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Newly admitted Kellogg students sharpen their language skills and broaden their knowledge of American culture in the ACE Program.

American Culture and English for Business class

ACE Program teaches American culture to international students

Orientation gives diverse Kellogg scholars insight to succeed inside and outside the classroom

By Aubrey Henretty

8/21/2008 - The academic year officially may not begin until September, but some incoming Kellogg students are already diving into an immersive experience designed to enhance their understanding of American life.

On Aug. 15, in the Donald P. Jacobs Center, international students in the American Culture and English for International Business Students Program (also known as ACE) from the Class of 2010 took turns stepping up to the podium and practicing fragments of mock business presentations.

“I have three points to make,” one student announced to the group.

The class coordinator, Deborah, offered some advice: “Think again about how you’d like to use your arms. Are there any hand gestures you could use to illustrate that you have three points to make?”

The student nodded and repeated the sentence, this time elaborately holding up three fingers on the word “three.” The other students chuckled appreciatively. They know that even simple gestures can greatly enhance a presentation in any language.

Designed in conjunction with Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies for incoming MMM and Two-Year MBA Program students with limited exposure to English as a primary language, the four-week ACE Program gives international students a chance to acclimate themselves to American culture before the rest of their classmates arrive.

This year’s program was scheduled from July 28 to Aug. 22. The itinerary included workshops on business writing, cultural communications and classroom dynamics. Teams of students have presented projects to their classmates, navigated Chicago’s public transit system, completed case studies, visited local parks and museums, attended lectures by Kellogg faculty and fine-tuned their English-language skills.

They also benefitted from many impromptu lessons — including on modern classroom etiquette.

On the morning of Aug. 15, for instance, following a discussion about the pros and cons of laser pointers in business presentations, a cell phone rang. Everyone stopped, trying to locate the source. A few students searched their bags. The noise continued until a surprised Deborah said, “Oh, it’s mine!” She laughed, turned off the phone and advised, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

She paused to survey the room. “Have you ever heard that expression?” No one had. “Do as I say” — she pointed to her mouth — “not as I do.” She pointed to the phone. Ubiquitous but not always intuitive, a well-placed idiom can greatly enhance a nonnative speaker’s communication skills. “Do as I say” was one of several expressions with which students were acquainted throughout the class, a list that included “cooking up a storm” and “on the fly.”

“ACE has been a wonderful addition to our pre-term programming,” said Fran Langewisch, the Kellogg School’s assistant dean for student affairs. “While I’m aware of other international student orientation and English language programs, I believe that ACE has a unique blend of components of both of these types of programs. And because ACE is just for Kellogg students, participants are able to get settled in Evanston, learn their way around campus and begin to build a friendship network before orientation officially begins.”