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Cultural Contexts of Commanding English Students

My work as an in-class writing consultant in the U of M’s Commanding English program gave me the chance to investigate the experiences of non-native English speakers. I've focused my inquiry on gathering CE students' opinions of university life, and on identifying some of the forces – linguistic, cultural, social, etc. – that affect their academic lives, and that the Center for Writing (and the university in general) ought to understand better. I held face-to-face interviews with four CE students, who talked about the support systems they rely on and the values, past experiences and future goals that motivate them. Participants also gave frank evaluations of their institutional experiences. Overall satisfaction with the CE program was high. Students appreciated the emphasis on academic writing development and the engagement and accessibility of the faculty, but expressed frustration with the limits CE imposes on their access to classes outside the program. The interviews also suggested some possibilities for improving the Center for Writing's support of the CE population. One concrete example: Wilson Library is a popular after-hours study area. Perhaps CE students would use SWS more often if it expanded its presence there or extended its hours.

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