Winona State dissolves English Language Programs

Winona State dissolves English Language Programs

McKenna Scherer, News Editor

Winona State University axed a program from its Center for Global Education during the summer, affecting students, faculty and staff members.

The Center for Global Education was previously made up of International Student and Scholar Services, Study Abroad and English Language Programs.

As of this past Aug., English Language Programs has been dissolved.

English Language Programs (ELP) mainly focused on teaching English to students who were non-native English speakers, but it also offered events and ways for students to connect.

Katie Subra, current grants specialist at Winona State and previous director of English Language Programs, said that the loss of ELP is significant.

“Only time will tell what the impact of this will be,” Subra said.

She said that ELP was disbanded for several reasons, including “economic constraints caused by long-term global economic and educational trends.”

Kit Klepinger, director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), also gave insight into why ELP was removed.

“ELP is a revenue center and all expenses are covered by enrollment,” Klepinger said. “ELP did not have sufficient current or projected enrollment and revenue to sustain itself.”

Summer ELP programming had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as an “externally funded program”, this created further financial loss.

Subra also said that increasing limitations on immigration and travel due to COVID-19 impacted the decision.

The English Language Program was fully dissolved throughout this past summer, which also meant the loss of ELP staff positions.

“I am the only staff member from ELP who remains employed at WSU,” Subra said. “Unfortunately for WSU, my colleagues have moved on to other employment.”

Subra said she hopes the future will bring a better global environment and similar programs like ELP as the tracking of non-native English-speaking student needs continues.

  She also said that she has stayed in contact with some former ELP students to offer support or answer their questions.

ELP was still able to offer virtual summer programming and its students were informed of its closing.

Students who were close to completing their English study requirements at Winona State, offered by ELP, were able to “successfully exit the program” before it closed, Subra said.

Subra said that factors like COVID and its effects on student living arrangements contributed to difficulty of gauging how many students would have returned to or joined Winona State through ELP this year.

“Certainly, summer students and past ELP students were negatively impacted because of the loss of this option,” Subra said.

Subra said that in previous years, ELP students would return to check in with instructors and program leaders who would then “cheer the students on” in their studies, as well as offer advice and introduce them to new students and opportunities.

Klepinger agreed that COVID affected international student enrollment this semester.

Some new international students had to maneuver United States embassy closures, delayed visa appointments and U.S. border restrictions this year, Klepinger said.

Klepinger also said these continue to be challenges for new and returning students to travel back to Winona and the United States.

However, Klepinger said that “several current students” decided to stay at home and were able to continue their degrees through all online courses this semester.

ISSS and ELP were intertwined as both were part of the Center for Global Engagement.

“ISSS supported ELP students through academic and immigration advising,” Klepinger said. “ISSS will continue to support the personal and academic success of new international students when they join us here in Southeastern Minnesota.”

Subra said that ISSS was given much of ELP’s library materials which will now be available to the ISSS advising staff and non-native English-speaking students at      Winona State.

She also said that ISSS has “maintained great outreach and programming over the years” through events and cross-cultural scholarship opportunities.

ELP’s mission was to “enhance diversity and foster global fluency and engagement on Winona State’s campus,” as previously stated on their website.

Each year, Winona State has a “theme,” with this year’s theme being “My Global Identity. Our Global Community.   Subra said that ELP would have provided additional connection and programming for students with these year’s university theme.

However, the ‘theme team’ that works on creating each year’s theme and its events for the school year is also made up of faculty, staff and students from all different disciplines.

“WSU members from many fields are striving to focus on the ways that global identities, communities and education are meaningful for everyone,” Subra said.

The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.