Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

CSE: Teaching and Language Kick-Off (TALK) Orientation


The 2018 in-person orientation will run from August 6 - August 17 at the University of Minnesota. Participants will also enroll in a required one-week online course prior to their arrival in Minneapolis. They can choose among one of three sessions: either May 18-25, June 1-8, or July 13-20.  The online component is an approximately 20-hour commitment and is taught asynchronously. More details about the course will be emailed to participants in May 2018.

CSE: TALK provides first-year international graduate students with discipline-specific information, teaching practice, and English appropriate to their needs as future teaching assistants. Participants will develop:

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


Participants spend approximately five hours daily engaged in language courses, departmental workshops, and teaching simulations. In addition to mastering the language and instructional skills needed to teach well in English, students analyze educational cultural differences that matter most for TA success. Participants critique their own filmed teaching practice, as well as receive feedback from experienced TAs, undergraduate students, and teaching & language specialists.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should students arrive in Minnesota for the orientation?
On or after August 1, 2018. See information about health insurance below.
What about health insurance coverage—and when does it begin?
The University of Minnesota mandates all international students and their dependents to purchase the University-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) unless they are eligible for a waiver or are eligible for and enroll in the Graduate Assistant Health Plan.

CSE Talk students who have an assistantship are eligible for enrollment on the Graduate Assistant Health Plan and do not have to enroll in the Student Health Benefit Plan. Students must go to the Office of Student Health Benefits and identify themselves as CSE Talk students to facilitate enrollment in the GA Health Plan.

Coverage will be effective from September 01, 2018 unless the student needs medical attention prior. Students requiring medical attention prior to the September 1st effective date (and on or after August 1st) should seek care at Boynton Health Service between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If a student needs emergency medical care outside of Boynton hours they can be seen at an emergency room. Students seen at an emergency room when Boynton is closed need to contact Boynton's Office of Student Health Benefits to facilitate early enrollment as soon as possible following their E.R. visit at 612-624-0627. Students requiring medical attention will not be covered by University Health insurance before August 1.
What is the schedule for the entire orientation?
Students and departments 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 5 hours of classes daily scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are breaks between classes and for lunch.
How will students have time to get settled - find housing, do their document check, and so on - if they are in classes 5 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, participants perform a 13-minute teaching test during which their 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 a brief teaching test during which their English is evaluated. Students in this situation should contact the Center for Educational Innovation at or 612-625-3041.

How do students register for CSE: TALK?
New students from the College of Science and Engineering are automatically registered by their departments if they are required to attend. These students should notify their department immediately if they will be late or unable to attend. Students from departments outside the College of Science and Engineering may participate in CSE: TALK for a fee. For more information, contact Mary Jetter at or 612-625-3831.
If students can't be here at the start of the program, should they just skip it?

That's up to each department to decide. Students can still gain a lot of valuable preparation for TA positions and get acclimated to the University of Minnesota even if they 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 2018 reimbursement schedule is:

  • First attend on August 6-7 - $400
  • First attend on August 8 - $340
  • First attend on August 9 - $300
  • First attend on August 10 - $180
  • Thereafter - No stipend

Stipends are further reduced $60 per day for absences unless students pass at the highest level, earning an English Language Proficiency rating of 1. To be eligible for receiving the stipend, students 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 2018 session.

When do students receive their stipend?
Each department handles this differently, so students should ask. Some departments pay students soon after they arrive. 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. Students can apply for temporary housing through International Student and Scholar Services.

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