Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey


Patricia Szasz, ESL Program Director

Patricia Szasz1. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I got my undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Michigan. A few years out of school, I was working for a software company, and I started to train people how to use our products. That’s how I found my calling as a teacher. I had a great desire to live abroad, so my great-aunt suggested I teach English. We have a lot of family back in Italy, and she knew how important it was for them to learn English to succeed in their career. Based on her advice, I got certified to teach English as a foreign language and spent two and a half years teaching English in Milan and Rome. I liked it so much that I decided to come back to the US and get my Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

2. Why did you decide to pursue an LPA specialization?

One of my goals was to run my own language program. I knew that I would need the business background and leadership skills necessary to help me succeed as an administrator.

3. Could you tell us a little bit about the programs you are in charge of at MIIS?

I run our non-degree English language programs. That includes the Intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) program which runs all year long. It’s a lot of fun because we have students from literally all over the world. It’s so interesting to meet all these people from different places and learn about their cultures. In addition to our ESL program, I also am responsible for short-term study abroad groups and special pre-academic programs for students who will be matriculating into their graduate degrees here at the Institute or at other campuses around the country.

4. Looking back on your classes at MIIS, can you recall a specific course which was directly beneficial to your career?  Why?

As part of my LPA specialization, I took a budgeting course. This background knowledge has been indispensable to me as a program administrator. Not only do I have to carefully monitor and adjust my budgets for my programs, but I am also frequently called on to create budgets for new programs. Being able to accurately budget a program is a critical skill for success as an LPA.

5. As the current ESL director for MIIS, what did you learn from the Language Teacher Supervision and Language Teacher Education classes?

Before coming to the Institute, I had never supervised my own team of employees. Teacher supervision class gave me some good resources and also allowed me to practice my observation and communication skills. I also learned how important it is to listen actively to your employees as well as your students.

6. Did the accounting, marketing, and finance classes prepare you adequately for the business side of language program administration?

These courses gave me a good theoretical basis. I felt more confident in my job because I had this background knowledge. However, a lot of the learning in this position came during my first year on the job. There was a steep learning curve in moving from being a teacher to an administrator. It would have been even steeper had I not taken those courses.

7. Can you tell us some challenges in the program and how you overcame them?

As I said, the first year was especially challenging. I had been a teacher in the program for three years, yet I had little sense of the previous director’s many job roles and responsibilities. As an administrator you wear many hats, and I delved into a lot of new areas, including immigration, marketing, test administration, and leadership.

8. Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

I’ve been lucky to work as a consultant on a few projects as well as to teach in our MA TESOL program. I would like to continue to work to build new language programs for the Institute, both here and abroad. I find these projects immensely satisfying.

9. For whom do you see yourself as responsible?

I feel that I play the role of advocate for both our students and our teachers on campus and in the greater community. In some ways, I play a public relations role in ensuring that people know about our programs and continue to support us in the important work that we do.

10. Do you have any advice for a future language program administrator?

It’s very easy to take on too much responsibility in this type of job. Striking the right work-life balance is critical to your success and your satisfaction on the job. I also encourage people to think of themselves as leaders, no matter what job they currently have. You can be an effective leader even if you are not currently in a quote unquote “leadership position."