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University Trains Local Teachers to Teach in the Virtual Environment

Julia Alder-Deyett has been teaching school for 28 years, and this is her 10th year teaching in the Syracuse City School District. This year, Deyett, a teacher at Webster Elementary School, will teach 27 kindergarten students general education in a special education classroom. She will be joined by a special education teacher and a teaching assistant. Some of her students will be taught using the hybrid model and the others will be learning virtually. Deyett says that one of the biggest challenges she and other teachers faced last spring, when they had to adapt to teaching virtually, was keeping the students engaged. “No matter what my co-teacher and I tried, we couldn’t get them to log on and participate,” she says.

University College Dean Michael Frasciello speaks at a
Sept. 3 press conference at Syracuse City Hall.

In August, Syracuse University partnered with Blackboard to offer K-12 educators the opportunity to sharpen their skills and learn new strategies to teach students in a virtual environment. Nearly 300 teachers in the Syracuse City School District participated in the online course free of charge.

Deyett says the course was invaluable. “I have learned that routines and procedures are a must. Students need to know what is expected of them. The clearer the expectations, the better the outcome,” she says. Deyett  says providing office hours and offering ways for families to contact her is also important. What was particularly useful for Deyett was the section on how to adapt virtual learning for all students, no matter their level of ability or disability.

At a press conference on Sept. 3, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh talked about the challenges that face local and national industries and educational institutions as a result of the pandemic. He thanked Syracuse University and Blackboard for offering this program to Central New York educators. “What I love about this community and the partnerships we have is that even as we are going through our own challenges, we are looking for ways to help each other,” said Walsh. “That’s what today is all about. Syracuse University, specifically, is looking beyond campus to find ways to help their community. We are very appreciative of the University’s support and partnership.”

Syracuse University Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie said that during an unprecedented school year that is impacting everyone, it will take all of us pulling together to meet the issues and challenges facing teachers at all levels. “This year, we at Syracuse University—like our colleagues in the Syracuse City School District—are innovating and adapting every day to not only meet and overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but to emerge as a stronger institution given what we learn from this experience. I am pleased that Syracuse University is in a position to leverage some of those learnings and offer our unique expertise and resources to support teachers with specific and tailored training to help them effectively engage students in a virtual environment.”

University College (UC) at Syracuse University is the continuing and professional studies college of Syracuse University. Dean Michael Frasciello says that UC is ideally situated to support the school districts in the region in preparation for remote and full online instruction. “As Syracuse University’s academic unit focused entirely on developing rigorous and differentiated online teaching and learning, this teacher training opportunity is another example of how our longstanding partnerships with regional school districts benefit so many,” says Frasciello. “Partnering with Blackboard to seamlessly extend their training courses to teachers and educators is another example of University College’s dedication to the region and our commitment to serving as the gateway to Syracuse University for continuing and professional part-time studies.”

The course, “Blended Learning and Online Strategies for K-12,” provides teachers with tactics for designing courses for the online classroom. Deyett says a lot of the methods she learned will need to be adjusted to fit the needs of her kindergarten students. Simple strategies such as font size, colors and graphics can help hold a child’s attention. “Another strategy I learned was to prerecord myself and then log on as a student to see if what you want taught is being achieved,” she says.

“Given the circumstances we are facing this school year, the course content being offered to teachers through this program is especially relevant,” adds Jaime Alicea, superintendent of the Syracuse City School District. “Virtual learning is still new for so many of our staff and students and any chance we have to provide ways for us to improve is appreciated.” Alicea says that while the pandemic has separated us in many ways in our daily lives, it has also brought our community together. “Opportunities like this online learning class demonstrate not only the dedication of Syracuse teachers and staff, but also the power of our community and what we can accomplish when we work together.”

The Allyn Foundation of Central New York provided funding that allowed teachers from the Syracuse City School District to participate in the program. In addition, Blackboard and University College matched the registration fee dollar-for-dollar in order to offer the course free of charge to K-12 local teachers. Syracuse University has a longstanding partnership with Blackboard to provide a virtual learning environment that is accessible and relevant to students across the globe. Additional private donations have made it possible to expand the course offering to teachers throughout the Central New York region.

K-12 educators in the Central New York region can register for the next course, scheduled for Sept. 21. Registration will close Sept. 17.

Virtual Fulbright Program Offers Unique Learning Experience

The Fulbright program is a widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program that offers accomplished students and scholars from around the world the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research and exchange ideas. Scholars travel to the United States to immerse themselves in culture, local geography and academics in order to advance their education. The English Language Institute (ELI) at University College (UC) has been the recipient of the Fulbright English for Graduate Studies grant for five years. The grant provides English writing and language skills to students planning to continue their studies in the U.S.

ELI Instructor Constance Walters has a discussion with Fulbright students

ELI Instructor Constance Walters has a virtual discussion with Fulbright students.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was offered virtually, which meant that students and instructors had to adjust to a new way of learning and teaching. “Although it was certainly a very different experience than in-person classes, I was able to develop relationships with some of my students, particularly through virtual office hours,” says instructor Constance Walters. “I really appreciated and enjoyed that face-to-face time with them and the comments they wrote at the end of the course made it clear that they really appreciated that time, too.”

The high standards set by the instructors at the English Language Institute motivated Nanan Nuraini to learn and participate in each session and assignment. Nuraini lives in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, with her two children. Her husband worked in Africa but returned to Indonesia to take care of their children while Nuraini waits for her visa to be processed for her anticipated arrival in the United States. Nuraini has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Padjadjaran University in Indonesia and a master’s degree in psychology of education from the University of Bristol, U.K. When she arrives in the U.S., she will begin working on a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Nuraini was grateful to be accepted into the Fulbright program because she knew that developing her English language skills would strengthen her contributions in the field of neuroscience and psychology.  While she said that initially, the virtual learning classroom was challenging, it became easier as the students and teachers got to know each other. “The instructors are supportive, helpful and warm which made me feel accepted and not hesitate to ask questions,” she says.

As part of her Ph.D. program, Nuraini plans on publishing numerous research articles that focus on creating better treatments for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. “I also want to contribute to society in Indonesia, particularly mothers who struggle with motherhood and postpartum depression.”

Ekaterina Tretiakova is from Kostroma, a historic city in western Russia. From a young age, Tretiakova was hungry for knowledge about the world around her—the culture, language, arts and literature. She spent her adolescent years taking English, German and Spanish classes, attending art school and visiting summer and winter camps devoted to foreign exchange programs. “My early passion for learning foreign cultures inspired me to enter the department of foreign languages and become a teacher of English and German,” says Tretiakova.

While teaching in both the private and public sector, Tretiakova continued her studies and received a second degree in marketing. She worked for three years as a manager for a production company before returning to the field of education. “I’ve been working for an international IT company teaching English to IT specialists,” she says. “As the company rapidly expanded, our specialists were required to travel overseas. It was heartrending to watch their struggle to learn to speak different languages and understand the culture of the countries they visited.”

Tretiakova will be attending Syracuse’s School of Education to begin a master’s program in instructional design and assessment. She said the virtual ELI program was comparable to in-class instruction. The program was beneficial and gave her the resources she needs for future research. “Learning how to structure a paper, write an abstract and an introduction was really useful,” she says. She also learned about possible funding sources for research projects. Because Tretiakova will continue her studies at Syracuse University, she found the introduction to campus—the library, business incubator and other facilities—will help her feel at home.

“The immersive program is designed to give graduate school students an academic English course as well as an introduction to a broad array of University resources to help them get the most out of their academic experience,” says David Lind, director of ELI. Eight schools/colleges and departments across campus participated in teaching the students about culture, history, diversity and inclusion, and the many resources available at the library.

University College staff held a panel discussion for the students that focused on the history of African American civil rights both past and present. Tyler Bell, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education, Marsha Senior, director of the HEOP Program and assistant director of student administrative services at UC, and Nichole Henry, UC’s director of admissions, led the discussion. “We utilized visual thinking strategies to analyze a collage of images that have impacted underrepresented and marginalized communities in 2020,” says Bell. “The students thought that this was a very powerful lecture and genuinely learned a lot regarding the historical and contemporary implications of events affecting African Americans as seen through their verbal engagement and continuous comments throughout the presentation.”

composite of students from Indonesia holding up signs that spell out THANK YOU SYRACUSE ELI

Indonesian students created a poster to say “thank you” to the English Language Institute.

Indonesian student Tryanti Abdulrahman thought the panel presentation fit well with her class discussions about slavery in the U.S. “I learned a lot on this topic through the lens of injustice,” says Abdulrahman. “The most provoking part of this topic was when our instructor Connie Walters asked us to connect the story to the history in my country.” As a result, Abdulrahman said she has become more culturally responsive and understands how sensitive the race issue is.

Abdulrahman grew up in Gorontalo, a province on the island of Sulawesi. She now lives in Bekasi, a city in West Java, Indonesia. She earned a master’s degree in multicultural education in foreign language teaching from Ohio State University and plans to complete a Ph.D. in reading and literacy for early and middle childhood education at Ohio State University. “My continued studies would provide me with the knowledge and expertise in reading and literacy as well as knowledge about the world, social relations, identities and power,” says Abdulrahman.

In addition to learning about the history and culture of the United States, the scholars found many other beneficial aspects of the Fulbright English for Graduate Studies program. Tretiakova, who has never studied abroad, found the teaching approach much different than what she experienced in Russia. “It was a very valuable experience,” she says. “The teachers provided a logical and clear framework on what needed to be done and provided different methods for research and the logic of each.”

“I appreciate that our instructors gave us meaningful materials and provided clear instruction. Homework and class activities focused on academic language development while teaching us the academic tools we need,” says Abdulrahman. The program provided training on plagiarism, giving the students a better understanding of intellectual property and how to cite works correctly. “I have learned about plagiarism before but with this instruction, I gained a deeper understanding and passed the plagiarism certification test.”

The students who were interviewed said that the most valuable part of the three-week virtual program was the poster project and presentation that was part of their final assignment. “It required me to study my topic in depth and apply the theories and practices of the English language,” says Abdulrahman.

“While all of the lessons were valuable, I think learning how to create and present a poster was the most beneficial,” adds Nuraini. “I had the opportunity to create a poster in a limited time, using minimal resources and then present it to teachers and fellow Fulbright students. While I was anxious to present it, it was a wonderful experience. I now have all the resources I need to perform my best in the upcoming Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri.”

“The Fulbright Program was a chance of a lifetime for me,” says Tretiakova. “It will allow me to advance and to move to an absolutely new level of professionalism.”

“I want to thank the English Language Institute at Syracuse University for a great program,” says Abdulrahman. “The classes challenged me to think, perform and grow to a higher level. The virtual program offered quality program content and a high standard of excellence. I want to thank my instructors for facilitating such a positive learning environment and teaching me lessons that I will carry over into my life’s journey. They truly made this three-week program one of the best I’ve ever had.”

University College Partnerships Provides Certificate Programs for Professionals

University College has formed partnerships with two online digital skills providers, Pathstream and Stack Education, to offer six new continuing education non-credit certificate programs.

These hands-on, non-credit certificate programs equip individuals with skills  to prepare them for their next job, promotion or the launch of their own business. Programs are focused on applied technology career areas with high demand and job growth such as project management, data analytics and digital marketing, data science, 3D development, clinical trial management and customer relationship management.

“These partnerships are an important part of Syracuse University’s response to the rapidly increasing demand for access to non-traditional programs, certificates, and credentials,” says University College Dean Michael Frasciello. “Non-traditional learners are turning to University College for executive education, short-courses, informal alternative education and micro-credentials. Our non-credit certificate programs are accelerating our response to ensure that these learners continue re-skilling and re-tooling to stay competitive and keep learning over the course of their lives.”

Current non-credit certificate offerings:

These programs are set to start in September and October.

For more information, please visit https://parttime.syr.edu/executive-education/.

Family Establishes Scholarship in Memory of Well-Known Street Musician

Elijah Harris Jr.
Elijah Harris Jr. Photo credit: Syracuse.com

Elijah Harris Jr. was known throughout Syracuse as a man who shared his passion for music with those around him. Anyone walking near the Syracuse University campus would encounter Harris who always had a smile on his face and a guitar in his hands. Harris could often be found on Marshall Street serenading people passing by and telling jokes. “His love of music started when he was 8 years old,” says his daughter, Lakisha Harris. “He started playing the guitar at the age of 11. He wanted to spread harmony and his musical gift with everyone.”

In April 2020, Harris was killed while riding his bicycle in a double hit-and-run crash on the city’s South Side. Family, friends and acquaintances were shocked to learn of his death and the circumstances surrounding it. Lakisha wants people to remember not how her dad died, but that he was an amazing artist who put his heart and soul into every performance.

“My dad encountered many struggles throughout his life, but he stayed committed to his music and his journey to touch as many people as possible,” she says. Harris, one of nine children, says her father was very devoted to his family. After performing and sharing his talents with the community, he would go home and entertain them. “He would share his music with his children with the same energy he had on the streets,” she recalls.

While Harris played his guitar at various locations throughout Syracuse—outside the Dome, in front of the Landmark Theater or Civic Center, or NBT Stadium—Lakisha says he especially loved playing near the Syracuse University campus. “He loved Syracuse University and appreciated the love he received back from those he met. The University embraced my dad with open arms from the very beginning, so when my family wanted to create a lasting memory, we chose to establish a scholarship at Syracuse University as a way to honor him and say thank you.”

person holding photograph
Daughter Lakisha Harris holds a photo of her father, Eli Harris, a U.S. Marine who served in the Vietnam War

“Anyone who knew Eli or heard him play understands the power of music, especially music shared openly and freely,” says Michael Frasciello, Ph.D., dean of University College. “University College is honored to be part of his legacy of humor, love and joy. The Eli Harris Scholarship will ensure that Syracuse University part-time students have the opportunity to study and share music as only he could imagine.”

The University College Alumni Supported Scholarship will provide financial assistance to part-time undergraduate students studying music or a related field.

In 2019 Harris won the Founders Award during the Syracuse area music awards. It was an honor that reflected the positive impact he had on the Syracuse community.

“My father would be as excited and proud of this tribute as he was when he received the Founders Award,” says Lakisha. “With the establishment of this scholarship, the family wants to ensure that his legacy will live on. “We want students to know that if they are determined, they can accomplish great things.”

The family is planning a celebration of Eli Harris’ life in April 2021. The event will be free for the community and feature music, food and other activities. For more information on participating in the event, contact Lakisha at elialleyway@yahoo.com.

English Language Institute Provides Training for Medical Professionals from Around the World

Cuban native Yusdanie Fernandez, the son of a farmer and a teacher, lived in small town situated between the mountains and the sea. After completing high school Fernandez graduated from college with a degree in nursing and began his medical career as a neonatal intensive care nurse. Later he became an intensive care nurse in the cardiovascular unit.

In 2015, he completed his studies in medicine and became a doctor. His diploma came with an offer to provide medical services in the Cuban medical missions in Venezuela. “I was in a small indigenous town called San Carlos del Rio Negro,” he says. “It was in the jungle of the Venezuelan Amazon next to the Black River and was only accessible by plane. I was able to learn about the culture of the Yanomami Indians and offer them health services in a small hospital that had an emergency room.”

After a year in the Amazon, Fernandez arrived in Miami, Florida, with the help of a religious organization that assisted immigrants looking to resettle in the United States. He soon relocated to Syracuse with the hope of continuing to work in the medical field. Currently, Fernandez manages an Embassy Suites Hotel while he navigates the process and paperwork necessary to become certified to practice medicine in the United States.

Rosa Gomez

Rosa Gomez received a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Calixto Garcia University in Havana, Cuba, followed by specialized training in the ICU. She earned a master’s degree focused on women’s health and has worked as a nurse for 26 years. Since arriving in Syracuse three years ago, Gomez has been working as a medical assistant with the hope of earning the credentials needed to work as a primary health care nurse.

The dream of becoming a doctor came true for Alexander Gonzalez Delis when he completed his studies at the Superior Institute of Medical Sciences in Santiago de Cuba. With two post-graduate degrees in family medicine and one in ophthalmology, Delis worked in three different countries before coming to the United States. His exemplary work as a doctor earned him honorary citizenship in Brazil.

These three individuals and 11 others are sharpening their English language and written skills at the English Language Institute (ELI) through a partnership between University College and Le Moyne College. The Welcome Back Center at Le Moyne is part of the national Welcome Back Initiative which addresses the need for more culturally and linguistically diverse health professionals living in Central New York. The center was made possible through the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Grant, which helps re-train foreign medical professionals.

Jordan Burns, the recruitment specialist in the ELI, says that the relationship with Le Moyne College was established to develop pathways for students to complete English language training to prepare them for college and careers. “Because of our existing relationship with Le Moyne, they requested we partner with them to provide training to these medical professionals,” says Burns. “We were able to develop an appropriate course of study for the students, test them and enroll them in a matter of weeks.”

“The purpose of the center is to help these students get re-certified in the United States so they can practice medicine again,” explains Liz McCaffery, director of the Welcome Back Center. “Developing the students’ English language skills is an integral part of their success and preparedness. The certification process is very complicated and expensive. If our students don’t speak English well, it’s difficult to navigate.”

Alexander Gonzalez Delis

McCaffery says that immigrants who want to become medical doctors in the United States have to register with the U.S. government as a foreign student through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECSMG). “The registration process can be cumbersome and there are a lot of steps.”

Delis says that despite his current medical skills, it’s been very difficult to join the health system in the U.S. “Since I’ve arrived in Syracuse, I’ve been searching for opportunities to improve my skills,” say Delis. “The programs at Le Moyne and Syracuse University are making it possible to pursue my goals.”

Olga Oganesyan, assistant director of the ELI, says the participants are taking their learning experience very seriously. “The exam the students are required to take to practice medicine in the U.S. covers not only medical knowledge and terminology, but language skills as well,” she says. “The students are doing very well and are active participants.”

ELI instructor Michelle Sands says that the students are working to overcome barriers such as spelling, pronouncing and writing medical terms in the English language. While her students from Cuba spent several years studying English in medical school, they didn’t anticipate moving to the United States and therefore, did not always retain all of the information.

Sands’ students agree that reading comprehension is a difficult part of the medical board exam, specifically extracting the necessary information to finish within the time limit. “The students in my class are doctors or registered nurses,” explains Sands. “Their ultimate goal is to become certified to practice medicine in the United States.” The English language instructors at the ELI use a variety of strategies to help them achieve that.

“I’m very excited to be receiving this training that will open doors for me to continue to dedicate my life to health care,” says Fernandez. “My experience at the English Language Institute has given me resources I didn’t have.” He says that the ELI instructors consider the various cultures of their students when teaching them the different forms and rules of language. Other students in the program are from Haiti, Congo, Rwanda and Dominican Republic.

There are many aspects of living in the United States and Central New York that the medical professionals appreciate. Fernandez loves living in Syracuse where the lakes and forests are enhanced by the rich history of the region.

Rosa appreciates visiting downtown during the summer while working to obtain the tools she needs to become a nurse. Gonzalez says that being part of Syracuse University is one of the best things that has happened in his new life in America.

Each one of them appreciates the opportunities afforded them through the programs offered at Le Moyne College and University College’s English Language Institute.