February 6, 2001

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Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

Applied English Center director to take national post

LAWRENCE -- Elizabeth "Betty" Soppelsa, director of the University of Kansas Applied English Center since 1980, has announced she will be leaving KU to work for a national education association in the nation's capital.

Soppelsa has been on unpaid leave since last July to serve as deputy executive director for member relations for NAFSA/Association of International Educators in Washington, D.C. She will now continue in that position on a permanent basis.

"Betty Soppelsa will be missed not only in the Applied English Center but throughout campus," said Diana Carlin, dean of the KU Graduate School and International Programs. "She was an excellent administrator whose vision saw the Applied English Center grow in scope and stature."

Chancellor Robert Hemenway said, "International students are vital to this university and we are indebted to Betty for the superb program she has developed. Her work has helped make KU an inviting place for international students to study and succeed."

Carlin has appointed Charles Seibel to be director upon Soppelsa's official retirement on June 30. She also named Mary McGuinness and Christa Hansen associate directors.

"The services the center offers to KU's international students are essential to helping them adjust to life in the United States and at KU. Betty will be missed, but she has left the center in extremely competent hands," Carlin said. "I know that Chuck Seibel, Christa Hansen and Mary McGuinness will continue to do an excellent job of carrying out the unit's mission."

The Applied English Center has offered English language classes to students and visiting scholars at KU since 1964. It also offers students academic and cross-cultural counseling and assistance with application to university degree programs. Other center activities include recruitment of international students and development of special programs with international colleges, universities and businesses abroad. The center also screens the English proficiency of all non-native speakers of English enrolled at the university and the oral language skills of non-native speakers who are applying for teaching positions at the university.

KU has enrolled international students since the 1920s and today attracts about 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students and research scholars from more than 100 countries.

"The Applied English Center faculty and staff is one of the best groups of colleagues I have ever known and together we built a program of real strength," Soppelsa said. "This is not a decision that came easily to me, as I enjoyed the years of involvement in international programs on campus very much."

Soppelsa came to KU in 1980 from Ohio State University, where she was assistant director of its English as a Second Language program. A former Peace Corps teacher in Ivory Coast, Soppelsa earned her bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and her master's degree from Ohio State.

Seibel, the center's current acting director, has been associate director since 1998 and first joined the office as an ESL instructor in 1981. He earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy and French and master's degree in applied linguistics from KU.

McGuinness has been the center's assistant director since 1997 and acting associate director since last July. She joined the office in 1990 as a lecturer. She holds an associate's degree in physical therapy, a bachelor's degree in linguistics and a master's degree in English as a foreign language, all from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Hansen, who has been acting assistant director since last July, first joined the office in 1988 as a graduate teaching assistant. She later became the office's testing coordinator in charge of the SPEAK test and ITA screening. In 1997 she was given responsibility for special program development and implementation and budget supervision. She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and a master's degree in linguistics, both from KU.

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