The UW-La Crosse (UWL) Global Cultures and Languages Department has teamed up with La Crosse’s Gundersen Health System’s Global Partners to provide language conversation sessions for those wanting to improve their Spanish before volunteering to Nicaragua.
The partnership stretches back nearly two years when Laurence Couturier, director of the UWL Language Resource Center, met with Liz Arnold, director of Global Partners, to discuss Gundersen Health System’s interests and needs for languages and culture.
Arnold talked extensively about service trips to the Central American country where health providers volunteer every year. Based on the results of a survey completed by the providers, Arnold, Couturier and Megan Strom, UWL Spanish faculty member, decided to pilot a project using the existing Language Resource Center conversation partner program.
UWL students already staffed a conversation program to practice languages with a peer every week. Couturier saw the opportunity to extend the program to health providers.
Beginning in February, the effort morphed into a 10-week program, with conversations lasting 30 minutes. The main goal of the sessions consists of offering a framework allowing health providers to improve their Spanish skills by conversing on a one-on-one basis with an advanced, Spanish-speaking student who plans to work in the medical field.
Each session includes a review of language foundations and time for conversation geared toward specific simulations of real-life conversations between patients and providers. The language sessions are designed according to each health provider’s interests and medical specialization. A registration fee allows UWL students to receive a stipend for their work.
“The health providers and advanced students learn from each other and share language and cultural experiences that are applicable in their professional life,” notes Couturier.
The UWL Department of Global Cultures and Languages offers education majors and minors and business concentrations in French, German studies and Spanish. There is also a minor in Chinese studies, along with certificates in French studies and Russian studies, and courses in Arabic, Japanese and Hmong.
Gundersen Global Partners was created in 2008 to develop long-term, sustainable relationships and community-to-community partnerships beyond the health system’s typical borders. Partnerships in South Dakota, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Hamilton Elementary School in La Crosse work to improve the overall health of the region, education of the citizens and quality of life for people in those communities.
The UWL Language Resource Center and Global Partners plan to continue the project next semester after evaluating it.