OCTOBER 27, 2020 — In a new project spearheaded by the U.S. Department of State, the College of Education and Human Development’s Martha Sidury Christiansen will be using her expertise in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Christiansen, an associate professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies and coordinator of the MA-TESL program, was selected to help develop a nationwide writing center network in Brazil at the Federal University of Parańa as part of the State Department’s English Language Specialist Program.

“Being offered this opportunity is a great privilege because my webinar will help second language writers navigate academic English while keeping their voices and because I will get to learn about the unique efforts and challenges of the Brazilian academic community,” Christiansen said. “The program is selective and we have to go through interviews. It is an honor to work with the Regional English Language Office at the embassy and local academics that actually make all of these projects possible.”

“My goal is to present the theory and the research that supports the use of all languages available to the writer.”

The English Language Specialist Program works with U.S. embassies to develop English language programs and help build a better understanding between the U.S and other countries.

At many universities and public institutions around the world, it has increasingly been required for faculty to publish their research in English and in journals from the U.S. or other English-speaking countries, Christiansen said. Therefore, there has been a growing need for faculty, graduate students and researchers, in general, to write and publish in English. Christiansen will host a webinar called Nurturing Two Langauges in the Writing Center as part of the English Language Specialist Program. 

“To help these efforts, the RELO has created the initiative of Academic Writing and Research Development, a series of webinars to help with academic writing,” Christiansen said. “More specifically, the one I will participate in consists of eight webinars over eight months that focus on writing centers. The goal is to create a writing network to talk about writing issues, writing needs, and how to give help through writing centers, which not long ago were virtually nonexistent. My job in this series is to discuss the role of first language in second language writing. More specifically, I will talk about how to nurture both languages.”

Christiansen has been an English language specialist on two previous projects, so when the opportunity to participate in the Brazil project, she took it.

“I was contacted by the founder of the first writing center in Brazil and the RELO. They had identified me as a specialist and they interviewed me to ask which of the eight webinars I would most like to conduct,” Christiansen said. “I was selected for the seminar about nurturing two languages. My goal is to present the theory and the research that supports the use of all languages available to the writer.” 

Through this program Christiansen will help her audiences think of themselves as multilingual writers. 

Christiansen said she looks forward to building connections and fostering collaborations with scholars in Brazil but also to learn of new research venues and areas related to her scholarship. 

“I am also excited that UTSA will be represented in such a large and important project,” she said.