Interview: Dr. Sarina Chugani Molina, Assistant Professor, University of San Diego


Dr. Sarina Chugani Molina, Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego, joins us today to discuss Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

1. Can you tell us about the M.Ed. in TESOL, Literacy, & Culture program offered at University of San Diego (USD)?

Master of Education in TESOL, Literacy and Culture, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego

Our master’s students in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Literacy and Culture develop a scholarly and practical approach to teaching English to speakers of other languages. The program focuses on culture, linguistics, second language acquisition, and methodology of teaching English as a second, foreign and international language, and a sound understanding of the complexities of working with linguistically and culturally diverse populations within the United States and in international contexts.

2. How long does a typical M.Ed. in TESOL, Literacy & Culture program take at the University of San Diego? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

The program takes a minimum of 2 Years and a maximum of 3 years for some students who elect to complete the program as part-time students. 

3. What do you think makes USD's M.Ed TESOL stand out from other similar programs?

Our TESOL program prepares candidates to work effectively in adult education settings, such as community colleges, universities, adult education centers, and language academies in the United States and abroad.  Our perspectives in approaching language teaching in international settings employs the English as an International Language framework, which views English as a Lingua Franca used by English users in a variety of settings to express their own cultural and individual identities.  As such, we expose our candidates to the English varieties spoken around the world and the cross-cultural communication strategies used to help English speakers from around the world negotiate meaning.

Our candidates also have the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on research projects and publications as part of their research merit scholar awards.  Many candidates also have the opportunities to volunteer to participate in research studies with faculty members.

In addition, the program provides over 150 hours of observation, teaching experiences, and research practice in TESOL classrooms.  Our placement sites vary from community college settings to language academies. We believe these Field Experiences are crucial to exposing our students to the potential teaching environments they may come across following completion of their program.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a MEd TESOL program?

Accreditation by NCATE/CAEP signifies a program of distinction and a commitment to rigorous standards. The TESOL program is one of the programs offered by the Department of Learning and Teaching within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego. Our re-accreditation in 2012 is a testament to our ongoing commitment to provide students with a quality education based on data driven decision making.

5. What are the advantages to earning a TESOL degree in general?

Graduates typically go on to teach English to adult speakers of other languages in community colleges, English languages academies, or in elementary through adult contexts abroad. Students who already hold a teaching credential pursue this degree program to enhance their current work and many continue to teach in K-12 school settings after the completion of this degree, but it is important to note that a California teaching credential for the K-12 sector is not included in the course of study.

Many people without TESOL training or minimal training go overseas and report feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand of teaching in various cultural and linguistic contexts.  Through the systematic study of research and practice in TESOL, our students feel equipped to adapt their teaching practice to the sociocultural contexts in which they find themselves.   Our graduates have been employed at universities and language schools in Brazil, Korea, Italy, Japan, China, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Some have even opened their own English schools for children and teacher training programs.

Here is a profile of one of our graduates who speaks about her learning from our MED in TESOL program.

6. Does USD offer job placement for students who graduate in TESOL?

No, not officially, but we do send our students potential job opportunities as they are shared with the department.  During the program, we provide opportunities for our students to network with potential employers in our community through participating in community events, local and regional conferences, visiting various school-sites and meeting with directors and principals as part of the Methods course, and through observation and practicum placements throughout the program.  Many of our students are employed as a result as instructional assistants at local community colleges and are even offered their own classrooms in some language schools during their program of study.  Our English Language Academy offers many of our students summer internship opportunities, and have also hired several of our TESOL graduates.  In addition, our graduate students and graduates have opportunities to teach in our online TESOL certificate program offered through our English Language Academy.

Campus career services support is also offered to our students in the form of advising, resume writing, interviewing skills and posting of career fair and job notices. 

7. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in TESOL? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

The University of San Diego, the School of Leadership of Education Sciences (SOLES) and the Department of Learning and Teaching, which houses the TESOL Program all offer a variety of aid opportunities.  The University does offer eligible students a needs-based Graduate Grant, SOLES offers multiple scholarship each year and the Department of Learning and Teaching does offer Merit and Research Merit Scholarships to students.

Students selected for the research merit awards work closely with faculty engaging in research.  For example, last year, my merit scholar students worked with me on a research project I conducted in conjunction with Kito International, a non profit organization in Kenya, that offers professional development opportunities for at-risk youth.  We developed Business English modules and delivered them through the use of mobile technology.  The students collaborated with me on assessing the English language needs of the youth members in Kito, developing the curriculum, designing online language tools for transnational language teaching and reviewing learning outcomes.  Please visit this research work on my website for more information:

8. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in a M.Ed. in TESOL, Literacy and Culture program for the first time?

My advice for incoming students would be to be prepared for an intensive program with a balance of research and practice.  We have a diverse cohort of students from different parts of the world with a variety of different teaching experiences, all of which play an integral role in our classroom and online discussions.  The goal is to have our graduates become leaders in their future teaching contexts and overtime in the field and therefore ownership of their learning throughout the program and continued learning after the program is an essential quality we like to nurture.  

9. What do you enjoy most about your position at USD?

I am absolutely passionate about my position both as a faculty member and coordinator of our TESOL program.  With over 20 years of teaching English both within the United States and in international contexts, I am often able to bring in practical experiences that have influenced my teaching practice.  The University of San Diego, School of Leadership and Education Sciences require our students have an international experience during their time with us and I find that this requirement deeply influences our work and makes us unique in our approach to language that encompasses both teaching of ESOL within the U.S. but also in international contexts. 

For more information on the MEd program offered at THE University of San Diego, visit them online.

Thank you Dr. Sarina Chugani Molina, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!