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Applied English Center celebrating 50th anniversary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LAWRENCE — For 50 years the Applied English Center has been the first stop for many international students coming to the University of Kansas. From its beginning the AEC, formerly the Intensive English Center, has provided intensive English instruction, student services and activities to help students acclimate to life in the United States.

The center will mark its anniversary with a private celebration Oct. 28.

“The Applied English Center is a cornerstone of the initiatives we undertake as an international research university. Over the past 50 years it has helped international students transition to studying at an American university, and has connected students and scholars at KU with their colleagues around the globe, enhancing learning and building international understanding,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

The AEC belongs to a select group. In 1964 KU was one of 13 American universities to receive a grant from the Ford Foundation to found an Intensive English Center. Edward Erazmus founded the center with 35 students from 14 countries, nine assistant instructors, as they were called then, and one secretary. By 1974 enrollment increased to more than 100 students a semester. The center became the Applied English Center in 1976. The AEC was among the early programs to received accreditation from the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

As the number of international students attending KU has grown, so has the number of students that the AEC serves. This semester the AEC is teaching 455 students enrolled in the intensive English program, which consists of five levels of instruction ranging from beginner to highly advanced. Student enroll on either a full- or part-time basis, depending on their needs.

Over the years the center has expanded its curriculum to include a cross-cultural counseling office and short-term, custom-designed programs that run from one to 10 months. Short-term programs have been offered by the AEC since the early 1970s when a group of Japanese students came to campus. Undergraduates from Kanagawa University in Hiratsuka, Japan, Lawrence’s sister city, arrived for their first monthlong language and culture experience in 1991. AEC short-term programming has hosted 18 distinct programs for approximately 1,250 students from more than 92 countries. Some are prestigious federally funded awards for exceptional international students and educators; others are under the auspices of partner overseas universities, or a private sponsoring agency. Two programs are part of a bi-national agreement between the United States and Brazil.

This fall the AEC is hosting the English Language and Teacher Education Program for Vietnamese English Teachers of Gifted Students. Thirteen Vietnamese English language high school teachers are participating in the academic-year program sponsored and administered by the U.S. Department of State-Hanoi Bureau. This is the first time such a program has been offered, and the AEC is the sole awardee. AEC short-term programs bring to campus international students and educators, many of whom have been identified as potential leaders in their fields. They come from countries not well-represented in the university’s student population such as Tajikistan and Cambodia. While here, they participate in mutual exchange of ideas with KU students, faculty and administrators regarding their areas of study and their societies. They also take part in activities in Lawrence and regional communities.

“Without a doubt, these special programs for visiting students and educators truly bring some of the best of the world to our campus,” said Margaret Coffey, associate director for short-term programs.

The latest addition to the Applied English Center is English courses that are part of the newly launched KU Academic Accelerator Program. High-proficiency students can enter this program and receive English language instruction from AEC instructors utilizing an AEC-designed curriculum.

“The AEC has a strong heritage that KU is very proud of. We are a program that others look to for leadership and example," said AEC Director Mark Algren. "We are honored to be a large part of the KU experience and success of international Jayhawks.”

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