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ELI Oral History Project

Since its founding in 1941, the English Language Institute has been home to scholars, teachers, and material creators whose work has had a profound and lasting impact on the fields of applied linguistics, English for academic purposes, ESL/EFL teacher education, and ELT textbook writing and publishing. Founder Charles Fries and other early directors such as Robert Lado, Edward Anthony, Albert Marckwardt, and Ian Catford established ELI as the model for virtually every university-based English language program that has come after it. Their successors have carried on this tradition of excellence in English language teaching, testing, and research. 

ELI’s Oral History Project aims to document the experiences of some of the important figures who have called ELI home over its long history. The first four interviews in this series were recorded on the occasion of ELI's 75th anniversary, when many former members of the ELI community traveled back to Ann Arbor to celebrate the Institute's history of innovation, in engagement with the world. The project is ongoing, with the goal of adding the recollections of other notable ELI figures to this collection when the opportunity arises, so be sure to check back in the future for new additions.

John Swales

John M. Swales became acting director of ELI in 1985 and served as director 1987-2002. Prior to this, he worked at the University of Aston in Birmingham, U.K. and, before that, at the University of Khartoum. Among his numerous publications are Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings (Cambridge, 1990), Other Floors, Other Voices: A Textography of a Small University Building (Erlbaum, 1998) and, with Christine Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students (U-M Press, 2012). He officially retired in 2007 but continues to work on various projects.

Carolyn Madden

Carolyn Madden was at the ELI from 1980 until her retirement in 2014, including 20 years as Associate Director. She also coordinated the ESL Endorsement program 2003-2010 and served as Interim Director 2013-14. She received the Senior Lecturer award in 2004 and 2009, and in 2013 was a Lecturer IV of Language, Privilege, and the Law at U of M’s International Institute.

H. Joan Morley

Professor Joan Morley was part of ELI from 1957 until her retirement in 2004, and she served as Interim Director 1984-85. She is currently professor emerita of Linguistics at Michigan, as well as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at the Universidad Industrial Santander in Bucaramanga, COLOMBIA. 

Mark Clarke and Sandy Silberstein - Part One

Mark Clarke (1973 to 1977) and Sandra Silberstein (1970 to 1977) taught at ELI while they were Ph.D. students. In this joint appearance, they speak about the air of political engagement and solidarity which characterized the ELI in their day, as well as the development of their groundbreaking ESL textbook Reader’s Choice (with fellow grad student Barbara Dobson).

William and Marta Norris

Between 1956 and 1966, William E. Norris (Georgetown University) coordinated the ELI's Intensive Course in English and Teacher Education Program. He also served as Admissions Officer and committee chair for the ELI 25th Anniversary celebration in 1966. Here he and his wife Marta, who met when she was a teacher trainee, recall the students, ceremonies, and sing-alongs that characterized the ELI in the 50’s and 60’s.

Diane Larsen-Freeman

Diane Larsen-Freeman has her PhD in Linguistics from U of M and has served in several roles at the English Language Institute, beginning as a Teaching Fellow, 1972-1975. After many years as Professor of Applied Linguistics at the SIT Graduate Institute, she returned to Michigan to serve as ELI Director from 2002 until 2008, and as a Research Scientist at ELI and professor of Linguistics and Education until her retirement in 2012. She is currently Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Education and Research Scientist Emerita at ELI, as well as a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sarah L. Briggs

Dr. Sarah Briggs was a member of the ELI Testing Division from 1983-2010. She continued with the U-M testing spin-off unit known as CaMLA (Now Michigan Language Assessment) until 2012 when she retired. Initially hired to develop a speaking assessment measure of international graduate student instructors, she was also involved in the research, development, and administration of the many different English language exams produced at Michigan and served as Co-Director of the development of MICASE (Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English) from 1997-2002.

Larry Selinker

Larry Selinker served as ELI director 1977-1982 and as professor of Linguistics at U-M until 1993. He has since been Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of London and Visiting Professor of English Education at New York University, where he is currently a visiting scholar. Here he recalls the influential applied linguistics research undertaken at ELI under his directorship and its enduring influence on the fields of Second Language Acquisition and English for Specific Purposes.

Mark Clarke and Sandra Silberstein - Part Two

Mark Clarke and Sandra Silberstein continue their reminiscences about their time at the English Language Institute as graduate student instructors and textbook developers.