What’s a self-professed “farm boy” doing presenting at an international conference on social sciences. . . and, better yet, what path lead him there?
Andrew Pratt will graduate in May with a master’s degree in TESOL and Bilingual Education. The “farm boy” from Wauseon, Ohio, received his bachelor’s degree from Defiance College and wanted to pursue his love of language and teaching at the graduate level.
“I looked at master’s programs at three or four schools,” Andrew said. “I liked the TESOL/Bilingual focus at UF and when I was offered an assistantship, that sealed the deal.”
As a teaching assistant for both the IELP and TESOL programs, Andrew coordinates the Van Buren Schools’ Language Club in a nearby community. There, students are exposed to a variety of languages, including Arabic, Japanese and Chinese. He also assists UF program chairs, Jennifer Fennema-Bloom and Erin Laverick with classes and office work.
The Road to International Conferences
In March 2014, Andrew received an endowment of the Graduate Scholar Award for the 2014 Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in Vancouver, Canada taking place on June 11-13. As a Graduate Scholar, he’ll present his thesis as well as chairing other sessions and introducing speakers. He will also be presenting at the 2014 International Conference on Learning in New York City in July.
Even with small town roots, Andrew grew up with a lot of exposure to other languages and cultures. He has studied Chinese since age 10 and spent a school year in Sapporo, Japan as an exchange student. While at Defiance College, he performed research, designed a Survival English manual and traveled to Cambodia to teach English through The McMaster School for Advancing Humanity, and did volunteer missionary work in the Netherlands.
“Since Andrew wants to continue on for his Ph.D., I’m encouraging him to find a position where he’ll develop his classroom teaching skills,” added Fennema-Bloom. “Most doctoral programs in this field like to see two to three years of teaching experience on your application.”
Fennama-Bloom goes on to say that Andrew is actually the third TESOL graduate student to present at an international conference.
“These opportunities are actually his second and third experiences since he attended another international conference as an undergraduate. It’s very unusual for him to present at three conferences so soon in his academic career,” she said.
The title of Andrew’s thesis is, “Bilingualism Today in Northwest, Ohio, USA: Four Bilingual Families’ Stories.” The TESOL and Bilingual Education program requires a “true thesis,” according to Fennema-Bloom.
“Working on thesis helps the students prepare to present at conferences,” she added. “Many of our students want to pursue doctorates, so we are offering more research methods classes. Not everyone will go into the classroom. Andrew, for example, wants ultimately to do research.”
Weighing his options, Andrew plans to work at a camp for international students this summer. After that?
“I think I’ll just go and spend some time on the farm.”