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Using Art as Expression with English Language Learners

Walking through halls of the International Center, you can’t miss the beautiful collection of photographs, sketches and needlework that appear on the 2nd Floor. If you look closely, names and locations are listed on each piece. This collection is the result of ESL Instructor Elizabeth Morrison’s efforts to brighten the hallways in a way that engages and recognizes her students. 

As great teachers tend to do, she realized her Intensive English Program students would benefit from an opportunity to show another side of themselves.  According to Elizabeth, “art is one of the deepest expressions of ourselves that is possible to make and doesn’t require language, so it is a way for even the least proficient of our students to engage, express themselves and leave their legacy.“ Starting in 2017, and now in its eighth iteration, the collection boasts pieces from Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Chile, Ecuador and China.


IEP Student Francisco Astorga poses with a photo of an Iguana from Galapagos Island


Chilean student Francisco Astorga has been recognized twice for his photography submissions to the art contest: first for a photograph of iguanas from his trip to the Galapagos Islands, then for an image of the Chilean side of Patagonia. Francisco came to UC Davis for our IEP program in fall 2018 and will continue this fall at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program. Francisco chose to participate in the art contest because it matched his philosophy on learning: “Don’t waste your chance if you get to participate in an opportunity like this.  Really embrace it and make the most of it.”


IEP student Francisco Astorga's contest winning photo of the Chilean side of Patagonia.
IEP Student Francisco Astorga's contest winning photo of the Chilean side of Patagonia.


We are proud of the myriad of ways our students participate in learning both in and out of the classroom. Learning English at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s International programs is a holistic experience, and we look forward to future student contributions for our art collection.

As Interim Director of the Global Study Program Jake Hosier says, “I often stop to admire the student-created art throughout the International Center.  These unique pieces are a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to work with such inspirational young people.”  Come by and take a look!

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