International English Program struggles with diversity


Brad Stout | The Chart

Kaitlin Gram, interim director of the International English Program (IEP), instucts students Khalid Alanazi, Naif Alghamdi, Natividad Cielo and Ria Arai during the Speaking and Listening Level 2 IEP course April 24, 2014.

Jiwoo Kim, Contributor

The International English Program (IEP) department in Missouri Southern State University struggles with the saturation of Saudi Arabian students this semester. Of the 43 international students who take IEP classes this semester, Saudi students make up 60 percent (26 students). Especially in level 1 and 2 classes, the students are all from Saudi Arabia.

“There’s not enough diversity in IEP any more and it lowers the quality of class,” said Kaitlin Gram, the director of IEP department. She said there are many discussion-based classes in IEP due to the characteristic of language courses, and this one-culture saturation will not help improve students’ English ability.

Last semester, the program was 34 percent Saudi students, much less than the current  population, but many exchange students graduated from IEP class this semester. MSSU has a themed semester and study-abroad programs to establish global education, but IEP is struggling to help the home campus become internationalized.

“It is healthier to have various international students from different countries for both IEP faculty and students,” Gram said. “We can develop different kinds of teaching skills and students can improve their English ability and learn different cultures at the same time.”

Faraj Alzahrani and Mahdi Alahmed, who are students in level 2 of IEP, spoke of the issue with one voice.

“There are only Saudi students in our class,” Alzahraini said.

“Sometimes we help each other by explaining in Arabic, but we know that English should be spoken in class because we are here to learn English. So, in the long term, imbalance of student problem should be solved,” Alahmed said.

Since the admission department is in charge of IEP’s student recruiting, the IEP faculty aren’ts sure how to solve this problem.

“We advertise through the website that goes around the world,” said Craig Thompson, counselor of the international admissions department.

“The goal given by administration is having 400 international students on this campus by 2018,” said Lora Zaidarhzauva, coordinator of international admission department. She explained, “MSSU is obligated to be an international school by the Missouri state government because it was [so] funded. Those funds ran out already, but the mission is still there. So we will definitely try to reach that goal.”