MARINETTE — UW-Marinette is home to the UW-Colleges’ oldest Intensive English Program (IEP).

“The program is designed to help students improve English proficiency, while also providing vital assistance in making the adjustment to study in the United States,” said International Programs Director Danielle Clarizio. “The students participate in a full-time course of English language study, which includes courses in reading, writing, oral communications and grammar. These courses run for 18 hours per week during the full length of the academic semesters.

“Outside of the classroom, they are full integrated in college life with opportunities to join campus organizations, attend events and activities, as well as becoming involved in the local community.”

According to Clarizio, UW-Marinette has had an international student population since 1988.

“Over the years, the population of international students here have shifted quite significantly in all sorts of directions — from different regions, to different language goals, as well as academic goals,” she explained.

Historically, students who were in the program came to the area for a cultural experience, Clarizio explained.

“They weren’t necessarily doing it for credit or to seek a degree, so they got the benefits of being in the classroom without having to stress over the coursework,” she said. “Probably about 10 years ago, the campus started to create courses that were more for just those students — so in some ways they could work on cultural development and in other cases work on some of the language skills.”

Seven to eight years ago is when it really started to become a true language program, Clarizio said.

“It was pre-college, getting them ready for academic coursework — particularly in terms of the reading and writing expectations,” said IEP Instructor Bethany Welch, “because you’re always going to have some other outlying issues that are important like grammar, communication, speaking listening and note taking. There was a very bare minimum that was done prior to our revamping the program, in terms of reading and writing expectations.”

Welch said, before the program was remade, students would read articles that were intentionally made for people who didn’t speak English as a first language.

“Which is great for students if they want to get some cultural aspects, but it’s not good if you’re trying to prepare students to take academic courses and read textbooks where now they’re not at that eighth grade reading level anymore, they’re bumped up much higher,” she said.

Clarizio said the changing of the program was a necessity.

“It’s been really necessary because the demographics and the abilities of our student population have shifted dramatically since when the program first began in 1988,” she explained. “The students we’re getting now — and really have had for the last five years or so — are students who, like our domestic students, come to UW-Marinette with an aim of saving a little bit of money in some ways with the ultimate goal of transferring on to one of the UW-Systems’ four-year schools, predominantly UW-Madison.”

The first real driven change came in 2014 when a large influx of Chinese students began coming to UW-Marinette, Clarizio said.

“That’s when the program really became intensive English, because before that it was a smaller group of students and it was a little more social, with some emphasis on building and addressing certain skills for the academic classroom,” she said. “At that point we became a program that was taking in students from a variety of language backgrounds and abilities, helping to mold them into students who could not just survive academic classes, but succeed in them — to achieve their academic goals.”

Welch said the students’ goals are not so much about getting engrained in the culture.

“It’s more about needing their language to be better because they’ll need to use it in the future,” she said. “A lot of them have very specific goals — it doesn’t mean they all know exactly what they’re going to do every step in the process. Many of them have a goal in mind, some of their parents might own a business that they’re intending to get into.”

There definitely is a different demographic, Welch said.

“It really has changed since the 2014 shift,” she said. “It’s always shifting. As a program, we shift and grow with it. The academic side has definitely been strengthened in the Intensive English Program.”