Drew Theological School’s REACH Program Gives International Students Academic and Cultural Support

The unique program helps students adjust to the American approach to learning

September 2022 – Drew Theological School welcomed incoming international students on campus and online to a three-week intensive English language summer class as part of the school’s REACH program. The incoming class of 24 international students represents three continents.

The REACH program, run by Katherine Brown, associate professor of language and culture and director of the Theological School Language and Learning Center, is a credit-bearing academic program that is required for new international master’s level students who have not graduated from a university in the U.S. 

The program is organized through the Theological School’s Language and Learning Center, an academic support service for all international Theological School students. “Drew, from its inception, has welcomed international students—it’s part of the legacy of Drew,” said Brown.

The program helps students adjust to the American approach to learning, “which is a discussion oriented engagement with an emphasis on critical thinking,” said Brown. “International students’ approach to learning varies by country. We are working to help them adapt to a very different style of learning.”

The program extends beyond proficiency of the English language by seeking to encourage and engage students to understand their worldviews in preparation to share and thrive as students in the Theological School. “It’s important to me that the students do not feel that they must leave behind who they are, but rather that they understand who they are and know how they can contribute to the conversation politically, personally, and religiously to make the world a better place,” said Brown.

“We have developed the English program to include much more than simply talking about English. Students have the opportunity to enhance their English, but moreover, enhance their delivery.”

Students also engage in shared worship experiences and archival research related to ministry, as well as visits to museums and local churches in the metropolitan New York and New Jersey area.

Through visits to the The United Methodist Archives and History Center, located on Drew’s campus, students were able to conduct research on the history of Methodism in their countries.

“The students explored archival materials—books, pamphlets, manuscripts, material culture—from their home countries,” said Alex Parrish, special collections manager and curator of the Methodist collection at The United Methodist Archives and History Center.

“Together, we learned about Christian communities in Pyongyang prior to the division of North and South Korea, religion and gender in the Congo, denominational unity plans in Ghana, and local churches in mainland China at the turn of the twentieth century. I was encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm and willingness to share personal stories.”

Both in-person and online students were welcomed with a chapel service, led by Tanya Linn Bennett, associate dean for vocation and formation and University chaplain. She reminded the new students as they embark into theological education that they “are God’s beloved ones when challenged, discouraged, or overjoyed by the discoveries ahead.”

The three-week intensive course is followed by a companion class during the fall semester.


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