PLACE Director Lauren Kinter, left, and International Enrollment Center Director Stene Verhulst, right.
Colorado State University recently launched two new units to lead international student recruiting and enrollment and to help prepare international students for an English-language academic experience on campus.
Beginning in the fall 2021 semester, CSU’s Office of International Programs launched Programs for Learning Academic and Community English (PLACE) and the International Enrollment Center (IEC) to take the place of programs once managed in partnership with INTO University Partnerships.
The International Enrollment Center is run by Director Stene Verhulst, who joined CSU in 2015 in the Office of Admissions and came to the Office of International Programs in 2019. PLACE Director Lauren Kinter is a new hire to CSU with an extensive background leading English as Second Language programs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and South Dakota State University.
‘An amazing opportunity
The restructuring that created PLACE and IEC is a rare opportunity for Kinter and Verhulst to define how their respective programs operate from the very beginning. The chance to build projects and relationships from the start was something both directors said attracted them to their jobs.
“It was an amazing opportunity to craft a center that’s never existed before,” Verhulst said.
Not only do IEC and PLACE bring important elements of the international student experience back under CSU’s roof, but they divide the work previously done under one center. Splitting up the key tasks of international student recruitment and intensive English-language training lets each office specialize and expand its efforts in ways not often seen at other universities.
“Many other programs like PLACE manage their own self-recruitment,” Kinter said. “It’s unique to get to focus more fully on the programs we offer.”
“We’d done recruitment before,” Verhulst said. “We’d done admissions. But we’d never really done dedicated marketing.”
What will these units do?
The International Enrollment Center introduces the University to prospective students around the world and helps them navigate the processes needed to come to Fort Collins to earn a CSU degree. Verhulst said the goal is to consistently serve as a point of contact for international students at every step of becoming a Ram, including working with International Student and Scholar Services on visa paperwork as well as helping seek scholarship assistance for some applicants.
Arrival on campus can be just the beginning of an international student’s acclimation to studying in the U.S., and some can use extra assistance to feel ready to succeed. For those students whose needs involve improving their language familiarity, PLACE offers intensive English courses to strengthen communication skills in a variety of contexts. Those opportunities include developing English proficiency for academic work such as leading discussions, giving presentations and writing essays and term papers; building comfort with day-to-day workplace conversations for CSU’s English-as-second-language staff members; and improving functional English use in casual conversations for students and staff alike.
Students participating in PLACE at both the undergraduate and graduate levels can register for intensive English programs, and master’s students can also sign up for Bridge programs where they combine language work with courses toward completing their degrees. Most students in PLACE’s English programs complete the work in one or two semesters, depending on the program requirements and the expectations of third-party business or governmental sponsors.
Though both PLACE and the International Enrollment Center began working with students earlier this year, many plans still lay ahead for growing and developing the units to their full potential. For Verhulst and the IEC, that growth begins with reaching more young learners around the world and informing them about what CSU has to offer, as well as getting admissions offers to student applicants faster. From his perspective, restructuring enrollment and bringing it back under the University’s exclusive care opens the door to meet those goals and more.
“One impediment to international growth in the past has been decentralization, and that isn’t an excuse now,” Verhulst said.
For Kinter and PLACE, growing a new program at CSU means having the opportunity to help immigrants outside of campus, too. The PLACE acronym incorporates both academic and community English, and the latter carries a special significance to Kinter that can be traced back to her years teaching ESL classes to immigrants based locally. She said that she met several people in her courses who had kids taking classes in local grade schools and high schools, but they couldn’t fully involve themselves in their child’s work because they lacked the English skills to participate in parent-teacher conferences, help with homework and more. Kinter said one of her longer-range goals for PLACE is to be able to help people just like them in the Fort Collins community.
In the near term, Kinter said she wants to position PLACE to be able to reach out to local businesses and do needs analyses for their employees on improving their English-language capabilities. For the companies that show interest in pursuing partnerships for English training programs, Kinter said she also wants to seek out ways to fund the courses so they remain accessible.
“I don’t want them to be cost prohibitive,” Kinter said.
If you or a student you know would like to learn more about CSU’s new enrollment or English as an Additional Language program, visit the International Enrollment Center and Programs for Learning Academic and Community English websites.