Friday, November 19, 2010

The Philo Café

This semester our advanced LIEP students have a wonderful opportunity to carry our class discussions into the wider forum of a monthly Philo Café, or Philosophy Café. At a Philo Café, people gather to discuss a philosophical question informally over coffee or tea.

The Philo Café at Loyola is facilitated by Dr. David O'Donaghue and co-sponsored by the Loyola Intensive English Program, by Loyola's Philosophy Department, and by the New Orleans Lyceum, a center for participatory adult education of which David is founder and director. As part of his Lyceum offerings, David -- a philosopher, psychologist, and artist -- facilitates Philo Cafés in various coffeehouses of New Orleans. 
“The Philo Café is a way of helping people realize that they’re thinking philosophically about a lot of things without realizing it,” David says. “It brings philosophy out of the academy and makes us aware that we are all philosophers.”

The questions for the Philo Café at Loyola come from the material in the Advanced LIEP Writing & Reading class. LIEP students become familiar with a topic by reading, writing, and talking about it in class; they then discuss that topic with native speakers of English in a Philo Café. These are the questions we have been working with in the Philo Café this semester.
  • OCTOBER—RIGHTS AND EQUALITY. Are there basic rights that all humans possess? If so, what are these rights? From whence do they spring?
  • NOVEMBER—SERVICE. What is service? What motivates us to service? Is there a dark side, or negative aspect, to service?
  • DECEMBER—CONSCIENCE AND CHOICE. What is conscience? What do we do when our conscience says one thing and the law says another?
The Philo Café at Loyola is attended by LIEP students, Loyola’s Philosophy Club members, other interested members of the Loyola community, and interested New Orleanians. For LIEP students, the Philo Café is an opportunity to discuss a familiar topic in a real-life situation with native speakers of English. As David O’Donaghue puts it, “Our challenge is to help the international students go beyond the specific and concrete and to articulate abstract ideas.” For others in the Loyola and New Orleans communities, it is an opportunity to exchange ideas with people from different cultures.

The Philo Café at Loyola is a rich exchange among people of very different ages and backgrounds. Our facilitator, David O'Donaghue, especially enjoys hearing the perspective of Loyola students. “The Loyola students are delightful,” he says. “They give me hope that the world is going to be in good hands with this next generation.”

Our next post will describe our Class Observation Project, where LIEP students spend two days observing Loyola University classes.

Photo Credit: Photos by Wadner Pierre
You can find more of Wadner's work on his photo website at or on his blog at 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advanced LIEP Students Prepare for Graduate Studies

We are proud of our three advanced students in the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) who are preparing for graduate study. Let us introduce you to Sasha, Shuichi, and Hui.

SASHA PRYGONIUK from Ukraine - Law

Sasha Prygoniuk practiced corporate law and family law in Ukraine. When she married a U.S. American and moved to the United States, she thought that she would have to set aside her law career. But then she discovered that Louisiana gives foreign lawyers the opportunity to obtain the LLM degree, to take and pass the bar, and then to practice law.

“I like to make a difference,” says Sasha. “Even in the United States, I see injustice that needs to be corrected. I like to read and study law and to know what we can and cannot do. Sometimes people don’t realize what they can do in a particular situation, and I like to help them by showing them what is possible, by giving them a chance.”

Sasha will begin her study for the LLM in spring 2011 in the College of Law at Loyola University New Orleans. Eventually, she would like to open her own law practice and to work with U.S. Americans seeking to adopt children, especially from Russia. “Adoption is a complicated process,” Sasha says. “I can help by knowing not only the law but also the language and culture.”

Sasha feels that her LIEP classes are preparing her well for her law studies. She especially appreciates the clear explanations of English language structure. “Now I understand how English grammar works,” she says. Sasha also enjoys the variety in class: explanations, exercises, films, field trips, presentations, interviews. “The different kinds of activities keep me interested,” she says. “And,” Sasha adds, “the price is good.”

SHUICHI SUZUKI from Japan – Public Health

Shuichi Suzuki worked as a pharmacist in Japan. “I was sick as a child, and my mother was also sick, so for me, medicine is very important,” says Shuichi. Shuichi enjoys working directly with patients. He is especially drawn to helping people suffering from diseases in developing countries.

In spring 2011, Shuichi will enter the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University to study for a masters degree in public health. This will allow him to combine his love for medicine, for international work, and especially for direct work with patients.

Shuichi finds that the rigor and discipline of studying at LIEP is good practice for graduate school. “It’s been a while since I was a student,” he says, “and LIEP is helping me get accustomed to so much study again.” Shuichi is also pleased with the improvement in his writing and speaking. “My writing skill is dramatically improving,” he says, “and I am improving my pronunciation and speaking fluency.”

Shuichi especially appreciates the independent study class that he and his LIEP instructors have created to correspond to his special needs and interests. For his independent study, Shuichi is observing an international business class at Loyola and exploring how principles of business and culture can be applied to the field of public health.

Finally, Shuichi is delighted with the opportunity to make U.S. American friends. “Many Loyola students are interested in international students,” Shuichi says. “My tutor is becoming a friend, and students in the international business class often speak with me.”

HUI ZHANG from China – Business

Hui Zhang is planning to study for an MBA degree in the College of Business at Loyola University New Orleans. Hui has a variety of business interests, among them marketing problems, finance, and hospital administration. She is also attracted to teaching. Hui has a three-year-old son and believes that teaching is an excellent career for a mother. Hui’s own mother has been a kindergarten teacher in China for over thirty-five years. Hui would also like to study abroad in South America and Europe, and Loyola’s College of Business offers that opportunity.

Hui believes that LIEP is providing solid preparation for her graduate business studies. “I have improved my writing skill and my presentation skill,” she says.

Hui also appreciates the reading material about contemporary issues in her LIEP class.  Of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Hui says, “This book changed my ideas. I knew that women had many problems, but the personal stories in the book made these problems so real.” Hui also responds to the themes of love and sacrifice in the military novel Baby Jack by Frank Schaeffer.  She says, “This book expresses deep love from the very bottom of the heart.” 

Our next post will introduce you to our monthly Philo Cafe, or Philosophy Cafe, where LIEP students come together with other members of the Loyola and New Orleans communities for an intercultural exchange on a philosophical question.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LIEP Faculty Member Jess Haley and the New Orleans Culture Class

Jess Haley teaches our New Orleans Culture Class. “The New Orleans Culture Class is great for me because I am also a transplant,” Jess says. “What our students need to learn and understand about New Orleans is what I also need to learn and understand.”
Jess has come to the Loyola Intensive English Program from the University of Mississippi, where she worked as an archeologist. Her love for linguistics, cultural anthropology, and teaching led her to the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Jess holds Masters degrees in both anthropology and TESOL.

Jess believes that the cultural context of language is as important as the structure of language. “It is important to learn not only the language structures but also what you can do with language,” she says. “I encourage students to be creative and relevant with how they learn English.”

Jess describes New Orleans as “daunting, colorful, crazy, and exotic.” To help students make sense of the city, Jess first teaches vocabulary, history, and traditions, using lectures, exercises, and class discussions. “But,” she says, “it’s one thing to talk and another to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.” So the Culture Class continues with experiences beyond the classroom walls.

  • The students learn about Cajun cooking . . . and then the class cooks and eats a flavorful jambalaya.
  • The students learn about Halloween . . . and then the class throws a Halloween party with candy, masks, and the thriller dance.
  • The students learn about the French Quarter . . . and then the class rides the streetcar to the French Quarter, where they use maps and their skill in asking directions to find their favorite spots.
  • The students learn about styles of New Orleans music . . . and then the class sings and dances. In fact, the Culture Class is in the process of preparing a dance hour when they will teach dances to Loyola students and faculty.

“I want the students to teach themselves more than I give them in class,” says Jess. “I want them to see language not just as a subject to be studied but as a tool for getting around successfully in their lives in New Orleans.”

The New Orleans Culture Class has a blog, where you can find more about their explorations of New Orleans culture, at this link:

Our next post will feature several of our advanced LIEP students who are preparing to study for graduate degrees in various fields.

Photo credit: Wadner Pierre
You can find more of Wadner's work on his photo website at or on his blog at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Welcome to the "Loyola Intensive English Program - LIEP News Now" blog!

Our biggest news is that our full Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) is up and running this year - for the first time since our closure following Hurricane Katrina. We are delighted! You can find details of our program by clicking on this link:

Here are some highlights from our fall 2010 semester so far.
  • OUR STUDENTS. Our biggest highlight is our students. Six students from China, Japan, and Vietnam have enrolled in our full twenty-hour-per-week intensive English program, and ten students from China, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam have enrolled in our Pilot program. Our Pilot students take two credit-bearing intensive English courses as well as two academic courses at Loyola.
  • PHILO CAFES. Our Pilot students participate in a Philo Cafe, or Philosophy Cafe, each month. We choose a philosophical question based on our class reading, writing, and discussion, and we explore that question in a wider forum - with students from Loyola's philosophy department, other members of the Loyola community, and any New Orleanians who wish to participate. Our Philo Cafes are facilitated by Dr. David O'Donaghue, who also facilitates Philo Cafes in coffeehouses throughout New Orleans.
  • ASIAN MARKET. For the Mid-Autumn Festival, we took a field trip to the Asian Market. We enjoyed buying food and spices for Asian cooking as well as the traditional Moon Cakes for the festival.
  • ZOO. On a bright sunny day in October, we visited the Audubon Zoo. We especially enjoyed the monkeys swinging from their trees and ropes, the alligators basking in their swamp, and the sea lions leaping and flipping as their keeper fed them fish.
  • HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS. The Pilot Applied Grammar class took a walking field trip to view and record the elaborate Halloween home decorations on State Street. The students then wrote about what they had seen, using recently studied grammar structures.
This is a taste of what we've been up to so far this semester at LIEP. In future posts, we will continue to keep you abreast of what's happening in the Loyola Intensive English Program.

Our next post will feature LIEP faculty member Jess Haley, who combines her love of linguistics, culture, and anthropology in teaching our LIEP New Orleans Culture Class.