Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Virginia Tech Welcomes Thirty-two VTLCI Admissions

VTLCI congratulates thirty-two VTLCI Intensive English students offered admission to undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech for this coming spring and fall semesters. Let's go HOKIES!

Yu Bai
Naiqi Cao
Yu Chu
Yifan Gu
Ziyun Guo
Xueyan Han
Bangxin Lan
Jingyi Liu

Yuanyanyan Liu
Kai Lu
Weihan Luo
Yueran Meng
Jiaheng Song
Ruizhe Song
Yongyan Sun
Wei Tang

Muzi Ti
Sahowei Wan
Chuo Wu
Dexuan Xu
Rui Xu
Zhechong Xu
Wentao Yang
Jialun Yu

Fanmin Zhai
Baosheng Zhang
Shaoshan Zhang
Xiao "Sean" Zhang
Yu Zhang
Mingrui Zhao
Yuan Zhou
Zhanni Zhou

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Former VTLCI Humphrey Fellow Wins UNESCO Award

PANAMA CITY, Panama – On November 23, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship alumnus Arturo Cerezo, who serves as resources specialist at the Division of Natural Environment of the Panam√° Canal Authority, was honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for having the best written work during HELP Basin Symposium 2011, held in Panama November 21- 24, 2011.

The scientific paper was described by UNESCO as a model for the region and the world, combining science and community experiences to manage integrated natural resources. Cerezo’s paper was selected from 200 submissions by scientists from 64 countries, in which he analyzes the process of reforestation with native species in Panama Canal Basin and proposes an innovative framework for the preservation of Biodiversity, erosion reduction and control of native species.

Cerezo was honored during the closing ceremony by Dr Shahbaz Khan, who is coordinator of Global Ecohydrology Program and head of the Section of Water and Sustainable Development of UNESCO, based in Paris, France.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Valdivia Travelogue IV

By Georgia Wyche

So far, the second semester at UACh has been going well even though things are busier than a normal semester.  Things are busier and the classes are more intensive because professors have to cover all of the required course material in a shorter period of time. For this reason, many classes are meeting on more days during the week and on Saturdays. The students are also more overwhelmed with work than during a typical second semester.

Bird's eye view of UACH campus
Normally, the second semester at Chilean universities begins in July and ends in December. As you know, this semester is very different due to the months of striking. The classes began at the beginning of November and will end in March.  Also, many of the classes will have to be taught online in January because many of the students will not be in Valdivia during the months of January and February. The months of December, January and February are summer months and considered the tourist season in Valdivia. During these months, the cabin/apartment rentals and the cost of living increase.  As a result of these changes, many of the students have to leave Valdivia because their leases are finished and they aren’t able to afford the rentals in the summer.

I continue to stay active and busy at UACh.  I’ve been teaching my applied linguistics classes two days a week, holding regular office hours and advising a group of English pedagogy students on their theses. Along with my applied linguistics classes and duties, I’m continuing to teach English conversation classes to honors students and professors at the Virginia Tech Center. The English conversation classes will stop at the end of December and I’ll begin another project for the UACh/Virginia Tech Center.  The new project will consist of creating and teaching a class on scientific/academic presentations to researchers and professors.  I’m looking forward to this new project.

In addition to teaching classes, I’m continuing to strengthen the relationship between UACh and Virginia Tech. For instance, I often encourage my students to consider going abroad and perhaps doing a graduate degree at an American university, such as Virginia Tech.

At the beginning of November, I also had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John H. Rossmeisl, an associate professor in neurology and neurosurgery at the Virginia Tech Veterinary School.  Mr. Rossmeisl was a visiting scholar who traveled to Valdivia to teach a continuing education class on surgery at the UACh Veterinary Hospital.  His classes were very beneficial to the surgeons and the clinicians.  The UACh Veterinary School looks forward to inviting other scholars, like Mr. Rossmeisl, to teach and demonstrate innovative methods for the professional development of their faculty members.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

VTLCI Names New Business Manager

Director Donald Back is pleased to announce the appointment of Bryan Ducote to the newly created position of Business Manager for the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute (VTLCI).

Ducote joins the Institute with extensive experience in managing the business and fiscal affairs of both public and non-profit organizations.  He formerly served as Vice President of Business Affairs for a statewide organization in California that provided alternative educational, training, and employment related services to seniors and people with disabilities.  There, Ducote was responsible for the financial, budgetary, business, human resources, and administrative affairs of this multi-million dollar organization.  Prior to this, Ducote served in similar business manager positions for the Cities of Chula Vista and Paramount, Calif., and as a business officer for the State of California.

A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Ducote holds a Master of Public administration (MPA) degree from the University of Southern California as well as a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Claremont McKenna College.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stadium Woods: Natural heritage in the heart of Virginia Tech's campus

by LCI alumnus and Humphrey Fellow Andreza Silva de Andrade

Stadium Woods is home to over 50 ancient oaks.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 9, 2011 – For well over 200 years, regal oaks have stood on a knoll that now borders Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium. The 57 ancient oaks, each measuring more than 3 feet in diameter, form part of a unique, old growth forest in the heart of campus.

Latin American students visiting the university’s Cranwell International Center adjacent to the 20-acre Stadium Woods find the same migratory songbirds they hear back home. Besides hooded warblers, vireos, and some 62 other species of birds identified on the site, a pair of nesting Cooper’s hawks has been spotted there.

The small forest serves as a sort of rest stop and cafeteria for migrating birds. Local birdwatchers consider the woods an excellent spot for adding species to their lifetime lists.

“When the birds come here in the spring and fall, they’re hungry and underweight from their long journey,” said Sarah Karpanty, associate professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “They may stay at Stadium Woods for a day or for weeks.”

John Seiler, Alumni Distinguished Professor in the college, who has been conducting forestry labs in Stadium Woods for years, has permanent plots set up and tagged for regular tree measurement and identification exercises. If Stadium Woods did not exist, he would have a difficult time teaching some of his courses because transporting students to a public forest outside of town would consume the entire 50-minute class period.

“Stadium Woods is a true forest right on campus,” Seiler said. “Although we have trees and even groves around campus, Stadium Woods has the whole ecosystem, with a forest understory populated with plants, insects, and other creatures.”
In a spot surrounded by pavement and concrete buildings, Stadium Woods absorbs rainwater and cools the vicinity in summer. The 2009 Virginia Tech Master Plan Amendment identifies the site as an environmental and cultural greenway, defined as “a significant reservation of lands, waterways, tree stands, and cultural landmarks for future generations.”

Although Stadium Woods has remained relatively untouched during Virginia Tech’s 139-year history, married students were housed in trailers between the trees in one section during the enrollment explosion following World War II. Remnants of concrete sidewalks and porch foundations of “Cassell Heights” can be found in the woods just east of Cassell Coliseum.

Stadium Woods remains one of Virginia Tech’s best kept secrets. Jeff Kirwan, professor emeritus and forestry Extension specialist who co-authored the book “Remarkable Trees of Virginia,” has been exploring the woods for about 10 years. Impressed by what he saw, he persuaded the Virginia Master Naturalists to inventory the on site species. In addition to native species such as mayapple and black haw viburnum, they found invasive, nonnative species such as Asiatic bittersweet, English ivy, and multiflora rose, which need to be controlled. Kirwan enlisted the Virginia Tech Society of American Foresters Student Chapter, with help from the Virginia Tech Forestry Club and the honor society Xi Sigma Pi, to work on removing nonnative species at the site.

“The Virginia Tech Society of American Foresters Student Chapter was very excited to facilitate removal of invasive plant species this fall,” said Kyle Dingus of Warrenton, Va., a senior majoring in forest resource management in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the chair of the student chapter. “We feel that restoring Stadium Woods to a natural state is a way to benefit the community and to help maintain a well-known ecological landmark. The chapter plans on continuing these efforts every year so that we can continue to support our community.”

The New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, the New River Valley Native Plant Society, and the New River Valley Bird Club have contributed a total of $1,500 for five signs to be posted in Stadium Woods indicating the ecological significance of the site.

“Stadium Woods is a natural heritage in the heart of Virginia Tech, a home to ancestral trees, and a refuge from the urban environment for birds and humans,” said Kirwan. “If people don’t realize how special it is, it will be used for other purposes. People need to think of it as the most historic thing we have in our community, more historic than any building or piece of paper. It is not only historic, it is alive.”

The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top three programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and the environment, and instill in students a sense of stewardship, land-use ethics, and large-scale systems problem solving. Areas of study include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography, and international development. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
Written by Andreza Silva de Andrade, an environmental reporter from Brazil who interned with the College of Natural Resources and Environment while on a Humphrey Fellowship.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Valdivia Travelogue III

By Georgia Wyche

I’m happy and relieved to say that things have somewhat changed at UACh since my arrival and my last journal entry. Faculty members, staff and administrators are fed up with the student’s refusal to attend classes, so the president of UACh has put his foot down and has decided that the second semester will begin on November 2nd. I teach my first Applied Linguistics class on November 2nd, so I’m very curious to see what will happen.

The Chilean students seem stubborn and probably won’t give up their fight until they feel their voices are heard. Along with the second semester beginning on November 2nd, there is also a campus wide student vote on whether classes should begin or not. Regardless of the results of the student vote, the president still wants to continue with the second semester. If the students vote “no” and we continue with second semester, this just means that some students will attend classes and others will not. This whole situation is very confusing!

In the meantime, I’m still teaching English classes to professors and honors students in the morning in the Virginia Tech/UACh center. Then, I spend the afternoon working with professors in the English pedagogy department. I’ve been working with Ms. Yasna Yilorm, an English pedagogy professor and supervisor to student teachers. During the strike, I’ve been going with Ms. Yilorn to different schools in Valdivia to observe UACh student teachers teaching English. It’s been an interesting experience because I’ve been able to observe both private and public schools. From my observations, I can tell that there is a huge division between socioeconomic classes in private and public schools. I’ve also noticed that there is a big problem with classroom management and that the class sizes are outrageous in both private and public. For example, the average class size of a public school English class in Chile is approximately 45 students. The student teacher’s biggest complaint is learning how to better manage their classroom and their students. Ms. Yilorn and I are working with the student teachers and specifically giving them guidance on classroom management.

Lately, we have had several faculty meetings in the English pedagogy department in preparation for the second semester. The end is near! I’m ready to finally teach Applied Linguistics. I’ll be teaching to students in their last year to become English teachers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Since my arrival to Valdivia, I’ve been preparing for the Applied Linguistic classes. Unfortunately, none of the students attended classes on November 2nd because of the campus wide vote.

Update: Well, the results of the student vote are in and I’m glad to say that the students voted “yes”. This means that the students want to begin the second semester. I feel more relieved and look forward to teaching and meeting all of my applied linguistics students next Tuesday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute expands, adds new programs and staff

Following is reprinted from the Oct. 27, 2011 edition of the Virginia Tech News.

Elsie Paredes, left, with Don Back and Amanda Johnson, right, in the
newly renovated lobby of the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 27, 2011 – With a 300 percent growth in student enrollment over last year and a doubling of office and classroom space, the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute is setting records as it carries out its mission of serving international students and others with language training.

“We were formerly known as the English Language Institute,” says Don Back, the institute’s director. “This was later changed to encompass not only the English-language training but also to include other languages as well as intercultural training and other related programs with international focus.”

Part of the university’s Outreach and International Affairs, the institute provides language-related programs and services for academic and professional development. A major clientele served consists of international students seeking admission to Virginia Tech and other major U.S. universities. The institute also partners with universities in Chile, China, and Haiti to help those institutions build capacity in English-language instruction.

With classrooms in Blacksburg as well as in Falls Church, Va., the institute hosts more than 500 students per year from more than 30 different countries.

Much growth has occurred in existing programs, but many new programs have been implemented as well. The Indonesian Scholars program, for instance, is in its second year of offering an eight-week course to help young leaders from that country develop English language proficiency and critical-thinking skills. Abroad, Georgia Wyche, one of the institute’s English instructors, is currently in Valdivia, Chile, where she is teaching faculty and students at Universidad Austral de Chile.

The institute has grown significantly not only in numbers of student enrollment but also in staff. Since the beginning of the year about a dozen new full-time staff members have been hired to create a total of 50 employees at the institute – a leap from the five staff members when Back first came to Virginia Tech five years ago.

Elsie Paredes is the institute’s new associate director. Having been a teacher for more than 20 years, her previous career was good training for her new role, which includes taking charge of the English program. “Providing workshops and seminars for the teams of professionals that visit gives me my dose of being a teacher. This was a perfect opportunity for me,” Paredes says.

With the need to service more students came a new student-advising center offering university admissions and immigration advising as well as guidance not related to academics. Students can consult with Diana Housein-Salaita, the international student advisor, on personal, immigration, or legal issues. The center also organizes an extensive array of student activities. Housein-Salaita came to the institute from Virginia Tech’s Cranwell International Center.

As assistant director for special programs, Amanda Johnson is in charge of testing services, foreign language training, and new initiatives. Before coming to Virginia Tech in August 2010, Johnson worked as a program director, instructor, and teacher trainer at an Ecuadorian school of foreign language and linguistics. Among the current projects Johnson oversees is a college-preparatory program for gifted students from Saudi Arabia, a cooperative effort with the College of Science.

The Humphrey Fellows Program is the institute’s flagship. Each year for the past four years, the institute has hosted this group of mid-career professionals from around the globe for a spring-and-summer immersion in English. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Humphrey Fellows have a busy schedule including class visits, community interactions, academic networking, and leadership training. The program is headed by Bert Wilson, an expert in China’s Uyghur minority. Wilson also directs a similar project for junior government officials from Turkey, who are taking English courses at Virginia Tech as well visiting local government offices.

“We’re looking forward to even more developments in the coming year,” Back says. “The institute contributes to the university’s diversity and intellectual capacity by helping to attract the best and brightest international students, scholars, and professionals to our community.”

Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.

Written by Yen Dinh, a senior from Alexandria, Va., who is a marketing major in the Pamplin College of Business with a minor in leadership and social change in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Senegal faculty train at the VTLCI

On September 29th, the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute saw off a group of twelve Senegalese participants involved in a ‘train the trainers’ (TOT) program. Focused on building English teaching capacity at a number of institutions in the country, the program is part of a broader ‘Feed the Future’ food security initiative being executed by the Office of International Research, Education and Development (OIRED). Seven of the thirteen universities that are working with OIRED in Senegal were represented among the VTLCI group.

Given that much of the literature and research on food security is only published in English, VTLCI’s role in this project is to enhance teaching of English as a foreign language at participating universities. Seminars and workshops for this group introduced on-line delivery of English instruction, techniques for teaching English with few resources, and teaching English for specific purposes - all against the backdrop of current language acquisition and adult learning theory.

Participants visited VTLCI intensive English classes, reviewed teaching materials, and began developing plans for applying their observations and learning back home. “The TOT format gave participants the opportunity to try out what they had learned in a safe, structured environment at the VTLCI.” said Amanda Johnson, program coordinator.  “Our group will help bolster English teaching back home in order to support delivery of content in the language. By improving English in the professoriate, we will in turn increase access to vital research on food security." 

Participants met at OIRED for final presentations, and to receive certificates, at the program graduation ceremony. Babacar Diop, an English language instructor at the University of Ziguinchor, with colleagues, presented on plans to implement their group's training outcomes in Senegal. “We have planted the tree of friendship and collaboration and we will all water it with correspondence and exchange until it grows up and gives the expected fruits to people of both nations,” said Diop. More training is being planned for 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

UACh Travelogue: My Adventure in Valdivia 2, by Georgia Wyche

Unfortunately, there still is not a lot going on in university campuses throughout Chile because of the national strike to reform education.  The semester dates and school year calendars are completely out of whack due to many months of striking and student protests. The second semester is supposed to begin in October, but nobody really knows. Things change in the Chilean news everyday and there are student protests every Thursday afternoon.  

Georgia at the Center for Languages, UACh
The situation in Chile has been frustrating for a lot of people at the university, including myself. Despite my frustrations, I am still very happy to be here representing Virginia Tech. Also, I have been able to keep myself busy. I’ve been teaching English classes on a daily basis, working with English teachers at the university and in the community, giving presentations on foreign language teaching methodology at the “Centro de Idiomas” and preparing lessons for my Applied Linguistics class. I’m also going to be volunteering and attending the upcoming TESOL conference, which will be hosted at UACh next week.

I’ve also met with many important people at Universidad Austral de Chile, including the university president, Mr. Victor L. Cubillos. Mr. Cubillos has actually requested that I give him English lessons. I’ll begin working with him in the coming weeks.  I’m excited about strengthening and building a new relationship between Virginia Tech and Universidad Austral de Chile.  

I’ve also met with the director of the American Corner of the UACh library. The American Corner is a special section in the library devoted to lovers of English language and American culture. The American Corner is funded by the American Embassy in Santiago de Chile. There are 12 other American Corners in different universities throughout Chile. Along with the American Corner, there is also the Australian Corner. I look forward to sharing and assisting with activities and projects at the American Corner during my stay in Valdivia.

I’ve arranged English classes for faculty members, including university administrators, deans and directors.  In addition, I’ve met with honors students, living in Valdivia, who would like to attend classes to improve their English skills while the university is on strike. The English classes I’m teaching primarily focus on speaking and listening skills.

Georgia with the foreign language instructors of UACh
I teach English classes to professors and faculty members from the veterinary, economics, engineering, architecture, medical, chemistry, biology schools and departments.  All of these are scholars attend my classes on a regular basis and are excited to build their confidence in conversational English. For example, they want to be able to speak English comfortably at a coffee break during an academic conference in an English speaking country. They want to be able to use everyday English at the post office, the supermarket, or at a friend’s party. The university professors are confortable with academic and technical terminology in English related to their field, but they want practice and help with everyday conversational English.  I’m happy to assist them in any way that I can while the university is on strike.
Along with teaching English classes to academics, I’ve assisted in editing and revising material to be presented at conferences and to market the university on an international level.  I’m eager to assist in more of these projects and activities because they serve to strengthen the relationship between UACh and Virginia Tech.
I’m also going to be teaching an Applied Linguistics class to students in their last year of study to be English teachers at UACh. Initially, I was only going to teach this class during part of the second semester, but now due to the strike I’ll be teaching the class during the entirety of the second semester. I’m excited about this teaching opportunity and new challenge.   

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tech hosts 32 Senegalese professors

Tuesday, September, 20, 2011; 10:30 PM
by Donal Murphy, news staff writer, Collegiate Times

ERA Participants at OIRED
Virginia Tech is hosting 32 research representatives from Senegal to teach them about agriculture, language training and e-learning to help combat food security issues — knowledge they will bring back to their country’s farmers.

Since 2007, food security issues stemming from food price spikes, with subsequent riots, have been prevalent in Senegal, a country in western Africa — although 75 percent of its population works in the agriculture, it imports 70 percent of its rice, according to the Tech Office of International Research, Education and Development.

The same year, led a consortium — consisting of Perdue, Michigan State and Tuskegee universities, as well as the University of Connecticut — to create a proposal for the United States Agency for International Development to help Senegal with the food security issues.

Tech later received a $28-million grant from USAID through the Feed the Future initiative.The representatives visiting Tech are all professors and Senegalese experts in agriculture and education through the Senegal Education et Recherche en Agriculture Program.

Four Tech employees have been working with the Senegalese representatives for about six months to prepare them for the program.

Patrick Guilbaud, a curricula, education and training coordinator in Senegal, is Tech’s representative in Dakar, Senegal, serving as the primary liaison between the university and the 13 participating Senegalese institutions.

“This is really a broad based effort to kind of get all partners to fully understand that agriculture has many levels,” he said. “By putting emphasis on all aspects, we’ll be able to have a greater system for Senegal where food security is more emphasized.”

Guilbaud, who was born in Haiti, but raised and educated in the United States, has been working for OIRED for four years. He moved to Senegal to oversee the program’s foreign aspects.
“Being a person who was born in Haiti, I am very aware about food and food security, and how that affects the population,” he said.

The representatives are split into three groups — agriculture, English as a foreign language, and e-learning and pedagogy. Since the initiative’s concentration is food security, the overall theme is agriculture and biological information.

The agriculture group has been traveling around Virginia, visiting farms, agricultural centers and markets to learn about the American agricultural production and agronomics system of agricultural production and agronomics, said Demba Mbaye, a visiting professor.

The EFL group is training to teach English to students in Senegal, given that much of the material on food security is only published in that language.

“They’ll have content-based classes where they’re going to have to be teaching English and learning content at the same time,” said Amanda Johnson, the EFL coordinator for the program

The courses are tailored to each representative’s English level, as it is a “train the trainers” program.

“For us, it is more learning how to use the technologies to better the teaching and make it more attractive and more challenging,” said Babacar Diop, an English professor at the Universit√© de Ziguinchor in Senegal, who is currently participating in the program as an EFL group member.

Diop was in the U.S. for six months prior to this trip with the International Leaders Communication program in Minneapolis, Minn.

“My thought now, though the program is not yet finished, is that we’ve learned a lot of new things, a lot of new sites we were introduced to,” he said. “(They are) very interesting and important tools to enhance our teaching practices.”

The e-learning and pedagogy group is studying how to use Internet sites and computer software to help with course availability. Many of the participating universities in Senegal are in areas with minimal infrastructure, making traveling to the schools difficult. Therefore, many students opt to take courses online.

The professors are being trained to use Moodle, a learning platform similar to Scholar, and other software programs that make teaching online courses easier. Fan (Luisa) Li, a graduate assistant for the OIRED, is leading the group.

“I feel that it is really interesting,” said Mariama Sene-Wade, a parasitology and biology professor at the Universite Gaston-Berger in Saint-Louis Senegal. “It is very important to meet all these people, to see what they are doing for the school — it’s a good thing.”

Li is participating in the program as a member of the e-learning and pedagogy group.
The program is also addressing gender equity — a major issue in agriculture.

“If you go to do a project with the farmers, you teach them how to deal with the crops, and you have to understand who is actually doing the work in the fields,” Li said.
Because women do most of the agriculture labor in Senegal, information is frequently lost when a husband teaches a wife.

This topic is being addressed through a gender workshop, led by VT Advance. It discusses the issues of gender equity and how it can be used for agriculture. The group is mostly male but has several female representatives as well.

Tech plans to continue this program, possibly bringing a larger group of representatives for a longer period next year, if it is covered under the USAID grant

Link for story: http://www.collegiatetimes.com/stories/18285/tech-hosts-32-senegalese-professors/p1

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UACh Travelogue: My Adventure in Valdivia 1, by Georgia Wyche

Georgia Wyche, an English instructor at the VTLCI, was selected to work nine months at Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) in Valdivia, Chile. In Chile, she will provide English classes to faculty, staff and students in cooperation with the Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability and the School of English Language Pedagogy. Over the coming months, Georgia will write about her experiences in Valdivia.

This installment:  August 23 – August 28, 2011 
 My adventure in Valdivia, Chile has just begun. Yesterday, Loreto Quintana and Dr. German Reinhardt of the Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability at Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) picked me up at the airport. I was very lucky because they both welcomed me with open arms and were extremely helpful and hospitable. Of course I was exhausted after the long journey to Valdivia from Blacksburg, so they took me directly to my cabin located near the university.  I like the fact that most everything is within walking distance from my cabin.  Last night, I had a fairly good night’s sleep despite the cold weather. It’s quite an adjustment coming from summer in the northern hemisphere to winter in the southern hemisphere.

Today was my first full day to get out and enjoy Valdivia.  Loreto picked me up and we went to the supermarket and to a little shopping area.  It was very foggy this morning. Fortunately, the fog lifted and the sun came out around 11. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous today which seems to be out of the ordinary for the city. I guess I brought the sunshine with me. After shopping with Loreto, she drove me around downtown and the campus of UACh. I really enjoyed the tour, but of course it is a little overwhelming at first when you are trying to take in everything with every little detail.  Loreto brought me back to my place around lunchtime, so I made a simple lunch of pasta with marinara sauce and a banana.  I took a little siesta and then decided to take a nice long walk around downtown Valdivia myself.

Valdivia Fresh Market

The river Calle Calle divides Isla Teja and downtown Valdivia into two parts, so there is a bridge that connects both sides. While walking over the bridge, I admired the scenery around me, in particular the Calle Calle River and the sea lions. I was amazed to see these three large sea lions sprawled out on a dock in the river.  Once you are over the bridge, there is the large outdoor seafood, fruit and vegetable market on the boardwalk along the waterfront. I walked around and explored the market area and then kind of walked aimlessly through the downtown. I went into a few shops and observed the Chilean people in action. I felt very safe and didn’t feel too much like an outsider. The Chilean people seem to be very warm and open.  I look forward to meeting some new friends and becoming more proficient in Spanish.

My evening in Valdivia ended perfectly. Loreto and her family invited me to have dinner at their home. She prepared a traditional Chilean completo.  A completo is similar to an American hotdog, but it is bigger with more toppings.  Of course, we drank good Chilean beer with our completos. I really enjoyed this evening meal with Loreto and her family.

The atmosphere in Valdivia and throughout Chile is a little out of the ordinary these days due to the students and labor unions striking and holding demonstrations demanding equality and changes nationwide.  Everyday life is in turmoil these days.

I felt very welcome at my first formal meeting at UACh (Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability). My colleagues are Loreto Quintana, Dr. German Reinhardt Vater, Claudio Gutierrez, and Sandor Mulsow. Next week, I begin conversation classes with students and faculty members. I’ll also observe and teach English classes at Hampton College, which is a bilingual (English-Spanish) K-12 private school located in Valdivia. Sandor Mulsow is the director of Hampton College. I’m looking forward to these teaching experiences and strengthening the relationship between Virginia Tech and Universidad Austral de Chile.

Next week is my first official workweek at UACh. I have several meetings scheduled. I am happy to be working despite the strike in Chile. Monday, I’m spending the day at a private bilingual (Spanish-English) school called Hampton College. My UACh colleague, Sandor Mulsow, works and is one of the founders of this bilingual private school. On Tuesday, I’m meeting with UACh faculty members who want help with their English. On Wednesday, I’m meeting with some UACh students who want informal English training until the strike is over and the university re-opens. On Thursday, I’m meeting with Andrea Lizasoain, the Applied Linguistics professor, to formulate a syllabus for next semester. I may be teaching applied linguistics the entire semester depending on when the national strike is over.  Planning and teaching applied linguistics is a challenge that I look forward to doing. I’m looking forward to working, meeting new people and having new experiences this upcoming week in Valdivia at UACh.

Wyche is featured on the UACh Veterinary School website, which describes the relationship between the VTLCI and UACh.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Foreign Language Conversation Courses Offered for Faculty and Staff

The Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute (VTLCI) is pleased to announce foreign language conversation courses for Virginia Tech faculty and staff for the fall 2011 term. These courses provide instruction and practice at beginning to intermediate levels in the following Languages: Chinese (Mandarin), French, Italian, Spanish and German.

Classes will be held at VTLCI, and will begin Tuesday, August 30th. Classes are open to current Virginia Tech faculty and staff. Participation is free of charge, though course books must be purchased separately at the campus bookstore.

Participants may register by contacting the course instructor through information provided at http://www.lci.vt.edu/elp/ForeignLanguages/.

Foreign language conversation courses for faculty and staff are organized in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and are made possible through the generous support of the offices of the Vice President of Outreach and International Affairs and the Vice President for Research.

Questions concerning these courses and other VTLCI offerings may be directed to Amanda Johnson, Assistant Director for Special Programs, at 1-9348.

VTLCI Instructor Wyche Joins Chilean Partner University

Daniel Alomar, Professor of Agronomy; Dr German Reinhardt, Executive Director; Loreto Quintana, Executive Assistant; Georgia Wyche, VTLCI Instructor; Sandor Muslow, Professor of Science; Claudio Guitierrez, Professor of Veterinary Medicine

Georgia Wyche, English language instructor at the VTLCI, joined Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) in Valdivia, Chile on August 19. She is working at the university to help support English language teaching and learning capacity for students and professors in cooperation with the VTLCI. She is also providing instructional support to the School of English Language Pedagogy, where she is involved in language teacher training. Wyche will be with UACh for nine months and plans to return to the VTLCI in June of 2012.

Monday, August 22, 2011

VTLCI Recognizes New Hokies

VTLCI congratulates thirty-two VTLCI Intensive English students offered admission to undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech for this coming spring and fall semesters. Let's go HOKIES!

Yu Bai
Naiqi Cao
Yu Chu
Yifan Gu
Ziyun Guo
Xueyan Han
Bangxin Lan
Jingyi Liu

Yuanyanyan Liu
Kai Lu
Weihan Luo
Yueran Meng
Jiaheng Song
Ruizhe Song
Yongyan Sun
Wei Tang

Muzi Ti
Sahowei Wan
Chuo Wu
Dexuan Xu
Rui Xu
Zhechong Xu
Wentao Yang
Jialun Yu

Fanmin Zhai
Baosheng Zhang
Shaoshan Zhang
Xiao "Sean" Zhang
Yu Zhang
Mingrui Zhao
Yuan Zhou
Zhanni Zhou

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blacksburg Homestay Featured in Roanoke Times

Blacksburg Homestay proprietor Mary Ann Poole is featured in the Sunday, August 21st New River Valley edition of the Roanoke Times. Click here to view the story. A great friend to the Institute, Mary Ann arranges host families for many VTLCI Intensive English students each session. The article, entitled "Home away from home", was written by Mary Hardbarger.

More information on Blacksburg Homestay is available on their website at http://www.blacksburghomestay.com.

Friday, August 19, 2011

VTLCI Partners with College of Science for KAUST Preparatory Year

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a state-of-the-art post-graduate research university located on the Red Sea of Saudi Arabia, established the KAUST Gifted Student Program (KGSP) in the summer of 2008. The program has the goal of creating a pool of highly qualified Saudi graduates to enroll in KAUST’s graduate degree programs. Students in the program are selected from the top five percent of Saudi secondary school graduates (science track) who have participated in the country’s Gifted Student Program, known as ‘Mawhiba’ in Arabic.

The KGSP Preparatory Year will ready students for undergraduate study at American universities. Taking place over the 2011-2012 academic year, the program has been designed jointly by the Virginia Tech College of Science (COS) and the Language and Culture Institute (VTLCI). For their part in the program, COS will provide introductory courses in math and the sciences, as well as SAT preparation. VTLCI faculty and staff will guide students through the process of university selection, college application completion, and TOEFL test preparation. Participating students will take courses in academic writing and scientific and technical writing through the VTLCI, as well.

The KGSP has successfully placed students in degree programs at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and other world-leading universities. KAUST approached Virginia Tech to host the preparatory year seeking the highest level of program in terms of faculty, curriculum, facilities and reputation. Fifteen KAUST students are expected to participate in the Virginia Tech program, to arrive in early September.

Inquiries concerning the KGSP Preparatory Year should be directed to Amanda Johnson, Assistant Director for Special programs, at majtwin@vt.edu.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Humphrey Fellows: Thanks for the Memories

The Humphrey Fellows Long-term English Training Program has drawn to a close. The Institute wishes to thank all of those who contributed to the program this year, as well as our fine staff led by Program Director Robert "Bert" Wilson. The Fellows share what their experience meant to them in a very special video created by participant Vugar Salamli.

Humphrey Fellows describe benefits of their program

Friday, August 12, 2011

VBI Launches Global Summer Research Institute

Download flier

The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI), in close cooperation with the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute (VTLCI), has launched the Global Summer Research Institute (GSRI). To take place May 29th through August 4th, 2012, GSRI will provide international interns the opportunity to engage in scientific research at a world-class university, assisting those without this experience to build their credentials for graduate study.

Reinhard Laubenbacher, Director Education and Outreach at VBI, states, "Education initiatives at VBI are designed to identify and groom our next generation of scientists. We are excited to offer the Global Summer Research Institute, which combines integrated interdisciplinary research team activities with workshops on leadership, presentation skills, team-building, and writing skills."

During their time at VBI, interns will work closely with an interdisciplinary team on a research project. They will receive guidance in developing graduate applications, giving talks on their projects, and writing scientific reports and papers. At the close of the institute, successful participants will receive a certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation from a sponsoring professor.

The VTLCI will assist VBI in promoting the program through its international contacts and university partnerships. “We will be actively showcasing the GSRI to some of the most prominent universities in the world, seeking their best undergraduate talent for participation in this unique, highly selective program,” says VTLCI Director, Don Back. “We aim to attract this talent to Virginia Tech later on for their graduate work.”

For more information and to apply, please visit: http://gsri.vbi.vt.edu.

About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech is a premier bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology research facility that uses transdisciplinary approaches to science, combining information technology, biology, and medicine. These approaches are used to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental, and agricultural sciences. With more than 240 highly trained multidisciplinary, international personnel, research at the institute involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, statistics, economics, synthetic biology, and medicine. The large amounts of data generated by this approach are analyzed and interpreted to create new knowledge that is disseminated to the world’s scientific, governmental, and wider communities.

About the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute
Part of the Office of Outreach and International Affairs, the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute (VTLCI) supports the university’s engagement mission by leveraging international partnerships and programming to attract the best and brightest students and professionals from around the globe. Through its efforts, the VTLCI exposes domestic students to other cultures, values and languages, enriching discovery and learning and contributing to the diversity of the university community. VTLCI has locations in Blacksburg at the main Virginia Tech campus and in the National Capital Region at the university’s Northern Virginia Center. The institute hosts over 500 students per year from over 30 countries spanning the globe, served by over 50 professional faculty, instructors and staff.

Tiffany Trent

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Falls Church VTLCI Students Publish On-line Paper

"We have a planetary emergency. Addressing this challenge needs to become our mission."  This noble challenge comes from VTLCI American Media student Amira Kefi in a commentary on global warming.  Mohamed Khaled Mohamed Nafadi informs that the word Ramadan "is derived originally from the Arabic word 'Al-Ramadi' which means intense heat and thirst."  The word also refers to the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim recounts the history of the Fulbright international exchange program, which was ironically funded by proceeds from the sale of surplus war property after World War II.  And where could you find such an interesting diversity of stories and views but in VTLCI classes?

Congratulations go out to Falls Church VTLCI students and instructor, Michele Clark, for their on-line student newspaper, "The VTLCI Student Times."  Published August 9, 2011, this first edition of the Times was designed, developed and written by the American Media class. The paper contains articles on Ramadan, cultural diversity, local politics and the VTLCI.  And what better way to gain insight than to actively explore?  "A Different Side of Virginia," for example, was written by a young Saudi woman, Ghadah Alanzy, who learned more about democracy by attending a fund-raising dinner for a local politician.  More than improving their English, Ghadah and these other burgeoning journalists are undergoing a transformational experience at Virginia Tech through their immersion in American life and culture.

The VTLCI Student Times may be accessed at http://vtlcinews.wordpress.com/.  Authors are looking for feedback, and so readers are encouraged to comment on the site. 

Video: Virginia Tech Humphrey Fellows Celebrate Leadership Studies and Language Skills

Eddy Bongwele Is Akaala of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is grateful for his new English language facility.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 9, 2011 – Eddy Bongwele Is Akaala of the Democratic Republic of the Congo says, "I have learned in the United States that we can build our world together and make our society very good for us and for future generations." He, like other Humphrey Fellows studying at the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute, appreciates the opportunity to study leadership and improve his English-language skills.

Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.