Established in the summer of 1977, the Intensive English Program (IEP) at Indiana University (IU) is one of the longest standing intensive English language programs in the country. Housed on the historic IU Bloomington campus, which is rated one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States, IEP students have access to all of the university’s vast cultural, academic, and natural resources. With a welcoming and connected Bloomington community that feels like an extension of the university itself, IEP students have endless opportunities to enhance their studies with immersion into American language, culture, and community outside the classroom.
A pioneer in university-level ESL programming from the very beginning, the IEP has roots that far precede its official founding. As early as the 1960s, the university was home to several English language projects, including one with the Saudi Arabian Educational Mission, the Arab Gulf Program sponsored by ADNOC, a Libyan English Program, an Algerian English Program, and a Venezuelan English Program, all running separately. There is even record of a program called the Brazilian Project, organized by Edna Ballinger in 1952.
Interest in participation in these early programs was high, and much broader than the various country-specific language projects could support. With the goal to increase access for students who did not fit into the parameters of these individual programs, and to better serve students on their learning journeys, program founders met with the Dean of International Programs and the Vice President to discuss the need for a unified English language organization within the university. The meetings were fruitful and, in 1977, the Indiana University Intensive English Program officially came into being.
Consolidating the various English language projects into a unified program allowed for myriad programmatic improvements, including the development of a levels-based approach in which students were placed together by level of English proficiency rather than by their native languages. This allowed for more tailored and effective instruction as well as the establishment of a smoother pathway to matriculation at the university. From that time forward, completion of level 7 of the IEP exempts students from the language proficiency requirements on a university application. The program continued to thrive over the years and, by the 1990s, had grown to such an extent that almost any matter relating to non-native English students would come to or through the IEP. In fact, certain activities at the university, such as the English Proficiency Exam administered to all international students, were only possible because the IEP was there to provide the services.
While programs of this nature have blossomed in scope and popularity over the past few decades, and though there are countless apps now for learning English online, nothing compares to the immersive quality of in-person instruction that sets IEP Bloomington apart as a top-tier language acquisition program. And, while principles and techniques in linguistics and language acquisition have affected the direction of the IEP’s growth and development since its founding, it is the variety and ever-shifting population of our student cliental that has had the most impact on all aspects of our program.
Ultimately, we are here to serve our students, and it is they who constantly teach us, lead us, and change us. After 46 years of wonderful students passing through our doors, we are excited to see what the years have in store as new students join to help write the next era of IEP history!