A low, constant hum could be heard coming from the Advanced English classroom last week Tuesday as six Dakota Wesleyan University students conversed with advanced English students. Dr. Alisha Vincent, Assistant Professor of Leadership and Public Service and Director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan, shared why she chose to get her students involved at the LSS Refugee and Immigration Center (RIC) as part of their class:
The course is an elective in our general education curriculum called Global Service. My preference, as a professor, is to incorporate experiential learning opportunities for my students whenever appropriate. I thought that the students would learn about people from other countries and cultures best by interacting with them directly. LSS is an ideal place for my students to get to know incredible people from so many different parts of the world while offering their service as classroom aids in the ESL [English as a Second Language] program.
Dakota Wesleyan students have been volunteering in the English classes at LSS RIC every Tuesday morning during their spring semester, but last Tuesday morning was a unique experience for them, the advanced English students, and the English teachers. Dr. Vincent wrote “The purpose of today’s session was to match LSS students with DWU students in one-on-one or small group conversation sessions with the goal of helping LSS students practice their conversational English while allowing an enriching opportunity for DWU students to learn more about the LSS students’ journey to the U.S., native culture, customs, and more.”
Silke Hansen, an English teacher at LSS for the last nine years said, “To my knowledge, this has never been done before…and for being the first time, I thought it went really well.” I asked her what she felt were the benefits for the English students:
It gave our students an opportunity to converse one-on-one with a native speaker and use their English in an authentic manner. Most importantly, I think it bolstered our students’ self-confidence when they realized that more people, besides just the English teacher, could understand their English…and that they could understand more English speakers than just their teachers. Everyone had a good time, and I hope to do similar projects like this in the future.
All those involved in Tuesday’s special session believed it to be a success. Dr. Vincent shared the following:
Today’s small group sessions were DWU students’ favorite volunteer session so far this semester. They really enjoyed getting to know the LSS students; learning about their life stories, and discovering shared interests as well. DWU students also left with a greater appreciation for each student and their determination to overcome obstacles in order to create homes and lives here in America.
Briana Jung, a nursing student at DWU wrote about her experience volunteering at LSS and what she learned from Tuesday’s special conversation session:
Being able to interact with a variety of students helped me to learn more about other cultures and how they relate to ours. This experience has taught me about communication, positivity, and most importantly, patience. I know that I will be able to apply this learning to my future career as I become a nurse and am faced with different patients’ backgrounds.
If you are a university or college professor or student interested in a unique learning experience through the LSS Refugee and Immigration Center, please contact LSS RIC Associate Director Deb Worth by phone (605-731-2059) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org.)