New center offers international Penn Staters advanced language, cultural support

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Delivering a class presentation, writing a cover letter, or setting the right tone in a job interview can be difficult for anyone.  Accomplishing such tasks in a language and culture other than your own can be even more challenging, and may seem impossible at times.

For members of the Penn State community facing these challenges, fortunately there is support available to help them develop the academic and professional communication skills they need for enhanced confidence and career success. The English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center (EPPIC), a new service and research center located in the College of the Liberal Arts, has been created precisely to provide advanced English language support to Penn State’s growing international population and to foster intercultural connections at Penn State in a way that promotes global citizenship and creates shared horizons.

According to EPPIC Director Meredith Doran, the mission of the center is not only to help international students, faculty and staff hone their advanced speaking and writing skills in English; the intent is to help them develop the intercultural awareness needed to become thriving participants in their academic and professional lives.

“For example, classes in American schools can be much more interactive than classes in other parts of the world,” Doran said. “Therefore, it’s beneficial to provide resources and support that help prepare both international students and faculty to engage in lively dialogue in their classrooms.

“Similarly, there are many international cultures where modesty is a valued quality — which can make preparing a resume or ‘selling yourself’ at a job interview in the United States challenging for students from those backgrounds. Students ask, ‘How do I talk about myself in a way that highlights my strengths but doesn’t feel like boasting?’ Because the language needed in situations like these can be very culturally determined, EPPIC offers an array of services for internationals that focus on advanced communication skills in academic life and can be tailored to help meet individuals’ specific needs.”

EPPIC offers a range of advanced English language and culture services designed to support multilingual international students, post-docs, visiting scholars, and faculty across the Penn State community. These services include targeted workshops, intercultural conversation groups, individual tutoring sessions, and customized programming that focuses on high-impact topics such as:

  • delivering effective oral presentations;
  • writing academic and professional emails;
  • mastering small talk strategies to connect with peers, faculty, and fellow professionals;
  • understanding academic citation conventions and avoiding plagiarism; and,
  • teaching in American classrooms (handling lectures, questions, and classroom discussion).

EPPIC also offers services for domestic faculty and advisers to help them gain insight into the cultural dimensions of academic life in the United States that may be unclear to international students and scholars. By possessing a better understanding of how American academic expectations can differ from other cultural models, Penn State faculty and advisers can hone in on strategies that effectively engage the culturally diverse audiences that are now part of academic and professional life. This spring, for example, EPPIC is leading workshops on “Best Practices for Teaching International Students” for faculty and instructors, and similar programs designed for advisers and staff.

In addition to these services, Doran notes that EPPIC designs and conducts research to assess the specific needs and goals of various academic units and student groups. Last spring, for example, EPPIC conducted focus groups with international students, post-docs and visiting scholars in the Penn State community to develop a greater understanding of their concerns related to language learning and social adjustment while in the United States.

“Findings from those focus groups went a long way toward helping us design our services for the 2016-2017 academic year,” Doran said. “These efforts have led to collaborations with multiple academic units — including Penn State Law, Eberly College of Science, Smeal College of Business, the Department of Economics, and the School of Hospitality Management. We are thrilled to work with a range of academic partners and look forward to learning more from programs and people at Penn State about how our services can offer the greatest benefit to our shared global community.”

To peruse offerings or register for EPPIC programs this spring, visit www.eppic.la.psu.edu/services. Individuals can also request a consultation or ask questions by contacting the EPPIC team at eppic@psu.edu.

Contacts: 

William Hessert

Work Phone: 
814-865-9988

Lead Writer, College of the Liberal Arts

Last Updated February 21, 2017