Jo Doran, Ph.D., M.F.A.

Assistant Professor & ESL Coordinator, Northern Michigan University

ELI: Volunteer Opportunities for SLFP, Superior Edge, NMU Students, Alumni

As the Coordinator of Northern’s English Language Institute (NELI), I have created several resources for our students – and some of these need volunteers. Most of our volunteers come from NMU alumni, NMU students, and NMU employees. If you are interested in volunteering your time, please consider the following areas. Please note that all of these situations are on NMU’s campus.

For all of these positions, I would ask that you apply the following requirements:

  • Be a positive influence on your assigned student(s).
  • Dress modestly – perhaps more modestly than you normally would – because of cultural issues.
  • Show no racism or rudeness.
  • Do not participate in drugs, smoking, or alcohol with your student(s).
  • Bring questions and problems to me (Dr. Doran).
  • Meet with your assigned student at least once a week (for language and academic partners).
  • Inform me weekly as to the day(s) and time spent with your student and overview of activity (handouts are provided for this purpose).

LANGUAGE PARTNERS: When our NELI students first come to the states, they find themselves immediately immersed in U.S. culture – which usually requires quite an adjustment period. While we give them as much support as we can – within the program – we need one individual per NELI student to be a ‘go-to’ person. This person must be willing to spend at least one-to-two hours per week with their (assigned) student to help the NELI student feel more at home. This may include showing the student where the grocery stores are, helping him/her manage the transportation system, answering questions about academics, the NMU campus, and/or U.S. life in general. When first interacting with a NELI student, I ask that you meet with your partner (NELI student) in a public place. As you get to know your Language Partner, you may meet on or off campus: You may participate by going out for coffee, going to a movie, going to the grocery store together, etc. All meetings should be in a safe environment for both the Language Partner (you) and our NELI student.

The Language Partner program was created to provide an American friend to a NELI student. Therefore, the student should feel free to text or call you if s/he is lonely, confused, lost, or has a question. You will want to exchange phone numbers and emails for calling, texting, and emailing purposes. The minimum time investment for Language Partners is two hours per week for the first three weeks. After this time, you may reduce this to one hour per week.

While I always try to have the Language Partner and the NELI student meet face to face, this is not always possible. Consequently, the first ‘meeting’ may be via online (email) or by phone. Because I have all Language Partners upload a photo and a brief bio on the NELI Volunteer PBWorks site, the students have easy access to find out what their language partners look like and a little bit about their Language Partner.

ACADEMIC PARTNERS: This is a different ‘partnership’ than the Language Partner. A Conversation Partner is matched with one of our NELI students and meets with them once a week in 151 Whitman Hall to work on one or more of the following: understanding homework assignments and guidance with that homework; basic conversation and communication skills, such as enunciation, accent reduction; development of ideas to share orally; etc. No training is needed for this on the part of the Academic Partner. What is needed is patience. Many of our students feel pressured to speak English quickly with trying to converse with American students. This can cause some bad habits, such as not pronouncing the endings of words, for example. Talking with an Academic Partner allows the NELI student to calm down, slow down, and take time to speak, thereby improving the development of phonetics. This is also a time when the student can ask for help with certain homework questions/work.  The minimum time investment for this is one hour per week.

CONVERSATION PARTNERS: Every two weeks, all of our NELI students meet with an American student or community member to chat informally and work on their conversation skills. Conversation topics can be chosen by the Conversation Mentor (see topic ideas) or left up to the students. The Conversation Partner program was created to provide direct conversation for one hour per week with students to improve each student’s communication skills.  The meeting time for Conversation Partners is every other Friday morning from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. You may sign up for whatever dates work best for you.

NELI RECRUITMENT: NELI wants you to help with NELI by sharing your fantastic ideas by working on recruitment ideas and projects! As a NELI recruiter, you would work with other NMU students (usually those in SLFP and/or Superior Edge) to come up with fundraising and awareness plans to implement each semester. The schedule to work on this is very open, as all the students involved would have to agree on a day and time each week to meet and work. The minimum time investment for this project is one hour per week. You would meet with me (Dr. Doran) once a week to discuss your ideas and plans. This is a very flexible volunteer position – and yet vital to NELI!

TEAM TEACHING PARTNER: Because we are such a small program, sometimes a student is the only student in his/her class. Therefore, we gather all the students together on Friday afternoon from 12:40 to 3:40 for Team Teaching with both of the NELI instructors present. Having an extra person in the classroom can be a great help, as some of the learning activities require group and/or partner work. As a Team Teaching Partner, you would attend Team Teaching at specific times throughout the semester (not every week) when the instructors think it would help the most. The time investment depends on you and the instructors.

GAME TIME LEADER: Once a week, all of the NELI students get together for game time: Apples to Apples, Scrabble, Password, Scattergories, etc. We need volunteers, preferably two per game time, to lead the games and work as moderators for conversation and appropriateness. All Game Times are held in 151 Whitman Hall. The time investment for this is one hour per week.

GRADUATE TESOL STUDENTS: I offer the TESOL Practicum Course, EN591, to TESOL students who have finished their methodology course. Additionally, if you are a TESOL graduate student and want to consider working in a language-lab position for volunteer work, please talk with me about this.

If you are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities, please contact me. All volunteer positions require an interview with me (Dr. Doran) in my office.
Additionally, all volunteer positions require that you keep track of your time – and write a brief (one-paragraph) description of your time with the student(s) or with recruitment work.

Dr. Jo Doran
163 Whitman Hall

The NELI program usually has a pizza party once a month in Whitman Hall. This is a great time where all the Language Partners, NELI students and their family members, NELI Coordinator, and instructors can meet socially. As a NELI Volunteer, you are automatically invited!


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