Teaching English at the Universidad del Tolima

Becca Churchill, Billy Haselton, Alisha Neblett, and Kimmie Garner

This summer, two instructors from the Intensive English Program (IEP) at NC State, Billy Haselton and Alisha Neblett, led a three-week custom English program onsite at the Universidad del Tolima in Ibagué, Colombia. Haselton and Neblett were assisted by two NC State students, Kimmie Garner and Becca Churchill, who provided additional support and instruction in the classroom.  

The program was designed to strengthen the participants’ English skills in order to prepare them for publishing and presenting in English. Fifteen participants from the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics at the Universidad del Tolima, including undergraduates, post-graduates, and faculty, were chosen for this unique program.  

 “We were delighted to work with the faculty and staff of the Universidad del Tolima on this initiative and hope that it leads to additional opportunities and collaboration between our two programs,” said Karin Sandler, director of the IEP. “It was also a truly unique opportunity for our instructors to be able to teach in Colombia and learn more about the English needs of this unique population.”

The instructors and students shared the impacts of their experiences leading the program: 

Billy Haselton

  • “The Tolima program was one of the most enriching educational experiences I have ever had. Our students brought a high level of technical expertise to the classroom, and their academic English skills in writing and presentation skills made great progress during the courses. Their positive spirit and warm hospitality made our time there incredibly pleasant and rewarding. It was great to see two premier universities like NC State and the University of Tolima working together in a spirit of professionalism and camaraderie. Add to that the amazingly delicious food and the gorgeous scenery, and . . . well, I’d be ready to go back there tomorrow!”

Alisha Neblett

  • “The spirit of collaboration between NC State and the University of Tolima truly made this program a success from beginning to end. In the classroom, the students readily shared their scientific knowledge with me as their instructor and with each other to create high-quality writing and presentations. Outside of the classroom, the students were eager to share their hospitality, culture, and food with us as we learned more about the ‘musical capital of Colombia’ – the inviting city of Ibagué. It was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this collaborative spirit, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to return!” 

Kimmie Garner

  • “It was an absolute joy and gift to be a part of the energetic, genuine, and incredible group of instructors, professors, and students who came together from NC State University and the University of Tolima for three weeks of intensive English teaching and learning this summer. Not only did I witness engaging teaching methodologies I had learned about in NC State’s TESOL certificate program come to life in the classroom, but I also observed students make amazing progress in their writing and presentation skills in a very short period of time. I will be forever grateful to have visited a profoundly hospitable country in which there is a true culture of collaboration and care. I look forward to continued partnerships with the magnificent people of the University of Tolima!”

Becca Churchill

  • “As a junior in elementary education minoring in Spanish and pursuing an ESL add-on, this program taught me more than I could have ever imagined it would. My experience in Ibague exceeded my expectations, with such sincere and genuine students who were determined to improve their English skills. I could not have asked for better instructors to shadow and learn from either. This trip will be one I cherish for a lifetime, and I hope to be able to return one day.”  

The IEP was supported in its efforts to develop this initiative by Professor Edgar Oviedo -Rondón from NC State’s Department of Poultry Science and Professor Lina María Peňuela from the Universidad del Tolima. The program was funded with support from the Colombian Central Research Office.

Last year, Chancellor Randy Woodson signed an agreement with the Universidad del Tolima to enhance the previously formed consortium with NC State Poultry Sciences.