On the Ridge

Brennan Center for Language, Culture and Leadership Established

A new initiative to meet the needs of international families and students and serve English language learners within the global community was launched at NU in January.

The Edward A. Brennan Center for Language, Culture and Leadership, another spoke of the university’s umbrella of outreach, will embrace the richness of culture and language of Niagara’s students, faculty and communities, and extend NU’s Vincentian mission to agencies that serve refugee, migrant and immigrant populations.

It is also expected that the center will cultivate leadership opportunities among both students and professionals in addressing global needs and providing innovative experiences for those preparing to be teachers of English as a second language.

“In keeping with our Vincentian identity, the Center for Language, Culture and Leadership will focus on leading, learning and serving,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “The portfolio of services and programs facilitated through the center will provide a continuum of English language learning. As part of the process, we will build interdisciplinary connections between teaching and learning that will augment services to international students and their families.”

Father Maher noted that the center will be a tribute to St. Justin de Jacobis, C.M., who served as a Vincentian missionary to Ethiopia from 1839 until his death in 1860. Despite significant opposition to his evangelization efforts in Ethiopia, Father de Jacobis founded a college and seminary, was ordained a bishop and is considered an apostle to Africa, and the founder of the Abyssinian mission. He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

The new center is named in honor of the father of Edward J. Brennan, a 1978 Niagara alumnus and current trustee who has been very active in serving the global community, largely through his work as co-founder and chairman of the Hand in Hand for Haiti charity. The retired CEO and chairman of DFS Group spearheaded the development of a world-class school in Saint Marc, an area that was ravaged by an earthquake in January 2010. Niagara University students completed a seven-week internship at the school last September as part of a new collaborative initiative between the institutions. Edward A. Brennan served for many years as chairman and chief executive of Sears, Roebuck & Company. He also served as chairman of the board at Marquette and DePaul universities.

Dr. Deborah T. Curtis, ’84, will oversee the Center for Language, Culture and Leadership as its director, while an advisory council will be established to reflect an interdisciplinary approach to the development of English language learners. The advisory council will comprise university officials, faculty members and external stakeholders who work with international families in local communities and schools.

The primary goal of the center is to build upon academic and linguistic achievement to enhance proficiency among learners of English as a new language. In doing so, it will offer programs and services in six core areas, including: language proficiency assessment; intensive academic English programming for international students who wish to study at U.S. universities; academic English language support for international students who are accepted into degree programs at NU; language enrichment for intensive summer experiences: TEFL certificate of study for students interested in teaching English abroad; and leadership and advocacy programming and outreach to serve the international community and those learning English as a new language.