Return to Program Profiles Mills College

The Walmart Academic Communication Program at Mills College, supported by the CIC/Walmart College Success Award, expanded offerings of specialized courses for multilingual students, offered training and support for peer tutors and writing center staff in working with this population, and trained faculty members in how to advise these students and tune courses to better serve their needs.
 
Central to all three projects was the increase from half- to full-time of a visiting assistant professor with more than 20 years of experience in this field. With her increase to full-time status, the professor taught four classes and served as the coordinator of multilingual pedagogy. In that position she advised on curricular redesign and oversaw a program of workshops for training full- and part-time faculty graduate teaching assistants, writing center personnel, and peer tutors. The coordinator also helped design and conduct semi-annual training for peer tutors and served as advisor to the director of the Center for Academic Excellence for overseeing the program’s outreach to multilingual students. The English courses taught were designed to meet the needs of multilingual language learners as well as all students who need a firmer grip on the rhetoric of academic English; the training exercises for faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and peer tutors were designed to increase their effectiveness in addressing the needs of multilingual students; and a series of one-hour faculty seminars on the pedagogy of language diversity involved building a wiki site where participants posted articles of mutual interest and a list of practical pedagogical “tips for teachers.”
 
The coordinator also attended diversity committee meetings and began discussions with faculty, administrators, and alumnae representatives about issues concerning first-generation students. The work funded by the CIC/Walmart College Success Award was wholeheartedly adopted by the committee. The coordinator took a prominent role in training the faculty, graduate teaching assistants, and writing center personnel who staff the first-year composition program. Her work focused on language issues specific to first-generation multilingual students. To this end, she made presentations at their trainings, led open workshops for the teaching assistants, and acted as an individual advisor to them on specific classroom issues. In the second year of the grant she continued this work, focusing more on training the graduate teaching assistants in the English composition course, staff for the Writing Center, and peer tutors.


Program Outcomes

Despite a great deal of promotion the pilot course enrolled only eight students, four of whom dropped the course in the middle of the semester. The college observed that students who most needed the program shied away from courses that seemed remedial and that many of the practices for helping first-generation multilingual students also had a positive impact on the general population. Thus, the college decided to proceed with a universal design approach that would bring best practices to the whole population while providing substantial individual instruction. The faculty fundamentally revised its core English composition course.
 
The college also added a post-graduate tutor to work with first-generation and multilingual students. The tutor provided workshops for the targeted student population and worked to broaden support for first-generation and multilingual students.
 
In addition, one faculty and one staff member were employed in the summer to create curricula that included multilingual learner guidelines for the college’s peer-tutoring programs. Funding also was provided to expand time for writing center graduate teaching assistants to conduct specialized tutoring with multilingual first-year students.
 
The CIC/Walmart College Success Award has had a transformative impact not only on the way Mills College supports its multilingual learners but on its entire program for teaching standard English. The institution has been strengthened by this effort.


Program Updates

The Mills College peer tutoring program is now fundamentally committed to training its tutors in methods for working with first-generation multilingual learners, and the college has continued funding for a master tutor in this area. The college did not continue to support the position of director of multilingual learning, but it continues to employ the individual who held that job as an instructor of English and as an instructor in teaching technique courses for graduate students in the English program.