Each semester and during the summer, Kelly Franklin welcomes hundreds of international students seeking greater English language proficiency onto campus. As director of the English Language Training Institute, housed in the Office of International Programs, Franklin has oversight for all facets of the operation.
“The job entails everything from recruiting the students to getting them here,” said Franklin. “I hire the instructors, and we develop all the academic and social programs for participants. We want to enable them to adjust and live in the United States successfully and to enroll as many as possible into the University after they complete their English studies with us.”
The English Language Training Institute is a non-credit, pre-academic program that provides international students instruction in the English language. Participants have ranged in age from 17 to 70, but the average age is 22. The majority of enrollees come from Saudi Arabia, often because the Saudi government provides financial incentives to study abroad. Other countries that send large numbers of students to the University are China, Korea, Kuwait, Japan and Venezuela.
All students pay full tuition and fees to attend the institute. Since joining the University in 2008, Franklin has seen a steady increase in enrollment. This past spring, nearly 250 students attended the institute.
“The reputation of the UNC system is a plus internationally. Also, we work hard to be very responsive to each and every inquiry we receive,” Franklin stated. “We are very thorough and do all we can do provide them (prospective students) the information and the service to help facilitate the process. I think we benefit from word of mouth from our graduates who return home, too.”
A native of Houston, Texas, Franklin completed a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Rice University. Following graduation, he taught English abroad in Japan, France and Switzerland. He returned to the United States and earned a master’s degree in linguistics from Ohio University.
Prior to joining UNC Charlotte, Franklin worked in similar positions at SUNY New Paltz and Maryville College in Tennessee.
Living and working abroad for several years provided Franklin with valuable insight that has benefited him in his career. “I grew up fairly insulated in Texas, so living abroad was an eye-opener. That experience has been vital. It has provided me with empathy for international students who come to the United States. I better understand the difficulties they encounter learning a different culture and language.”
The other rewarding aspect of working in a field of international study is the ability to travel and make friends throughout the world. Franklin said when he goes abroad, he has a network of contacts that can help with travel arrangements or provide sightseeing suggestions from a native’s perspective.
Franklin starts each day biking to work; the 10- to 15-minute trip is easy because of the greenway system, he said. A tennis enthusiast, he tries to play at least three matches a week. While he has recruited a number of colleagues to participate, Franklin is interested in finding more employees to join them. He and his wife Kumiko, originally from Japan, maintain two homes. While in Tennessee, Kumiko opened a Kumon Learning Center, and she also works as a translator for a large automotive company in Maryville.