ESP Project Leader Profile: Susan Barone

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In this ESP Project Leader Profile, we meet Susan Barone, Executive Director of Global Learning and Education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. At Vanderbilt, Susan has effectively bridged the gap between linguistics research and program design.

Susan Barone is a senior lecturer in the Peabody School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences [at Vanderbilt University (VU)] in the area of second language research and theory and teaching methodology.  In her roles as Executive Director of Global Learning and Education, she focuses on language and cultural competences for both incoming and outgoing students. As a sociolinguist, Susan’s research investigates the intersection of Applied Linguistics and Narrative Medicine and the connection between clinician elicitations and patient narratives in intercultural health-care contexts. She has been instrumental in developing discipline-specific language programs in the VU schools of Education, Engineering, Law, Nursing, Medicine, and Management. Professional interests include needs analysis, program design, and medical discourse analysis. Susan presents at international conferences, and her publications include articles, book chapters, and the textbook, American Legal English.

I first met Susan at a TESOL annual convention where we were two of the presenters in an academic session of the ESP Interest Section. I was pleased to learn that she had studied with Janet Holmes because I had seen Janet speak at the APACLSP inaugural convention in Hong Kong in 2008 about the Language in the Workplace Project. Further, my own research interest was in leadership discourse.

Susan M. Barone, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Global Learning and Education
Vanderbilt University

1. Define leadership in your own words.

I am of two mindsets about leadership. On a personal level, I do not believe in hierarchy, so when I refer to leadership, I am speaking to qualities and characteristics, not necessary to position and power. On a professional level, I understand that hierarchies exist institutionally, and where there is greater leadership, there is greater reward for all involved. My personal stance informs the professional understanding I have of the concept of leadership.

Plan Ahead
Balance making plans with being open to new ideas as they emerge. Coach yourself to be able to see the big picture along with the details and how the two are connected. For example, while recently working with one of our professional schools, it became important to maintain a focus on the school’s administrative goals to inform the more specific curricular objectives.  If we learn how to articulate both perspectives and talk through the steps for getting the details to connect, we can better achieve the overarching goal.

Listen Well
Listening helps you understand individual and institutional needs and expectations. Importantly, it helps you remain student focused. On a campus, listen to the full range of individuals: students, staff, faculty, and administration. Listening includes offering full attention, giving feedback when relevant, and acting on what you’ve heard when possible. Listening means much more than hearing to develop an immediate response. This type of listening may be challenging because staff sometimes seem to expect responses from those in administration.

Work Hard
Work, and work hard, but do your best not to overwork. Do your due diligence, be a model of your work ethic expectations, and actually do your work.  At the same time, do your best not to overwork. Achieving not overworking isn’t always easy or possible on a regular basis. There are times when you just have to bite the bullet, roll up your sleeves, and overwork. When you can, however, pick which projects need this more rare type of commitment and pull back on others. Keeping work in check helps free up energy to do other things, likely in more creative and innovative ways. In the end, the other endeavors inform and renew your work in addition to helping you maintain balance. It is also important to note that you model your work ethic for staff and students. You don’t want any of them to be consistently overworked and to experience burnout.

Be of service to others. On a college campus, we are in service to students and we certainly also need to be in service to our staff. In many cases, we may be their best, if not only, advocates within an institution.

Give Credit
Give credit to those who contribute to your work, from those who offer you time to listen to your ideas, to those who take action on tasks. As a campus leader, your name will get the praise for work well done, so be sure to name names and express gratitude and appreciate for those with whom you work.

Continue to Learn
Continue to learn. Everyday.

2. Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

Our English Language Center is an ESP-EAP focused program at Vanderbilt University. My example focuses on the importance of listening in the design of an EAP program our language center has been developing over the last five years.

Informal conversations with an assistant dean at our School of Education prompted a discussion about preparing incoming students for whom English is not a primary language and whose standardized language assessment scores were quite advanced, often well beyond the minimum requirement. Yet, in carefully listening to the concerns, I was able to identify that there was a need to address the conceptual level of mental lexicon development: what did these terms mean within the context of a U.S. school of education?

Actively listening and drawing from experience, I was able to contextualize possible solutions in very specific ways much sooner in the process. I remembered reflecting on this fact immediately as our plans to develop the program were in place. In the spirit of listening with intention, the language center instructors created an ongoing needs analysis as a tool for listening carefully to the needs of students and remaining student focused.

In her responses, Susan focuses on personal actions. From a leadership perspective, these personal actions lead to collaborative activities to create and to achieve visions. I especially like the fact that such vision building involves ongoing needs analysis. In effect, we are looking at a program design system that meets the needs of various stakeholders.

For ESP practitioners, it is very important to be able to meet the needs of stakeholders. In my own research conducted with leaders in the public, private, and academic sectors, listening was considered to be very important. Such active listening provides leaders with a framing opportunity. How are you framing your programs for your stakeholders?

Do you have questions or comments for Susan? Please feel free to contact her directly.

All the best,

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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