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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Project Converse seeking expansion

    Blanca Estil of the Student Union Memorial Centers Operation Services takes a radio call during her break yesterday evening in the SUMC food court. ProjectConverse, a volunteer program that offers English-speaking classes to UA employees, may soon open to Facilities Management so workers like Estil can brush up on their speaking skills.
    Blanca Estil of the Student Union Memorial Center’s Operation Services takes a radio call during her break yesterday evening in the SUMC food court. ProjectConverse, a volunteer program that offers English-speaking classes to UA employees, may soon open to Facilities Management so workers like Estil can brush up on their speaking skills.

    A volunteer program that teaches English to employees of the Arizona Student Unions is exploring the possibility of expanding its classes to include Facilities Management employees.

    Project Converse, which started three years ago, offers free English classes to employees in the student unions who speak English as a second language, said Lydia McCune, executive director of Project Converse and a molecular and cellular biology junior.

    Classes cover various levels of English and use workbooks and activities to practice lessons.

    While the possibility of expanding the program to include Facilities Management employees is in its early stages, it is unclear if there is a need for English-language lessons for those employees, said Christopher Kopach, associate director of Facilities Management.

    “”We are trying to talk to the human resources in Facilities Management, which is a separate department (from the Union), and Residence Life to expand our number of students,”” said Marianne Go, co-director of Project Converse and a molecular and cellular biology senior.

    But Kopach said proficiency in English is a requirement for new Facilities Management employees. This stipulation was put in place about eight years ago to ensure safety on the job and to improve work relationships.

    At that time, Facilities Management invested approximately $60,000 to $70,000 in English training for the staff members whose English skills needed improvement, Kopach said.

    Out of nearly 570 Facilities Management employees, Kopach said he is not sure how many would benefit from Project Converse.

    Out of approximately 825 Union employees, between 50 and 75 employees speak English as a second language, said Betsy Freeman, an office specialist for the Union.

    Last semester, there were only five Union employees who took the classes, with two to three volunteers teaching.

    The main reason so few students participate is the difficulty in scheduling class times that accommodate all the workers’ schedules, said Claire Fischer, co-director of the program and a speech, language, and hearing science senior.

    “”We changed some times of the lessons and we’re meeting with management so that it will be able to work better,”” Fischer said. “”They just didn’t get off in time.””

    For those who have participated in Project Converse, the classes were beneficial.

    During her freshman year, Fischer taught English to a woman who worked on campus and wanted to be able to give directions to people who asked her.

    “”She felt uncomfortable giving them directions so we worked on it for a week and she said she felt better about it,”” Fischer said.

    “”They’re still somewhat shy about their progress, and they do feel they have learned a lot.””

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