it means to be a Hokie. As an instructor at the LCI, Bonnie imbues her students with her love of Hokie Nation. Beyond simply helping her students in the classroom, Bonnie makes sure that her students feel welcome in their new community. That means not only helping these international students make the most of their time in Blacksburg, but also helping Blacksburg get to know these wonderful students. For example, Bonnie routinely arranges for guest speakers such as Del. Sam Rasoul, Rep. Morgan Griffith, and VT football star Terrell Edmunds to come speak to her classes. She opens these classes up to the entire institute so all students can benefit. And benefit they do! You can see it means a lot to them to hear from these pillars of our community. Creating such a sense of pride in being here helps the LCI stand out among its competitors and helps spread what it means to be a Hokie worldwide.

Stephanie Ayala

Nominated for: Maroon & Orange Award

Stephanie Ayala, program coordinator at the Language and Culture Institute (LCI) in the National Capital Region (NCR) clearly exemplify the characteristics of the Maroon and Orange Award. The NCR location has increasingly taken on billing responsibilities for the entire LCI. In September, due to unusual circumstances, Stephanie was obliged to handle all the LCI Fall I billing on her own, in addition to her regular program coordinator duties. She performed this vital function perfectly, on time and without error, typical of her detail-oriented and careful work. 

In October the LCI/NCR began an evening English as a second language program to benefit the surrounding community. Stephanie provides the sole administrative support for this program, in addition to her LCI billing and program coordinator duties.

Beth Loar

Nominated for: Pylon Impact Award

Over the last year, Beth has demonstrated exceptional service and teamwork. This past year, she took on primary DSO responsibilities and assisted with conditional admission duties for the LCI due to two lengthy position vacancies.  She did this all while completing her regular LCI admission duties. Although performing all of these duties became hectic at times, Beth was always able to provide a superior level of customer service to all, continued to complete all of her work quickly and accurately, and was the first person to offer assistance when other LCI staff needed help or assistance. Her dedicated efforts often go unseen but have been critical to the overall operations of the organization this year.

Pamela Smart-Smith, Pedro Santiago, and Stephanie Ayala

Nominated for: Maroon & Orange Award

The billing and collection functions of the Blacksburg and Fairfax locations of the LCI were an area of concern following the sudden departure of an LCI employee on leave.  Yet this area of concern quickly transformed into an area of great achievement due to the collaborative efforts of Pedro Santiago, Stephanie Ayala, and Pamela Smart-Smith.  Over multiple terms, they have quickly enrolled students in courses & produced accurate invoices for numerous students & sponsoring organizations.  Pedro, Stephanie and Pamela have quickly addressed all billing & class issues & ensured that financial and academic records are updated.  They have gracefully & professionally worked with students or organizations failing to pay to bring their accounts up to date.  Their dedicated and collaborative team efforts have resulted in bringing all student & sponsoring organizations accounts current & serves as an example of great teamwork.

Andrea Todd, Elsie Paredes, Guennadi Bratichko, Aniseh Ghaderi, Liz Bowles, Rich Mathieson, Bryan Ducote, Pedro Santiago

Nominated for: Hokie Stone Team Award

Specially developed for international students who wish to matriculate into Virginia Tech, the development of Advantage VT (AVT) has engaged undergraduate admissions, enrollment management, as well as advisors and senior administrators in the Colleges of Business, Science and Engineering.  

This “AVT development team” refined the program concept, conducted market analyses, created and piloted curriculum, developed marketing materials, and assisted in presenting the program to college and department administrators.  

The most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by the institute, AVT would not have been possible   without the hundreds of combined hours dedicated by these team members to a common goal.

Stephanie Bailey, Patricia Parera, Rich Mathieson

Nominated for: Hokie Stone Team Award

Virginia Tech aspires to be a global university.  Over the past year, the LCI has undertaken five missions abroad, engaged a number of embassies, and welcomed three senior delegations to campus.  Three individuals have been key to the success of these activities, which have engaged over 50 VT faculty members from departments across campus.   

Rich Mathieson has created and/or contributed to web blogs, press releases, news items, brochures, pamphlets, banners and other materials, forwarding the VT brand in many ways and languages.

Patricia Parera has organized missions, promoted VT abroad, fostered contacts with senior officials, networked abroad and mobilized faculty support here at home.  

Stephanie Bailey, responsible for logistics for missions and delegations, has worked tirelessly to ensure that activities are planned and executed to the finest detail.  

These employees “walk the talk" of international engagement.

Stephanie Bailey

Nominated for: Ut Prosim Award

Stephanie Bailey was hired as my assistant one year ago.  Over that time, and for extended periods, she effectively did two full-time jobs.  When Stephanie was hired, the immediate need arose to back-fill her former position at the institute’s main desk.  The unexpected departure of a second office assistant created a void in both people-power and knowledge at our main desk.  For a period of many months we struggled with filling and training her former position.  Stephanie stepped in to not only fulfill my needs as her supervisor, quite demanding on their own, but also the responsibilities of managing the front office and, eventually, training a replacement.   When I was traveling, a frequent occurrence, Stephanie also juggled making last-minute changes to my itineraries with a demanding home life managing two young children.  Stephanie did all of this conscientiously and without complaint, making her my Ut Prosim hero.

Adil Bentahar

Nominated for: Maroon & Orange Award

Adil Betahar is very admired by his students.  He makes students believe in their own abilities and possibilities for the future.  Adil goes above and beyond for his students and all students at the LCI.  Adil has served as a translator and resource for students in need. He never hesitates to help a student or colleague regardless if he has previous plans.  He volunteers with the conversation program at the public library and works with the Blacksburg Refugee Coalition as a tutor and as a trainer.   Additionally, Adil volunteers with the VT Saudi Club and works with LCI Student Services to give ongoing orientation sessions to our students. Adil’s work ethic and leadership stand out. He is one of our most dedicated instructors, and for this we think he deserves recognition. 

Aniseh Ghaderi

Nominated for: Pylon Impact Award

Aniseh Ghaderi has given many years to the LCI.  In that time she has worked as an instructor and now serves as the Advisor for conditionally admitted students.  Aniseh has worked tirelessly to establish systems for advising students.  She has created all the materials we now use and has shared these within the institute and nationally at conferences.  Aniseh seeks to know about not only students’ academic lives, but also their personal likes and possible areas of difficulty.  She is kind and guides students to achieve their goals.  When a student is not successful, she tries to help them succeed even if the path they envisioned must be a different one.   In addition to her advising duties, Aniseh works with her colleagues for the good of the organization.  She works as an instructor, serves on the Assessment Committee, and is active with the Toastmasters.

Mary Freday

Nominated for: Maroon & Orange Award

Mary Freday is an innovative force in the classroom and outside of it.  Mary spends countless hours seeking new ways to reach her students.  Students always request to be in Mary’s classes as she pushes them to excel and makes them feel valued.  In addition to her classroom responsibilities, Mary assumed a strong leadership role in the institute by leading the curriculum committee.  She has worked tirelessly revising and, at times, completely rewriting curriculum for the Intensive English Program.  Throughout the last year, Mary has exceeded her job requirements and has made valuable contributions to the LCI. Additionally, she has volunteered to work on the Joint Curriculum Committee (Blacksburg and NCR locations) as a faculty representative to advise in decision-making.

Rich Mathieson 

Nominated for: Invent the Future Award

Rich Mathieson is not just a good all-around communicator, but he also brings immeasurable added value to OIA because of his facility with graphic design. He does many of the visuals for Save Our Towns, and each year he designs the annual OIA wall calendar with originality, flair and elegance. (And without complaint!) His designs are tasteful and stack up with the best coming out of Virginia Tech's art departments. What's more, he's an excellent colleague, sharing his skills in photography workshops and other less formal trainings. When any job requires extra graphic-arts skills, such as fitting OIA's department names within the new Virginia Tech logo, Rich is always the one there to help everyone make it work. (I'm not sure Rich has ever been recognized before, and if so it's long overdue!)

Language and Culture Institute/National Capital Region Instructors

Nominated for: Hokie Stone Team Award

The faculty of the Language and Culture Institute adheres to the highest standards of instruction while projecting warmth and empathy to all our English language learners. Our current teaching staff has been with us for multiple terms, most for multiple years! They bring enthusiasm into the classroom while encouraging and facilitating student learning. The LCI/NCR instructors effectively prepare English language learners for admission into and success during their future undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In addition, they assist students as advisors and work closely with them to ensure their future academic success. 

Congratulations to Allie Shamsaei, Monica Mulholland, Lily Jaffie, and Inge McKenney.on a job well done. Thank you for all that you do!

Monday, December 18, 2017

LCI students explore National Portrait Gallery

Students in Fairfax recently toured the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The gallery aims to "tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation’s history, development and culture."

Read what some of the students had to say about their trip below.