DEI, ESL and the Community College Role

In every team and department at Northwest Vista College, there are always great stories to tell that show faculty and staff going above and beyond.

While it’s hard to capture every story, we hope to periodically share in this space some of the major accomplishments or projects that are taking place. Members of the executive team will write about important topics that they feel NVC employees should be made aware of.

Let us know about the positive things your area is doing to help students or improve processes by contacting myself or NVC Marketing & Strategic Communications.

– Dr. Ric Baser, NVC President

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Adriana Rodriguez-Almada, MBA, MAEd/AET
Program Manager, English as a Second Language (ESL)
NVC Community Education

The last few years have prompted us to look deep into our own biases and come to terms with diversity like never before. We constantly hear about equity and inclusion – striving to become a better organization for our students and our community. NVC strives to be inclusive of everyone regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or vulnerable population. However, there is an unconscious bias we hardly acknowledge – English as a second language (ESL).

I have experienced it first hand, both as a nonnative English speaker, and through the years managing the ESL Program. I am sure that many of our staff, faculty, and students have experienced it in some way or another. It often presents itself as a communication barrier – not being able to articulate or express thoughts clearly as a native English speaker would or, not understanding what it is being communicated. Making us feel less intelligent, isolated, and excluded. Research studies refer to it as the ‘silencing effect’ which hinders academic performance, career progression, and social integration.

Why am I writing to tell you this? Because through those years, I have also seen first hand how empowering it can be to become proficient in the English language. We discuss equity and equality often in our DEI workshops and how to address imbalance and equity in higher education. ESL deals with it every single session. Every time we have a graduating class we are actively removing the artificial barriers for those students to become successful and to pursue their goals from a more leveled platform.

A recent research conducted for the Alamo Colleges District concluded that 21% of prospective adult learners (ages 19-45) in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area have limited or no English ability. Although there are other ESL programs available, most lack the quality and structure needed to bring students’ English skills to a proficient and college ready level. As a Hispanic and minority-serving community college, our role is to serve the needs of the community and to provide a pathway to success.

The mission of ESL@NVC is to help English language learners build the language skills necessary to achieve proficiency in the English language and create opportunities of success. We do this by offering the largest and most comprehensive Community Education ESL Program within Alamo Colleges District. During the COVID pandemic, we continued to offer ESL courses online and became the only CE ESL program offering ESL courses within ACCD.

What we provide to students…

  • High quality instruction, a caring environment committed to learning, and a sense of community
  • An accelerated 6-level program using an integrated skills curriculum; students complete the program in 1 – 1.5 years
  • Elective courses focusing on specific skills (conversation, reading & writing, pronunciation, grammar, TOEFL preparation, and business English)
  • Flexible schedule: in-person and online; morning and evening classes
  • Multicultural classes – the program has helped students from 53 different countries
  • In the past 2 years, students took advantage of our online program taking classes from Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and from other parts in Texas (Houston, New Braunfels, and Selma)

What our students say…

  • “My experience at Northwest Vista was more than a success … My English improved drastically, I passed the GRE test and I am now an ‘A’ [grade] graduate student at UTSA pursuing my PhD” – Haifa Ismail (Iran)
  • “Excellent classes!!! I recommend them! The teachers are very good and the system they work with is very organized!” – Laura Lira (Mexico)
  • “I completed the ESL program at NVC, then got my AA and transferred to UTSA. I just graduated from UTSA with an electrical engineering degree. Thank you for your program!” – Daniel Morales (Venezuela)
Resources
Stevens, P. (2019, August 6). Viewpoint: The Silencing of ESL Speakers. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/pages/viewpoint-the-silencing-of-esl-speakers.aspx
Hanover Research. June 2020. “Adult Learner Market in San Antonio.”