First-year international writing courses to drop “international” label

The international sections of the first-year Introduction to College Writing and Research Writing courses for non-native English speakers will no longer contain the “international” title on students’ transcripts beginning fall 2019.

Incoming non-native English-speaking freshmen received an email the summer before their first semester at Emerson asking if they would like to take an alternate first-year writing course. The optional class follows the same curriculum as other WR101 and WR121 sections but with additional English-language learning support. While the college will still offer these sections of the first-year writing classes, transcripts will omit the “international” label because of concern students have expressed to their advisors.

Supervisor of English Language Learning Jeremy Heflin said many students at the college worry that internships or jobs that view their transcript might misinterpret what actually happens in the class based off of its name.  

“Students worry that if you have that on there, instead of it being something perceived as a beneficial end result, you still have this stereotype of what an international student is,” he said.

The Writing, Literature and Publishing Department designed the WR101 and WR121 courses to prepare first-year students for college writing and provide them with the research and cultural analysis skills to prepare for future classes and jobs. The “international” sections of the class cover MLA formatting, writing structure, and different genres of writing in the U.S.

Student Government Association International Student Commissioner Jay Liu said in an interview that he worries companies would look at his transcript and assume the class was not as rigorous as the other sections of first-year writing.

“It’s hard for [international students] to automatically write like Americans, and I think companies should acknowledge that,” Liu said. “I think when they see our transcripts, they see we are international students first. They see, ‘You can not write like an American student.’”

Heflin said in fall 2018 the college offered four different types of first-year writing classes to improve students’ linguistic and writing abilities.

“‘International’ has been applied as a basically underarching title,” Heflin said. “What the purpose of those sections is that the instructors provide more English learning support, offer a more robust curriculum, or identify what students need based on cultural language academic use.”

Heflin said these specialized classes do not deviate from the focus of the other sections of the first-year writing classes, but provide students with professors that can academically support their linguistic backgrounds.

Senior Miranda Yu said in an interview she did not worry about the title on her transcript affecting her job chances.

“I don’t really mind because I’m not majoring in creative writing or a major like that, and I don’t think it will cause a big difference in my career,” she said. “I do know some people who have had concerns. People will say, ‘We are learning the same things, but why do we have the international title on our transcripts?’”

Heflin said he did not want students to feel the “international” label held them back from receiving jobs and internships.

“The way it comes up on the transcript is one of the elements of why we decided to get rid of it,” he said. “It was to simply say, ‘Why have that impediment there?’ You’re still supplied the same support. Why give anyone any reasons to be able to question it? Especially if students are viewing this as a negative outcome.”

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