Jan 20, 2011    #009
Contact: Laura Byerley
(816) 235-1592

One of the Midwest's largest ESL programs celebrates 20 years

Applied Language Institute welcomes more than 800 students each year

When it began 20 years ago, the UMKC/Penn Valley Community College English as a Second Language (ESL) program consisted of four courses. Today, the Applied Language Institute (ALI) - a joint program between the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences and Metropolitan Community College (MCC) - is the largest ESL program in the Midwest, teaching more than 800 students each year. With its UMKC offices aptly located in two houses (5301 Rockhill Rd. and 5310 Harrison St.), ALI has been a supportive home away from home for thousands of students.

For Erdem Demiroz, a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction student from Turkey, this sentiment rings true.

"If someone asked me how to describe the Applied Language Institute, I would definitely say that ALI is a huge family with members from all around the world," said Demiroz, who will begin the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction program in the summer. "ALI helped me adjust to education, social and cultural life in the U.S."

Through six levels of 41 courses at UMKC and 45 courses at MCC, ALI prepares international students for undergraduate and graduate study. Upon completing the sixth level, ESL graduate students can take an English-language proficiency test to become eligible for graduate teaching. Because of the intensity of the program - students attend 26 hours of ESL classes each week - students often go from speaking no English to speaking fluent English within a year.

In addition to offering an intensive English program, ALI teaches students about new cultures while helping them preserve their respective cultures.

"Our quality of instruction makes us unique," said Monica Mingucci, ALI director. "We see our students more as very special clients. Each one of our students is very important, and we don't expect our students to conform to the American way. Our faculty and staff are truly international - everyone has either lived or studied abroad, and everyone speaks different languages. The cross-cultural understanding we have in this department, you don't find in all ESL programs. That's the key to our success."

ALI's homestay program, for example, places more than 100 students in homes. It allows students to stay with an American family, improve their English outside the classroom and experience American culture.

Students also are encouraged to live in UMKC residence halls with American and international students and attend ALI events. This semester's events include snow skiing, an American folk dance and talent show, shopping and a trip to the Kansas City Zoo.

To prevent peoples' outside jobs, families and other time constraints from standing in the way of education, ALI has focused on providing flexible programs. ALI offers regular semester programs, as well as partial semester programs to accommodate different academic calendars.

For the working adult immigrant population, ALI offers an evening program at MCC. ALI also offers community courses at area businesses and organizations.

"It's inspiring - you'll see students who are working three jobs and refugees who are just trying to make ends meet," Mingucci said.

ALI also serves the local student population, faculty and staff through cross-cultural and language acquisition courses.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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