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Internationalization effort at PCC includes fun speed culturing between students

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It was like a social mixer in a Portland Community College engineering lab.

A new and innovative way to introduce English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to the campus community is to host “speed culturing” events. Organized by the Internationalization Steering Committee, the students who are learning English are paired with native English speakers within a selected program where they talk about themselves and what they are studying.

Chady Chaaya

(Right) Chady Chaaya.

It’s a win-win for everyone: The ESOL students improve their English skills while the native speakers become more culturally aware.

The latest incarnation of speed culturing took place recently at the Electronic Engineering Technology lab at the picturesque Sylvania Campus. Students from Scott Lowrey’s EET 222 class met up with Luciana Diniz’s ESOL Level 7 students for a round of discussion. Among the electronic engineering tools and equipment, more than 30 students mingled with each other, discussing EET classes and their cultural backgrounds.

“The speed culturing went great,” Lowrey said. “My students were a bit skeptical at first because it’s not the sort of thing you’d normally do in an engineering lab. They got into the spirit of it pretty quickly. Even after it was over I still heard them talking about it as they were working on their electronic experiments.”

This was an especially strategic day for speed culturing. The idea was to have the ESOL students visit a career-technical education (CTE) discipline and tour its space as they interacted with the program’s students. Instructors like Lowrey and Diniz provide context and discussion questions prior to the visit before the two classes come together to ask questions of each other (switching partners every 6-10 minutes), much like the concept of speed dating.

Matsanga Wamatsanga

Matsanga Wamatsanga.

“I liked it,” said ESOL student Chady Chaaya of the engineering environment. “It’s my major. I’m already an electrical engineer in my homeland so when I finish, I want to take these classes.”

Another ESOL student, Matsanga Wamatsanga, said she is interested in going into business when she finishes her language courses. She realized how beneficial Electronic Engineering Technology would be to her educational path: Doors can open to finding work as a technician, fixing equipment, or getting a job at Microsoft, Intel, or Apple.

“Speed culturing showed me how I need to focus, which classes to take, and to take more time to study,” she said. “It shows me how you can be successful when you take classes here like how to study, how to spend your time and get a job. This is healthy.”

Positive feelings from the experience were shared by the engineering students, too.

“I liked the speed culturing because it is good to help people understand what we do,” said EET student Sean Kim.

Gustavo Sanchez, a second-year EET student, said it was a chance to start diversifying the engineering workforce in Portland by getting the ESOL students excited about what they do.

Gustavo Sanchez

Gustavo Sanchez.

“It’s very important that people get the opportunity to come together like this, because electronic engineering in Portland isn’t as international as it should be,” Sanchez said. “Hopefully, we can get more people interested in it.”

Lowrey said he thought they were able to accomplish that goal.

“I hope to see some of them in my classroom in the coming terms,” he said of the ESOL students. “I have some history teaching ESOL and working with migrant farmworkers, and I know how isolating it can be to have to communicate in a language that is not your native tongue. Events like this are valuable for the ESOL students to make them feel part of a larger community, and for the engineering students to make friends among people they might not normally be in contact with.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »

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x by Pattie Hill 2 years ago

I love the cover story and photo! What a great idea to bring students and cultures together around a shared interest. Bravo!

x by Erin Riveira 2 years ago

This is so cool! My class was part of one of these activities and I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t realize how much of a multicultural college PCC is.

x by Paul Halloran 2 years ago

Cynthia Thornburgh started this at the rock Creek campus some years ago and presented her experience when presented the Galbraith award.