UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


UNC Kenan-Flagler Launches Language Program for International MBA Students


A unique communication program gives a competitive advantage to international students at UNC Kenan-Flagler who want to launch their post-MBA careers in the United States.

Honing Executive English Language Skills (HEELS) is a new program that assesses students’ English-language skills, provides objective feedback, and then offers specially designed courses to improve those skills. The MBA Career Management Center offers HEELS in partnership with linguists at The World Company.

HEELS tests students’ verbal and written skills when they arrive in Chapel Hill in August to begin their studies. Every student receives a report, which includes a proficiency rating and comments on specific areas where work is needed. Students who need to improve their skills have the convenience of taking specially designed courses right at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Corporate recruiters also have a role in HEELS. The MBA Career Management Center and The World Company created audio tapes that illustrate different levels of proficiency and accent, and asked recruiters in different functions and industries to identify the minimum level of language skills that is acceptable in their companies.

“HEELS helps students achieve a standard to which they can aspire to improve their skills if they want to work in a specific U.S. industry,” said David Hofmann, MBA Program associate dean. “They can learn from the recruiters' valuable feedback, and will no longer have to guess whether their language capability could hinder their ability to secure the types of jobs they want in the United States.”

Taught in small groups, the interactive HEELS courses focus on accent modification, grammar and vocabulary issues, and modify non-verbal communication that might be misinterpreted by U.S. managers, coworkers or clients.

“We are pleased to provide the resources to help UNC’s international students improve their English-language skills,” said Clodagh Lyons-Bastian, director of The World Company. “Proficiency in English is paramount for these global students to embark on a successful career in the United States.”

The Raleigh-based World Company provided the test design and its administration, a nine-level proficiency scale, feedback and course design customized to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s specifications.

“We should be able to predict how much students can expect to improve if they take the language classes throughout their studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” said Hofmann. “International students are an important part of our community at UNC Kenan-Flagler and we want to provide them with this unique opportunity to enhance their career success.”