American Language and Cultures Institute (ALCI) provides smooth gateway for international students

Dr. Nicholas Santavicca is the Director of the American Language and Cultures Institute (ALCI), which works to provide academic preparation, English language and cultural instruction, and promote global citizenship among all from the UMass Dartmouth and surrounding communities.

headshot of nick santavicca

By: Chelsea Cabral

Dr. Nicholas Santavicca, Assistant Professor of English, leads the American Language and Cultures Institute (ALCI), an intensive English program designed to prepare international students and ESL (English as a second language) students for the academic, social, and professional integration into the UMass Dartmouth community.

Since January 2016, the ALCI has been fostering global partnerships with universities in China and the Middle East, as well as working to support students’ transitions from an intensive English language program to the academic program of their choice.

“At the ALCI, we focus specifically on academic language skills, not just English speaking skills,” said Santavicca. “We really try to foster an academic support system for international students to be prepared for a western education."

Unlike conventional ESL programs that focus on test taking and general English language exercises, the ALCI prepares students for the university classroom environment. Students receive training in academic writing, formal presentations, and professional speaking skills, as well as working closely with instructors to create personalized study plans.

The ALCI faculty within the English department also works with all other departments on campus to provide students with a series of classes that tailor their reading, writing, and listening skills in English.

“We believe that the students entering this program already have the academic prowess to do this kind of work, and the only thing that is stopping them is a language barrier,” said Santavicca. “We prepare them for university work—whether in business, liberal arts, or the humanities—and the ALCI ends up becoming a pipeline to a specific degree program.”

Alongside leading the ALCI, Santavicca just recently co-authored a book chapter with Dr. Karen Terrell, a professor in STEM Education and Teacher Development, as part of the Voices from the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Classroom Series.

Titled “The ELL Shadowing Protocol: Providing Voice for Young Learners in the Classroom,” Santavicca and Terrell address the merge between teaching language and teaching content, as well as providing a more engaging space for ESL students. They developed a protocol to assess when students are speaking or not speaking in class, which was used to study the larger language demands within a certain area of study.

“The chapter is really an insider account into ‘what is literacy,’” said Santavicca. “Language instruction is normally considered a remedial function apart from normalized instructional practices, and we try to demonstrate how it isn’t a remedial function and that all instructors should in fact be teaching language.”

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