Alumna earns prestigious fellowship with Department of State

By Agnes Musee

Cal Poly Pomona alumna Cerise Santoro (’11, liberal studies; ’13, curriculum design) landed the prestigious English Language Fellow Program offered by the U.S. Department of State to teach in Tuguegarao City, Philippines.

Santoro will be working at the University of Saint Louis, a private Roman Catholic university.

Santoro went through a rigorous application process. She was invited to a general interview at Georgetown University, an interview with the Department of State in Washington D.C. and a final interview at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

Fellows were given different international assignments based on their resumes and educational fortes. Luckily, Santoro got her first choice: the Philippines.

“My great grandma and both my grandparents used to travel around the world and send me postcards from places. I’ve been interested ever since,” said Santoro.

Santoro’s will be training teachers. The training will include pre-service training, which will prepare students in pursuit of a master’s degree in education.

In addition, Santoro will be teaching workshops that will focus on teaching educators efficient grading methods.

Because of Santoro’s appetite for international cultures and educational training, she worked at the Cal Poly English Language Institute (CPELI).

CPELI is a program for English language students, and it equips them with English skills to move onto other universities, study abroad or prepare for the workforce. The CPELI program lower-level and upper-level students, and it mostly hosts students from Kuwait, China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

With the help of student assistants like Santoro, CPELI students improve their language and learn about American culture.

“With the lower level students, [Santoro has] been great because she gets them to speak quickly, [and] she learned how to interact with all different kinds of students,” said CPELI Academic Program Coordinator Sakeena Ali. “Students are often scared. [They are] shy to participate or to speak out loud. [Santoro] gets them to feel comfortable and free to speak and makes the atmosphere very helpful for the students.”

In order to be considered for the English Language Fellow Program, applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or a similar field that includes teaching English to foreigners.

Besides educational credentials, an applicant to the fellowship requires patience, determination and adaptable character.

“It’s not just all about training teachers. It’s about building relationships with other countries, building ties and gaining relationships around the world,” said Santoro.

CPELI Program Administrator Sarah Moussavi believes that Santoro is fit for the fellowship mission.

“She has become a much more well rounded teacher, she has developed her talents, [and] she was very talented to begin with ” she will get a different take on a lifestyle in a different region, which is very valuable in our field to get to relate much better to the people that come [to the U.S.] to study,” said Moussavi.

Although the program is only 10 months long, Santoro may be offered an extension or a specialist position at the University of Saint Louis under the Department of State.

“My long term goals are definitely to stay in the international realm or stay international. Whether I’m teaching or not, my whole world revolves around cultures,” said Santoro.

The Department of State grants a stipend of $30,000, which covers housing, food and transportation for fellows during their time abroad.

Cerise Santoro

Courtesy of Cerise Santoro

Cerise Santoro

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