Language practice was joined by history when academic coach and adjunct professor Oreanthy Hionis Gerovasiliou hosted a field trip to the National Constitution Center for members of Neumann University’s newly formed NU Knights ESL Conversation Group. Five students, along with Gerovasiliou and Dean Mike Mullen, spent the day learning about the beginnings of our nation.
English as a Second Language (ESL) is sometimes called English Language Learners (ELL). The students who attended the trip to Philadelphia are from various backgrounds and native languages, including students from Ecuador and Liberia.
According to Gerovasiliou, the group was formed in the summer and had its first meeting in August. In addition to having a degree in English and being certified in secondary education, Gerovasiliou also has a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification.
“I’ve always wanted to do something, and my supervisor, Katie Callahan, has been interested in addressing the needs of second-language English speakers at Neumann and looking for ways to help them,” she explained. “This is a population that we wanted to definitely serve and make sure that we are meeting their needs.”
Gerovasiliou researched various ways to connect with ESL students and build a supportive environment for them on campus. She examined what other universities were doing to include and elevate these students. She discovered that the concept of establishing conversation groups was eliciting positive results.
The conversation group is intended to be a supportive environment for students, where they can form friendships and utilize skills they are more comfortable with when engaging with peers.
“We create a place where students can just practice using the language and feel comfortable and be around others who are having a similar experience,” she said.
When the students returned to Aston from the field trip, they stopped for lunch and continued discussing the museum and history learns. The trip was sponsored by the ACT (Office of Academic Coaching and Tutoring) and the HUB. Gerovasiliou plans to make this the first of many language and community-building activities for ELL students at Neumann University.
Carlos Wylde-Gladbach, a sophomore CDM major, born in Ecuador, is a member of the conversation group and attended the field trip to Philadelphia. He was surprised to discover that Neumann University had many international students and offered this student group.
“I didn’t know there were any international students because it is such a small school,” he said.
Regarding the trip to the National Constitution Center, Wylde-Gladbach, who is interested in American history and plans on adding a minor in History, was amazed at the historical facts he learned at the center. For instance, he did not realize the origin of Thanksgiving.
For more information about the conversation group, contact Gerovasiliou at email@example.com.