Presence of International students presents precedent for learning english

Written by Sam Hochhalter


Transitioning from home life to college can be a nerve wracking and stressful time. Add to that a lack of strong language skills in English and the change is even more daunting. The A.C.E. (Associates in Cultural Exchange) Language Institute at MSU is a comprehensive language program for prospective and current international students from a variety of countries looking to develop or perfect their English skills. With this program, students are able to study English in order to prepare linguistically and culturally for their education in the US. Aside from in-depth English classes, students also have the opportunity to explore the community and learn about the diverse set of cultures that exist in Bozeman.

The A.C.E. Language Institute is an intensive program servicing hundreds of students a year from a variety of countries including: Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Turkey and Kuwait. There are five full-time and 10 part-time faculty with master’s degrees or certificates in teaching English as a second language, and students generally spend 18-21 hours a week in English classes with another three hours of optional electives. There are two seven week sessions per semester, and depending on their skill level at the beginning, it takes students anywhere from six months to a year and a half before they graduate and begin taking true courses at MSU. The program is also useful for current international students who may have passed their Test of English as a Foreign Language exam, but find themselves struggling in a classroom environment. These students do not just learn English through the department; they also learn about the cultures of fellow students.

The A.C.E. curriculum even has the option to test out of a class at MSU before enrolling. Before graduation, students participate in an actual course without credit to get a feel for English in a university lecture hall. According to Debra De Bode, director of international student and scholar services for MSU, who has worked with A.C.E. Institute for 20 years, “It gives them a real idea of how fast the lecturers speak, how to pick up on discussions going on, how the homework load is, and what the tests are like, so I think that’s a really cool thing about the program that gives them a nice launch pad to go on into MSU,” De Bode said. Not only do they get classroom experience, but students also have the opportunity to explore the community on field trips to places like the Museum of the Rockies or even Yellowstone National Park.
There are also opportunities for current English speakers at MSU. For those in need of observation hours for the PeaceCorps, teaching requirements, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program, or for those who just want to learn more about working with English language learners, contact the Director of A.C.E. Language Institute, Mary Ulrich. She can be reached via email at, or through the program’s office at 330 Culbertson Hall. Students can also take part in International Education Week from Nov. 16-20. Included in this week is a panel discussion called “Teaching English Overseas: Different Paths and Possibilities.”