Wheaton announces new department of applied linguistics and international education

Starting this year, linguistics classes will be housed under the new applied linguistics and international education department. “The new department is essentially a ‘repackaging’ of current graduate and undergraduate linguistics programs,” says Department Chair Dr. Alan Seaman.

According to a press release from Dr. Seaman, degrees and certificates offered by the department include a MA in TESOL and Intercultural Studies, a TESOL certificate for undergraduate students and ESL endorsements for future teachers in an international context. “The new department doesn’t currently involve any changes in the programs offered, but is part of the restructuring of the graduate school programs,” Seaman explained.

Seaman has been teaching TESOL at Wheaton for 25 years and hopes to see the department continue to grow in its course offerings. Students who are earning a TESOL certificate or degree “have to take courses in phonology and grammar,” he explained, “but there is no major in linguistics, [and] there is no graduate program that’s specifically in linguistics.”

Dr. Pam Barger, assistant professor of TESOL and international education, has been teaching at Wheaton for 13 years and is also excited to see how the new department will expand. In an email to the Record, she stated: “I would love to see our department [be] instrumental in helping Wheaton [make] a global impact [by helping] our students and alumni be better prepared as cross-cultural experts for His Kingdom.”

The department has already grown in its online course offerings. According to Seaman, there are several linguistics/TESOL courses that begin with a two month summer intensive here on campus and then continue as an online class. Seaman said, “That’s an interesting model that is unique to our department, and we’re going to keep expanding that because there’s a lot of demand for online classes with graduate students.”

Seaman said that there are currently around 50 students studying in TESOL programs as well as around 50 students working towards an ESL or bilingual endorsement who are taking linguistics (LING) courses. There is also an increasing number of students interested in working with refugees and immigrants in the US.

The department already has an impressive number of graduates teaching, both in the States and in an international context. One of these students in training is Diane Ancheril, the TA for the new department. In an email to the Record, she said she’s been a TESOL student since last spring. Originally from Bangalore, India, she hopes to return home to teach children English.

“Many [children] attend government-run schools where the quality of education is far below private school standards,” she explained. “I had the privilege of working with children from villages before I came to Wheaton, and it is this experience that helped me realize I needed more training.

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