Lynn Ishikawa is dedicated to supporting international and multilingual students at DePauw. As associate professor of English, she teaches writing “almost exclusively” to first-year international students. But as director of English for academic purposes, she provides academic support to all international and multilingual students.
Ishikawa received an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Michigan, and obtained a master’s degree in enlightenment literature from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. It was there that she discovered how much she loved living abroad.
That study-abroad experience led Ishikawa to Japan, where she taught and worked in curriculum development for 10 years. During that time, she returned to the states to earn a second master’s degree from Harvard University in language and literacy, but again, went back to Japan.
“Japan was a part of my life,” Ishikawa says,” and I had this strong feeling that I really wanted to be there.” After getting married and having a child, she and her husband discussed moving to the U.S., a decision that was “precipitated by the 2011 (magnitude 9.0) earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan.”
Since she’s been at DePauw, Ishikawa has focused on finding innovative ways to best support students and, in turn, also support her faculty colleagues.
On the student side, she and Tamara Stasik, assistant professor of English and specialist for English for academic purposes, “work really closely with international student services trying to provide coherent and cohesive support for students.”
Their collaborative support for some incoming students begins with the summer institute, a two-week intensive program “that introduced academic skills that are necessary at a small liberal arts college,” Ishikawa says.
That’s followed by international student orientation. Ishikawa coordinates with Stasik to offer skills workshops throughout the academic year on topics like class discussion and evaluating sources, and also works with and Susan Wilson, communication and theatre professor, to offer a workshop on listening.
“As a campus, in fact all across the U.S., I think the real challenge,” she says, “is to help domestic students understand what they can do to welcome and embrace international students who are coming here."
“Our students are so smart and so motivated, and I think in that sense we’re very fortunate. And they are excited to be here, and that comes through in a lot of ways.”
But, she says, “there are challenges.”
“It turns out that you can’t really support students with only a couple of people,” she says.
Ishikawa recently received a global crossroads grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association that focused on faculty development and providing faculty best practices for working with multilingual students – mostly multilingual international students. Her work was the result of a collaboration with Stasik and faculty colleagues from Allegheny College and the College of Wooster.
Part of the grant supports the creation of an annotated bibliography that is posted on the GLCA Center for Teaching and Learning site. The other part supported Ishikawa to develop and present workshops at the College of Wooster to provide modules on different aspects of teaching writing to multilingual students.
“Ultimately, everybody has to know these best practices and so our goal has been to try and share as much as we can,” Ishikawa says.
“For the international students themselves, I think one of the most significant challenges is living and studying in a context and culture in which monolingualism is still very much the norm. The result is that others don't always fully appreciate the benefits – or the challenges – of being multilingual.”
Ishikawa believes one of the challenges in working with international students is that “traditionally they have borne a lot of the burden of trying to reach out to their domestic peers to become a part of the campus.
“As a campus, in fact all across the U.S., I think the real challenge,” she says, “is to help domestic students understand what they can do to welcome and embrace international students who are coming here.”
It’s the challenge she hopes to figure out a solution to: “How to help domestic students understand that global doesn’t just mean going abroad. Global also means talking to the people right next to you.”