CSE: Teaching and Language Kick-Off (TALK)

CSE: TALK provides first-year international graduate students with discipline-specific information, teaching practice, and English appropriate to your needs as future teaching assistants. The program consists of a two-week in-person session preceeded by a one-week online session.  By participating in the program, you'll develop:

  • spoken English skills for U of M classroom teaching and interaction
  • discipline-specific teaching skills & learn about departmental expectations
  • responsiveness to U of MN student cultural expectations of TAs

Components & 2020 Dates

One week online session: May 15–22, May 29–June 5; or July 10–17, 2020. The online component will take you approximately 20 hours to complete and is taught asynchronously. You'll receive more details about the course via email in May 2020.

August Virtual Session: August 10–August 21, 2020. During this session, you'll spend approximately four hours each day engaged in language courses, departmental workshops, and teaching simulations. You'll analyze educational cultural differences that matter most for TA success, critique your own filmed teaching practice, as well as receive feedback from experienced TAs, undergraduate students, and teaching & language specialists.  Classes will be held via Zoom.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I arrive in Minnesota?
On or after August 1, 2020. See information about health insurance below.
What about health insurance coverage—and when does it begin?
The University of Minnesota requires you and any dependents to purchase the University-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) unless you are eligible for a waiver or are eligible for and enroll in the Graduate Assistant Health Plan. Coverage will begin on September 1, 2020, but if you need medical care during the month of August, early enrollment can be facilitated. 

What is the schedule for the entire orientation?
You and your department will be emailed a detailed schedule in the summer. This will include where to go on the first day of the orientation. Generally, there are five hours of classes daily scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are breaks between classes and for lunch.
How will I have time to get settled - find housing, do my document check, and so on - if I am in classes five hours per day?
The orientation takes this into account by building in free time for taking care of important business during the first couple days and on Fridays.
Who is required to attend this orientation?
Most departments in the College of Science and Engineering require their new international graduate students to attend CSE: TALK, and have stated the requirement in their offer letters.
Why is CSE: TALK required?
Most participating departments need first-year graduate students to start teaching in their first semester. At the same time, the U of M has a spoken English requirement for all teaching assistants whose home language growing up was not English. The CSE: TALK orientation assists those who are already highly proficient English speakers with teaching skills and cultural adjustment, and promotes spoken English improvement for those who need it so they are more likely to be eligible to teach.
How is TA eligibility determined?
At the end of CSE: TALK, you'll perform a 13-minute teaching test during which your English is evaluated. Scores are converted into English Language Proficiency (ELP) Ratings.
Can departments exempt students from the CSE:TALK orientation?

Most departments (and students!) have found that the CSE: TALK program is valuable even for students whose English is highly proficient. That said, occasionally some departments do waive the requirement for students who have attended a similar orientation at another North American university or whose English is predicted to be proficient enough to pass the English test upon arrival. However, the University of Minnesota policy still requires these students to demonstrate English proficiency either through their ibTOEFL speaking score or their performance on the SETTA test, during which their English is evaluated. If you are in this situation,  contact the Center for Educational Innovation at cei@umn.edu or 612-625-3041.

How do I register for CSE: TALK?
You'll be automatically registered by your department if you are required to attend. If you will be late or unable to attend, contact your department immediately. Students from departments outside the College of Science and Engineering may participate in CSE: TALK for a fee. For more information, contact Mary Jetter, CSE:TALK Coordinator.

If I can't be here at the start of the program, should I just skip it? 

That's up to each department to decide. You can still gain a lot of valuable preparation for TA positions and get acclimated to the University of Minnesota even if you arrive late. However, the amount of the $400 stipend that the CSE Dean's office will reimburse to the department decreases with each missed day. The tentative 2020 reimbursement schedule is:

First attend on August 10-11 - $400
First attend on August 12 - $340
First attend on August 13 - $300
First attend on August 14 - $180
Thereafter - No stipend

To be eligible for the stipend, you must also successfully complete the pre-arrival online course.

NOTE: Stipends may be subject to U.S. payroll taxes. These amounts may change for the 2020 session.

When do I receive my stipend?
Each department handles this differently, so check with your department. Some departments pay soon after arrival; others wait until the end of the program. Departments that pay students before August 18 need to recognize that they will be reimbursed by the CSE Dean's office based on first attendance and absences per the schedule above. In other words, departments may be reimbursed for less than they pay to students.

Is there on-campus housing available for CSE: TALK participants?
Yes. You can apply for temporary housing through International Student and Scholar Services.