New initiative has trial run

Students may have noticed more international students on campus this year. For the first year, the University participated in the US-Sino Pathway Program (USPP), which allows students from China to pursue undergraduate studies in the U.S., according to the Office of International Education website. Though many students have said that the USPP was successful, some have said that there were issues with the program. “Unfortunately, I do not believe that professors were equipped with the skills necessary for ensuring success for these students,” said Claire Chevrier, program assistant and former Student Government Association speaker of the Senate. Professors’ lack of preparation has affected the students who participated in the program, Chevrier said. “Some professors are difficult to understand, even if English is your first language, and a lot of USPP students initially struggled,” she said. Another problem with the program was that international students were not able to get notes from the note-taker in their class and were not able to use their translators, Chevrier said. Out of the 30 students who participated in the USPP, a few had to leave due to grades, she said. “The Office of International Education and Continuing Ed. have already implemented improvements for the next incoming group of students,” Chevrier said. “Due to issues this year, they have now increased the GPA necessary to come.” Although there were initial struggles, the majority of the students stayed and really loved their experience, she said. “The students who are attending UVM from China have a wonderful opportunity to learn about Burlington, Vermont and American culture, and American students are able to learn a lot from them,” Chevrier said. This program is a great way to diversify the student body, she said. “The Office of International Education, Continuing Ed and many other departments have dedicated a lot of time to ensuring that these students’ needs are met,” Chevrier said. However, some professors said they were not surprised that the program had a rough start. Professor of English Phil Zapkin taught a USPP student last semester and said that he thought the issues he encountered were standard. “Obviously, teaching [English as a Second Language (ESL)] students comes with its own unique challenges, and I think I experienced many of those,” Zapkin said. He said that the student did not usually participate in class discussions. This was probably because it took a long time to translate what other students were saying in English to Chinese, before translating a response from Chinese back to English, Zapkin said. “Then, as a professor, one is never really sure if the student has understood what you meant to say,” he said. To help professors prepare, the University held a daylong seminar last August on how to teach ESL students. The seminar was optional for professors who taught English 001, Zapkin said. Some students who are currently participating in the program have said that the program will only get better in the future and would recommend it to others. Daniel Yuan, USPP student and SGA senator, said that he has had a positive UVM experience. Yuan said that although he wouldn’t change the program, he thinks that the University should offer more help to international students. “International students don’t really hang out with American students,” he said. “There were 50 Chinese students, so we could hang out with each other.” However, Yuan said that he believes the program will continue to get better and that his academic experience has been great. “I don’t necessarily like chemistry, but this year I had the best chemistry professor, professor Steve Flemer,” he said. Yuan also said that he would recommend the program to others. “We got to meet important people, like Jerry from Ben and Jerry’s, and had a lot of opportunities,” he said.