|Alice Hadler is
Wesleyan's associate dean for International Student Affairs, adjunct
instructor in English and coordinator of the Writing Program Language
Services for Non-Native Speakers.
Associate Dean, Instructor Helps International Students Adapt to
|Q: Alice, you’re
associate dean for International Student Affairs, adjunct instructor in
English and the coordinator of the Writing Program Language Services for
Non-Native Speakers. How do you manage these three roles?
A: There’s a huge amount of overlap among the three roles. The most
time-absorbing and perhaps primary one is the teaching position. Teaching
writing is very labor-intensive, but also extremely rewarding. Developing
new writing courses is also great fun but a lot of work. Teaching writing,
you get a unique insight into your students’ lives and the workings of their
minds. I teach many international students, and the relationships we form in
the classroom make a great basis for the kinds of advising required in my
capacity as associate dean for international student affairs. Services for
non-native speakers means both teaching courses and tutorials designed to
include attention to their needs, and consulting with individual non-native
speakers, the class deans, faculty, Behavioral Health, as needed, on
questions involving language and cultural adjustments.
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan and what were you initially hired as?
A: I came to Wesleyan in 1995, with the first class of Freeman Asian
Scholars. I was hired to teach writing with an eye to the needs of
international students, which I took to mean a cross-cultural focus, and to
look after the academic adjustment of international students. I’m now part
of President Roth’s internationalization working group, and part of our
charge has been to look into the feasibility of doubling the number of
internationals again. This is an exciting prospect. It’s an expression of
the kind of progressive attitude that first attracted me to Wesleyan. I have
been passionate about international educational exchange and interchange,
and languages/literatures/cultures, since I was 16 and an exchange student
Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in?
A: I grew up in Washington D.C., was an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke, where
I majored in German, and went to graduate school in linguistics at Columbia
in New York City. I’ve lived and worked/studied in many places, including
Japan, Switzerland, the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, the Samoan
Islands, Hunan province in south central China and Beijing in the north, and
traveled in many others.
Q: What is your role the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA)?
A: I’m an office of one, which is a little bit of a handful – but well
supported by Dean Danny Teraguchi, administrative assistant Janice Watson,
and coordinator of international student data Sandy Niemczyk. My main role
in the office is to try to anticipate and then meet the needs of
international students, taken collectively and individually. So this can
mean many things – ranging from running International Student Orientation
and organizing seminars on issues of interest, to taking a sick student to
the doctor or visiting them in the hospital, to teaching individual
tutorials in writing, to consulting with faculty on their concerns about
individual students, to being available to students in my office or by email
or phone to answer questions or provide a shoulder to cry on when things get
overwhelming, to writing letters of recommendation for everything from
summer internships to study abroad to medical school, to attending students’
performances, presentations, concerts. I’m always cognizant of the fact that
our international students are making huge adjustments all the time, and
their parents/families are very far away. I also work closely with
Admissions on international student matters, including interviewing
finalists for the Freeman Scholarship in Asia each spring.
Q: What are the Writing Program Language Services for Non-Native Speakers?
A: Besides my courses, that are not limited to non-native speakers but that
attract many, and individual tutorials in writing, I work closely with
Director of Writing Programs Anne Greene and the Ford Fellows in the Writing
Workshop, who coordinate the writing mentors program. Many international
students, including but not only non-native speakers, use the services of
the workshop tutors, and have mentors, who are individually-assigned writing
tutors. We do a workshop early in the year particularly for students who
attended International Student Orientation, on expectations for academic
honesty in the US and particularly at Wesleyan. The concept of plagiarism is
quite culturally bound, and standards and practices for source citation are
quite different from place to place. Students know that they can bring their
questions to me, and I can sometimes advocate on their behalf with
professors, if, for example, they can’t work as fast in English as their
classmates in order to demonstrate what they know on, say, a biology exam. I
work on a regular basis with international students doing the CSS program,
especially during the extremely writing-intensive sophomore year.
Q: What are the toughest challenges non-native speakers have at Wesleyan and
how do you help them overcome these challenges?
A: All international students, and especially those for whom English is
their second (or third, or fourth!) language, are making huge adjustments –
most of the time their English is so relatively good that we underestimate
the magnitude of the challenges. I speak several languages more and less
fluently but still can hardly imagine the way this bends the mind.
Reading tends to take a lot longer, and writing is more painstaking and
time-consuming. Speaking up in class, as is expected in most Wesleyan
classes, is often difficult – partly because by the time you’ve constructed
what you want to say, the discussion has moved on. And in most of the
world’s academic cultures, classes are strictly lecture, you’re not expected
to challenge your professor’s ideas as we expect here, and you write to show
what you know, more than how critically and originally you can think – this
last can be a challenge for all international students, even those who have
gone to school in English for years. Language may also be a social handicap
– so that students may be shy with their hallmates and hesitant to join in,
especially early in the first year when friendships are being forged. We
hope to work with Res Life to facilitate openness to these differences on
both sides, and awareness on the part of both international and American
Q: What is the Wesleyan World Wednesdays?
A: With the Office of International Studies, we started a series this year
of presentations/discussions/screenings called Wesleyan World Wednesdays,
with the express aim of bringing various groups of students and other campus
entities together on topics of mutual interest, highlighting Wesleyan’s
wonderfully extensive connections with the world.
Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan?
A: I like the fact that it’s never the same two days in a row – whether in
the classroom or in the office. I love coming up with new ideas for courses,
and just wish I had more time to read.
Q: What are your hobbies, interests, family, pets, plans for summer?
A: I have three grown “biological” children (the youngest just graduated
from Mt. Holyoke) and many “adopted” ones – exchange students and Wes alums
and you name it, who pass through our house all the time, sometimes to stay
for a few days or a few months. My husband is about to retire after 24 years
as the chief epidemiologist for Connecticut, to consult with the New York
City Health Department and free himself up for more international work. I
like to read, camp, hike, travel and ride my bicycle. This summer the whole
family is going to the wedding of a family friend who happens to be a Wes
alum, in a small Austrian village – and then biking the 340 kilometers along
the Danube from Vienna to Budapest.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection