SHU Introduces SHELI For Non-Native Speakers of English

News Story: December 5, 2009

A pioneering program at Sacred Heart University is preparing non-native speakers of English to improve their ability to read, write and converse in English. The Sacred Heart English Language Institute (SHELI), launched in September, focuses on English as a Second Language for students from around the world. It is administered by SHU’s University College.

Carrie Allen, SHELI’s interim director, explains that “the institute uses a variety of contemporary approaches to ease the transition of non-native speakers to college, graduate school, and other life pursuits in an English-speaking environment. Participants choose courses to fit their own needs and availability, and work together in small classes. The intimate class sizes enable the students to make more rapid progress.”

Additionally, some of SHU’s work-study students become “conversation partners” with SHELI students, thereby providing practice in speaking English and contributing to the process of building friendships across cultures.

Reflecting on the possibilities of the students becoming an integral part of the Sacred Heart community, Ms. Allen wants learning experiences for her students that “will open up a whole new world and be inherently engaging.”

The diverse student body includes working people, immigrants, visitors, young professionals, and college students from Brazil, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany and Peru, as well as Sweden, Haiti, Albania, Turkey, Latvia, France, Costa Rica, Hungary and Rwanda.

Mary Lou DeRosa, dean of University College, comments, "The SHELI students have brought a rich, multicultural environment to our community. University College supports and advises adult students returning to school. The integration of the SHELI program with University College has created opportunities for students who are non-native speakers of English to prepare for academic coursework in undergraduate and graduate programs at Sacred Heart University and elsewhere."

The classes use a variety of approaches to help master English. For example, students in one of the advanced classes are combining their perspectives to produce a brochure for those students on campus who may be thinking of a study-abroad year. As SHELI students work on improving their English, they will be making contributions like this one to the University itself.

SHELI’s community service component is related to an important element of the overall mission of SHU: “responsibility for the common good of society.” Students go out to interact in settings where they can be helpful and encouraging; they return to discuss their experiences in class—all in English. So far, students have visited Caroline House, Mercy Learning Center, Groundwork Bridgeport, and the Jewish Home for the Elderly. There are plans to get SHELI students involved in many volunteer opportunities on campus, allowing for more interaction in a purposeful way with native speakers of English.

Students can choose from a large selection of courses—from 2 to 18 hours per week—at modest rates. The institute will help with arrangements for anyone who needs a student visa or a school transfer.

Courses are presently under way at the Fairfield campus, and a new program will be launched in January 2010 at SHU’s Stamford location.