English Language Institute

Center for International Education

New Digs Offer New Horizons

Learning a new language is always a challenging task, but it’s now easier at the University of Tennessee’s (UTK) English Language Institute (ELI).

The ELI, a branch of UTK’s Center for International Education (CIE), is a language institute that helps international students prepare for study in the United States or simply acquire English for their own personal reasons. In any given term, young people from over 30 different countries gather to learn the skills they will need for successful communication in English and for success in their academic careers. As their skills grow in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, their dreams grow ever nearer.

For over 35 years, the ELI occupied two 1910’s-era homes in the Mountcastle St. and Terrace Ave. area on the UTK campus. While the old houses offered charm and good location, they also sported wasps in the attics, leaky plumbing, windows that couldn’t quite close, and other symptoms of advanced age.

In August 2016, the ELI moved to beautiful, clean new facilities at UTK’s Conference Center, located in the heart of Knoxville’s increasingly hip downtown. Occupying about a quarter of the Conference Center’s large ground floor, the new ELI’s space was completely gutted and redesigned with new walls, lighting, corridors, classrooms, faculty spaces, and technology installments to fully meet the needs of the institute’s eager language learners as they master listening, reading, writing, and speaking English. The new computer lab makes writing and research easy, and time passes quickly for students when they socialize in the bright new student lounge in their breaks between classes.

According to teachers, the new digs rock. Ms. Joan Holladay says the new facilities make teaching and learning so much easier: “We have all the technology we need to use with our books at our fingertips,” and Mr. Ronnie Howard delights in the cleanliness, neatness, and convenience of the new facilities.

Ms. Golshan Dehkordi notes that students are enjoying their easy access to downtown’s shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues like the Regal Downtown cinema, the Tennessee and Bijou theatres, museums, Knoxville’s main public library, and multiple street events. Advanced classes are often assigned projects that involve visits to historic Blount Mansion or James White Fort or the East Tennessee Historical Museum, all within easy walking. And at the time of writing, teacher Lauren Woods heads out the door with a group of students to WDVX’s daily free radio concert of bluegrass and other Tennessee music on the Blue Plate Special.

The task of learning English at UTK’s ELI has moved downtown, and everyone involved couldn’t be happier about it.


ELI Teaching Associate Anthony Schmidt Awarded Grant

Anthony Schimdt is the recipient of the 2017 University of Pittsburgh Travel Award for IEP Instructors.

The award is used for expenses associated with attending the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA on 21-24 March 2017. He will be recognized at the keynote session at the Convention and an Awards Reception. At the TESOL Convention, Anthony will be giving a presentation entitled: “Off Course: A Comparison of EAP Writing Coursebooks and University Writing Tasks.”

Proyecta Students Visit Cades Cove

On November 26, the students from Proyecta visited the beautiful Cades Cove located in Sevier County Tennessee to enjoy the natural beauty of the Smokey Mountains.  They were able to see the majestic mountains in their beautiful autumn colors and see some wildlife during the drive.  Although it was cold, the trip allowed the students to see new landscapes during their time here in the United States.

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Welcome to our New Home!

The English Language Institute moved from its home for the past 30 years on Mountcastle Street to new facilities in the UT Conference Center on Henley Street. Here’s a look at our brand new home!

ELI Hosts Proyecta Students from Mexico in July

Proyecta photo 7 16-001ELI is hosting a group of 24 university students from Mexico. The group arrived on July 4 and will study at the Institute through July 29. The students are participating in a scholarship program called Proyecta 100,000. The group is funded by AMEXCID (Agencia Mexicana de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo) —  Mexico’s agency for international cooperation and development. Mexico is endeavoring to send thousands of students and teachers to the U.S. for short-term English language instruction as a part of the Proyecta 100,000 initiative.

Anthony Schmidt of ELI’s faculty has been pleased to have several of the Proyecta students in his classes: “They quickly integrated into class and into the academic life of the Institute.  They are focused language learners and intense in their learning style.”

Em Chitty, ELI Senior Teaching Associate, said that “the Proyecta group has been outstanding. They are eager to learn and all are good language learners.”

The students have a range of English abilities – but all are highly motivated and have enthusiastically engaged in activities, such as a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a tour of Neyland Stadium.

The students will return to Mexico at the end of July. All of the students are enrolled at universities in and around Mexico City.

ELI Welcomes Students from Shanghai University of Sport

ELI and UTK’s Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies (KRSS) are teaming up for the fifth consecutive year to offer a summer program to undergraduates from Shanghai University of Sport (SUS). This summer’s group arrived in Knoxville on July 25 and will depart July 29.

This year’s cohort includes 14 students and two faculty/staff advisors from SUS – China’s premier higher education institution for physical education and sports.

The Summer Language, Culture, and Sports Studies Program offers daily English language instruction with a focus on experiential language use in the community, particularly through sports and recreational activities. Those activities included stand-up paddle boarding and a visit to UTK’s climbing wall. The program includes a series of KRSS seminars and tours such as tours to the Exercise Physiology Lab, and Neyland Stadium.

Students participated in a home-stay experience the weekend of July 8.

Lauren Wood, who coordinates ELI’s efforts for the group, commented on the group’s reliability and enthusiasm for classroom activities: “Our SUS students have been involved in class and are really positive about applying what they are learning in English classes to outside activities. They’ve been great to work with.”

Rob Hardin, who leads KRSS’ programming with the group, said “It’s always great to host students from SUS and introduce them to the American sporting culture. The group this year was able experience everything from Ijams Nature Center to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame to the Biomechanics Lab. Most of these things are totally new to them and it is great to see the look on their face when they experience something for the first time. It also a great learning experience for the students in our department as they lead many of the seminars.”

SUS 2016 group photo-001

Suzanne Meyer Moving to Pennsylvania

suzanneSuzanne Meyer, ELI Assistant Director, will leave the Institute this summer. She and her family are moving to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

Ms. Meyer joined ELI in 2006 as a term instructor. She became a Senior Teaching Associate in 2010. She has served the Institute as Assistant Director since October.

Ms. Meyer has led the Institute’s curriculum development activities, both as an instructor and as Assistant Director. It is fair to say that the ELI curriculum is what it is today because of her tireless efforts. She has presented widely at professional conferences and has had professional service roles with CEA. ELI Students and colleagues alike will miss her keen intellect and enthusiasm for encouraging students to learn.

Linda Rahbar Retiring This Summer

lindaLinda Rahbar is retiring from ELI at the end of the Summer term. She has served as an instructor at ELI since 1981. Prior to joining ELI, she taught at and owned a language school in Iran. She says the best part of her job is that ELI allowed her great professional and personal flexibility.

After more than 30 years of teaching, Mrs. Rahbar has observed many changes to ELI and the ESOL profession. She says that teaching is much more professional and structured than when she began. She has also learned that anyone can learn English – in some cases it just takes a lot of time. She reached this conclusion by interacting with students who didn’t seem to progress a lot in ELI class — then she met them a few years after their time at ELI and noticed how their proficiency had improved.

After retiring, Mrs. Rahbar plans on taking care of her baby granddaughter and getting her house organized.

Barry Clark Leaving for Carson-Newman University

Barry ClarkBarry Clark, Flex Instructor, will leave ELI at the end of the Summer 2016 term. He will become the Director of the English Language Institute at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Mr. Clark has been teaching English since 2013 and has experience in a variety of places, including Turkmenistan, Turkey, and ETSU. Mr. Clark’s has been noted for his steady commitment to his students and thorough preparation in his teaching. Throughout his time at ELI, he has eagerly assisted with administrative and student service tasks.

A Warm Welcome to ELI’s New Assistant Director, Suzanne Meyer

suzanneMeet the new Assistant Director at the ELI, Suzanne Meyer. 

Ms. Meyer has worked at the University of Tennessee since 2006.  In addition to teaching at the ELI, she has worked extensively on curriculum development.

Ms. Meyer has experience in a variety of contexts in the US and abroad.  Her TESOL career began by teaching in the Republic of the Marshall Islands as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She gained language school experience when interning at the Centro Cultural in San Salvador, El Salvador during her graduate studies and at Four Seasons Language School in Hamamatsu, Japan.  She has taught in university-level programs at Nanzan Junior College and Chukyo University in Nagoya, Japan, Indiana University in South Bend (IUSB), and at UTK.  Her administrative experience includes Coordinating Teacher at the Four Seasons Language School, ESL Program Director at IUSB, and Director of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Center at IUSB in addition to her current work.

Ms. Meyer earned a MATESOL degree from the School for International Training in 1995, having graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois in 1991.  She remains professionally active, with the following presentations scheduled in 2016:  “Considerations in “Split-Level” Placement:  Proficiencies vs. Practicalities” at the EnglishUSA Professional Development Conference and “Developing Critical Thinking:  Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions” at the TESOL International Conference.  She also serves a site review for the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

Ms. Meyer looks forward to working further with ELI students, faculty, and staff in her new position.


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