Kateryna Forynna standing in front of the Fisher Student Union

November 16, 2020

Kateryna Forynna was a third-year linguistics student in Ukraine when she received a U.S. Department of State Global Undergraduate Exchange Program scholarship that changed her life and put her on the path of a career in international education.

“I am fortunate to work in a field that allows me to collaborate with government sponsors and universities that provide educational opportunities to students from all over the world because I know how life-changing they can be,” said Forynna, the director of the English Language Center in the Office of International Programs.
Forynna, a native of Ukraine, joined UNCW in October 2019. She oversees the university’s intensive English program, including curriculum, program administration and recruitment. She grew up speaking Ukrainian and Russian, learned English as a foreign language and studied German, French and Spanish while attending college. Forynna holds master's degrees in applied linguistics and world languages, literatures and linguistics.

“I have always been fascinated with foreign languages. Being exposed to different languages allows you to develop greater understanding of other cultures and gain a global perspective,” she said. “Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.’ Learning another language allows you to develop intercultural sensitivity and break communication barriers, which is so important in today’s globalized world.”

The pandemic created some challenges for the English Language Center, but the staff quickly adapted to remote and online instruction. It offered several online programs, such as a Business and Data Analytics Essentials certificate program that combined business English classes and lectures in business and analytics, and a Language and Culture program that focused on enhancing English language skills and increasing understanding of American culture. Recently, the ELC finished administering the online Language and Culture program for a group of 23 ESL teachers from Uzbekistan sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent.

“We will continue administering these programs, even after the pandemic is over,” Forynna said. “I would also like to explore the possibility of creating new online hybrid programs in collaboration with other UNCW departments.”
The biggest challenge during the pandemic, she said, was finding ways to cultivate a sense of community in a virtual classroom.

“The nature of a language class is that learners need to feel comfortable and be able to express themselves freely in order to maximize their learning,” she said. “Unlike in-person classes where interactions are more spontaneous, Zoom classes require intentional, planned activities that allow students to build trust with their classmates and feel more connected. Even now that we are face-to-face, extracurricular activities like meetings with conversation partners and game nights require careful planning to help students ‘break the ice’ while following social distancing guidelines.”

Forynna sees her position as a way to give back and help students develop essential language and communication skills they need to succeed in academic and professional environments.

“I was fortunate to have mentors who supported me throughout my career. I try to pay it forward by mentoring international students and giving them information about educational and career resources available to them,” she said.

-- Venita Jenkins