Employee Q&A: CESL Local Programs Development Officer and Tutoring Coordinator Sumayya Granger

She helps non-native English speakers meet their goals in learning the language, and if the center doesn't already offer what students need, she helps make sure they get it anyway.
May 23, 2012
More than 20 countries are represented by students who seek out the services of the Center for English as a Second Language, where Sumayya Granger is the local programs development officer and tutoring coordinator. (Photo by Shelley Shelton/University Communications)
More than 20 countries are represented by students who seek out the services of the Center for English as a Second Language, where Sumayya Granger is the local programs development officer and tutoring coordinator. (Photo by Shelley Shelton/University Communications)

Name: Sumayya Granger

Position: Local Programs Development Officer and Tutoring Coordinator for the Center for English as a Second Language

Number of years at the UA: 4

Favorite thing about working at the UA: It’s just a really great environment. I like my colleagues here a lot, and the University is just very rich and diverse and has a lot to offer. At CESL we meet wonderful international students. ... Most of them are on their way into the U of A, and so we get to sort of help them transition to the University.

Favorite places to walk on campus: I always enjoy these paths we have around with trees. There’s the olive tree path here and the orange tree path there. As I’m going around campus I always try to take the tree paths.

Sumayya Granger has worked at the University for just four years – starting when she completed her doctorate – but she spent plenty of time here before that. She got her Bachelor of Arts in 2001 in French and art history before continuing school at the UA, eventually earning her Ph.D. in linguistics.

She began teaching part time at the Center for English as a Second Language and was offered her current position after a year. She continued to teach only grammar classes, but she just finished conducting her last grammar course. She plans to lead some teachers' courses this summer and then work only as an administrator after that, she says.

The 32-year-old has traveled a bit and speaks French, having spent her junior year of college in France, but she doesn't get out of town quite as much since having her daughter, who is 2, she says.

She enjoys her work and the diversity it brings into her life, she says.

"It’s so much fun to meet our students from different countries and get to know them," she says.

Granger recently took time to talk to Lo Que Pasa about CESL's work and how she came into her position.

What does your job entail?
For the local programs part, it could be other centers on campus, other departments on campus, or it could be folks out in the community, and it’s just offering classes. It could be a class from our curriculum or something we custom design to support English needs, and it could be any sort of range from basic general English to academic writing and anything in between. So whatever folks might need in any sort of ESL area, we can provide it. And if we don’t have it, we’ll make it. So that’s a lot of fun. And then the tutoring is for one-on-one or some small group instruction, just meeting with our students or with anyone. It’s open to anyone who’s interested. So again, range of levels, range of skills taught. ... There’s always more to explore and further to go but we definitely want to engage as much as possible with the community and other groups, other partners out there, and I try to do that.

How did you end up in this position?
My graduate work was in linguistics but at the end of grad school I took a class here (at CESL), actually, a 100-hour English teacher training class, and enjoyed that a lot and wanted to use my linguistics skills to help with language teaching, and so just applied here and started teaching part time. The administrative position came open and so I applied for that, got that and I’ve been enjoying it.

How many different countries are represented here?
It ranges. I’d say 20 to 30 at a time, something like that. But we have some countries who have many students, some one or two.

Does CESL have people on staff who can speak all these different languages?
No. In terms of the instruction, it’s all in English. It’s all done in English even from the beginning level. We do have some student employees and folks on staff (who speak other languages). We do sometimes need to use other language skills we have available to help, especially (with) lower-level students with things like doing your applications, renewing, and all sorts of things, to make sure they understand what they’re supposed to do for that aspect, but within the classroom, no. It’s all in English from the beginning. ... We do this for a couple reasons. The first is because we have such a diverse background. … English, as we say, is the only language we have in common here. Also because it does help students learn faster. It pushes them, and maybe it’s a little bit harder at the beginning. But once they start doing that and doing lots of daily activities in English, they learn that much faster.

Is there any particular challenge that comes up repeatedly that you need to help people address?
Depending on who we’re working with, it can vary a little bit, but certainly in some cases it’s just learning the language and perhaps they haven’t had too much experience with English, so just providing more instruction for that. There are also cultural aspects, so even if someone has pretty good English skills, they might need to improve their cultural skills, or learn more about American culture or American university culture. Different countries have different academic cultures, so that’s something that can be new to our students.

In the community, what service has the most demand?
We have an evening program here that runs in the spring and fall, and we get a lot of folks from the community in that and some of the more popular courses. "Pronunciation" is often quite popular. And some American culture classes. Like there was one recently, "(Special) Topics in Speaking and Listening." The subject was "idioms in everyday speech." And things that aren’t always taught in a regular classroom but when folks are out there meeting people, they’re using slang and idioms and stuff .... So maybe specific topics like that, so not maybe the basics, basic verbs and stuff, folks may have that, but some of these kind of polishing, higher-level things.

What’s the most rewarding aspect that you’ve experienced since you’ve been with this program?
It’s really exciting to help people meet their goals and have students that maybe needed some help, needed some guidance, that we’re able to provide that. It’s really rewarding to see them make progress, improving their language skills, their employability, because of what we’re able to offer. Teachers want to teach. Students want to learn. Helping them get together and do that is really enjoyable. … In one of our community programs, we’re actually working with refugees, and some students who had not made progress for a while with our program, they were suddenly speaking in sentences and making big progress. So that’s really exciting when we’re able to help with that.

What are the different programs you work with?
Offering tutoring support to folks at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, refugees with them, we offer support a couple times a week. We’ve also done workshops with groups on campus – for example, academic writing, academic speaking, workshops with either international students here or international scholars or visiting faculty who maybe want to polish some skills while they’re here. These sorts of things fall generally under the local programs. And CESL in general, we have our daytime program, which is the IEP, the Intensive English Program. That’s what most of our students do. They’re full-time students in the IEP. They can also take part-time classes. Then we have an evening program. We have teacher training. We have a program in Nogales, Ariz., actually. We go down once a week and teach class there. We have global programs. I work on local. I have a global counterpart, Linda Chu, and she works on connecting with international agencies, universities, to bring groups in here or provide distance education there. Or send a teacher there. We’ve sent teachers to other countries for trainings and teaching classes. We have a lot going on.