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Buffalo State Experts: Warford on Using Holistic Approach to Language Education

Posted: October 30, 2017

At a time when more than 60 languages can be heard in Western New York, Mark Warford, Buffalo State chair and associate professor of modern and classical languages (MCL), is not just teaching students how to master a foreign language. He’s also ensuring they know how to engage holistically with individuals from multiple backgrounds.

Three years ago, Warford facilitated the development of the Ambassador Model for Learning and Teaching at Buffalo State with George Hole, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of  Philosophy. The model, which the MCL Department implemented in December 2015, aims to ensure graduates have a broad understanding of other cultures and can go into the world as “ambassadors.”

“Whether our graduates are traveling to other countries or working with diverse language speakers right here in Erie County, we want them to be equipped with the knowledge and the skills to connect with people from different cultures and backgrounds,” said Warford. “The world is growing closer and more connected. We can ill-afford to see things from the questionable us vs. them polarity.”

Although he acknowledges that changing habits is a slow process, he said more MCL students are becoming involved outside of the classroom. Some are working as language tutors; others have expressed interest in teaching English overseas.

“Buffalo State is committed to expanding its image as a global learning center,” he said. “The ambassador model is critical to that.”

Warford also wants to help international students on campus. While he was completing his dissertation 20 years ago, he worked with two colleagues on a published survey that revealed difficult challenges faced by college students due to language and cultural barriers.

“I became very committed to changing that,” he said.

He recently developed a pilot course, Language Mentoring that connects MCL ambassadors and international students with academically at-risk learners on campus and in the community.

Separately, he led his department’s creation of the Language Tutoring Center. Since the beginning of the fall semester, MCL students have provided more than 100 tutoring sessions to students who are struggling academically.

“The goal is to boost retention rates,” Warford said. “To see so many students taking advantage of the center in such a short amount of time is encouraging.”

In Warford’s eyes, innovative approaches to teaching are essential in preparing not only future language teachers, but also the next generation of attorneys, social workers, physicians, technology workers, and business professionals who will be competing in an increasingly global society.

On Friday, November 3, campus can hear Warford’s thoughts on innovation as they relate to implementing new ideas and technologies. As part of the yearlong series Conversations In and Out of Disciplines, Warford will present “Translation of Innovations” from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in Ketchum Hall 320. A question-and-answer session and reception will follow. Everyone is welcome.

About Mark Warford
Warford joined the Modern and Classical Languages Department in 2000. Now an associate professor, he has served as department chair since 2015 and also as the foreign language education coordinator from 2002 to 2012 and 2016 to present. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Kenyon College, his master’s degree in English and Spanish education from Brown University, and his doctorate in foreign language/ESL education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also possesses a master’s certificate in Spanish translation from the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. His areas of expertise include trends in Spanish and foreign language education and accommodating a diverse classroom of learners.

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Modern and Classical Languages

Buffalo State •  1300 Elmwood Ave  •  Buckham Hall B234
Buffalo, NY 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5414 •  Fax: (716) 878-6730

languages@buffalostate.edu