Have you heard of the USI Intensive English Program (IEP)? This program has helped over 600 students from all over the world and local community to improve their English proficiency skills for academic of personal growth since 2013 and continues to provide its support to many that want to learn the language.
The IEP program tackles language barriers head-on by meeting participants where they are on their English-speaking journey. But this program is more than learning another language. When you think about the ability to thrive and grow within a community, city, or region; understanding and relating to the native language is critical to that connectivity.
Accredited by the CEA, a specialized accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education that focuses on post-secondary intensive English language programs, the IEP provides a service that is both high-quality and built with intentionality. The program is one of few on campus that is open to members of the community across the region. When interviewing Dr. Emilija Zlatkovska, Executive Director of the Center for International Programs and Director of IEP, one of the most impactful things that she shared was the rich cultural impact that IEP creates across the campus and the broader region. Dr. Zlatkovska said “IEP empowers students and community members to build and re-build self-confidence.” What she meant by this is that IEP has served professionals in different fields like physicians, dentists, lawyers, and many more who’ve immigrated to the United States for various reasons without speaking any English. Lack of English language proficiency put these people at a disadvantage as they are not able to operate or engage in many of the high skill/high-level employment opportunities they were accustomed to before coming to the US. Completing the IEP program can empower them to adjust faster to the new environment both in terms of the language and culturally. She also mentioned that so often individuals share that learning the language is the first step and largest barrier to securing and sustaining employment across the region.
Another value that Dr. Zlatkovska mentioned that IEP brings to both campus and our region is the rich cultural competency opportunities that are created. IEP has worked with international students from across the globe. Each student brings unique perspective and insights to different culture, food, religion, customs, traditions, and so much more. This exchange of ideas and different perspectives is one of the greatest values of having the IEP program; Dr. Zlatkovska mentioned that IEP brings a level of vibrancy to campus that has had a deep impact on the culture of the campus and the students. She also shared that a 4-year degree completion from a US higher ed institution in many countries is very prestigious. These students and community members that go through the IEP almost always share their experiences (hopefully very positive!) with family and friends in their home country. This grassroots method of sharing opportunities presents itself as a tremendous asset to our region and provides intentional students and community members a resource when they arrive in our region.
When looking at the Talent EVV goals for the Evansville Region, both population growth and upward mobility are directly impacted by the great work that’s happening through the IEP. This program equips individuals with the language they need to socially connect, professionally thrive and the IEP is a tremendous magnet for attracting international talent. The Evansville Region has much to provide in relation to cultural diversity and IEP is just one of the many resources that we will continue to highlight and share!