One staff member was let go from their position, two more members soon to follow.
Kotaro Kawakubo is an international student from Tokyo, Japan who will lose his friend when a second language program shuts down in July.
“A friend I met here from China is leaving and going to a university in Seattle to study English. I will miss him,” Kawakubo said.
The International English Language Institute has been open for 30 years. The Center for International Programs that houses the IELI program is downsizing, resulting in a lack of funds. Humboldt State’s financial crisis is the cause.
“Without this program I will lose my friends I made here that came from other countries to learn English,” Kawakubo said. “They want to stay here, and keep studying English, but they have to go to other universities where there are English language programs.”
This year Kawakubo returned to the IELI program for a second round. He returned to Humboldt County on March 9.
Kawakubo plans to go to College of the Redwoods to study English after the program ends, and then transfer back to Humboldt State University.
He heard about the program closing from his host mother who works at the center.
“One day, she looked so sad,” Kawakubo said. “She told me the program is closing. Her coworker can’t get next year’s job at the office. She had to move to a different job because of the budget cuts.”
Tyler Bradbury, academic program coordinator of IELI, emailed host families on April 3 to inform them about the program closing.
“This was a somewhat sudden and surprising decision I was informed of late last week. I cannot thank you enough for opening your homes and your hearts to the students,” Bradbury said in an email. “It breaks my heart to have to deliver this news.”
Mikayla Kia is an international studies major who works closely with the IELI students. Kia is also vice president of the Global Connections Club.
“Not having the international students would leave an empty space, because when the IELI students come to the club meetings, that is like half the room,” Kia said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like without them.”
An employee at the center connects the IELI students to the club. At the club IELI, students play board games, sports and go on sightseeing trips around Humboldt.
“I’m sad and confused. They bring such joy here. It’s crazy to know they won’t be here,” Kia said. “I feel like they pay so much to come to this school. It doesn’t make sense to me how cutting the program can save money?”
Angelica Huerta is a chemistry major who works at the center. She is a coordinator for Takachiho University, a Japanese school in Tokyo.
Huerta plans activities every day for three weeks for the students, and helps integrate the students into American life.
“A lot of the IELI student recommend the program to other student in their country,” Huerta said. “The students make a presentation in their school about their experiences, and what they learned. They promote for us.”
Ge-Yao Liu, director of the center, lost his job. A second staff member accepted a job at a different department on campus. A third staff member will transfer to another department when IELI closes.
Huerta said that Ge-Yao Liu made the students a priority.
“Ge-Yao Liu was super nice. He would constantly say hi to students. He would ask the students their name, ask where they were from and why they came here. He was like a cheerleader,” Huerta said.
Carl Hansen, the dean of Extended Education, met with the provost Alexander Enyedi last month.
“When I looked at the numbers, it was very clear that they did not have the student population to support the program,” Hansen said. “I made a recommendation to the provost looking at the financial report. Once I laid things out for the provost, we had conversations and he agreed that this would be the best thing to do.”
Hansen said he struggled with creating a sustainable program. A large part of the budget was strictly for recruiting, which meant sending staff abroad to visit partners.
“We eliminated positions that the general fund was paying for,” Hansen said. “In some ways, it made the budget situation worse because the recruitment effort had not delivered. The budget gave us the incentive to make the program changes.”
The center is relocating from the Feuerwerker House to the Student and Business Services building. The center will be inside the office of the College of Extended Education.
“We are still interested in attracting international students, particularly exchange students,” Hansen said. “The difference is those students have the language skills. They would take English in their home university where they are at a level to speak, and then come here.”