We continue our talk on the series of interviews with global educational institutions who have chosen ETN Focus Workshops as their guide in exploring international student mobility. Today, we reveal the international recruitment tactics of WESLI – Wisconsin ESL Institute and their strategy for achieving a great portfolio of diverse student body.
Founded in 1981, WESLI has earned an excellent reputation among universities and colleges for equipping international students with skills to succeed in competitive academic environments. Students from all over the world have had satisfying, memorable cross-cultural experiences at WESLI and in Madison.
WESLI has a long history of a family-like atmosphere, as teachers and staff care about students personally while they assist them academically. Most staff members have lived abroad, speak one or more foreign languages, have years of experience teaching English, and have been at WESLI for more than 15 years!
ETN Focus Workshops: Tell us a bit more about WESLI – Wisconsin ESL Institute?
WESLI: WESLI has been teaching English since 1981 and has been training teachers since 1999. We are located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin – right across the street from the state capitol building. Madison is a medium-sized city, located in the heart of the mid-west. The city is very safe city to live in – and has a number of universities in town, including the internationally top-ranked University of Wisconsin Madison. Students love how friendly people in Madison are, and often come back to visit for years after they leave WESLI.
Our primary focus as an institution is academic preparation for students who plan to move on to undergraduate or graduate work in the U.S. However, we also offer a range of electives for ESL students whose language goals are professional or for self-improvement. We strive to uphold our mission in every aspect of our operation – our mission follows:
WESLI prepares students to be collaborative leaders and we strive for Cultural Competence. We co-facilitate the accomplishment of tasks and goals and we cultivate the courage to develop an individual viewpoint.
ETN FW: What kind of international students do you look for?
WESLI: We welcome international students with a variety of goals. For the past ten years, our focus has been primarily on recruiting students for academic preparation – for both undergraduate and graduate level studies. We have partnerships with over 40 colleges and universities across the US, where students can transfer directly from our English program to university, without having to take the TOEFL exam. However, in the last few years, we have greatly expanded our programs for International Business, General English, and Test Preparation. WESLI also offers an accredited 5 week Teacher Training Program. This is a wonderful program for students that plan to become English teachers, or for current teachers that wish to pursue professional development.
ETN FW: What are WESLI’s advantages of working with student recruitment agents?
WESLI: We feel there are many advantages of working with agents – to the extent that over half of our current student population comes from these relationships. Through our working relationships with agents, we are also able to tailor our programs and additional services – like housing, activities, volunteering – and make sure we’re providing classes that students both want and need.
ETN FW: How do you support the agents you work with?
WESLI: Our agents are supported primarily through our International Admissions coordinator – for commissions, referral fees, etc. as well as providing whatever material is necessary to support the recruitment process. As a relatively small school, we are able to make fast decisions and are more able to meet the needs of our agents than bigger schools or universities. We also try to visit our agents as often as possible, in order to develop and maintain these important relationships. We also send quarterly updates to our agents in a newsletter format, so they have the most up-to-date information possible. We also have an online agency page on our website that provides information about our school, tuition, housing and other necessary materials.
ETN FW: How do you facilitate the international recruitment and retention efforts of the colleges and universities that receive your students?
WESLI: We believe that the best way to facilitate recruitment and retention of our students after they leave WESLI, is to advise them to the best of our ability before they even leave WESLI. In terms of academics, we pride ourselves on offering the very best academic preparation classes. In our Academic Program, students are prepared not only for the English requirements of university, but also for the study skills necessary to succeed – at the undergrad and graduate level. We are confident that students leave WESLI having the skills it takes not just to enter university, but to succeed. In fact, many universities often send students to WESLI that are not ready for university life, even if those schools have their own programs.
ETN FW: Do you reach out to alumni who have attended your schools? How do you follow up on your former students’ future activities and endeavors?
WESLI: Yes – we informally connect with our alumni on a regular basis via social media networks and through connections with faculty and staff. Alumni even come back to visit – just socially, or to share advice with our current students. We conduct an alumni survey annually – asking students about how they’re currently using the skills they learned at WESLI and what other skills they feel they need. We work very hard to make sure that we are constantly meeting the needs of our current students and we feel one of the best ways to do this is to connect with our former students.
All images courtesy to WESLI.