October 1, 2017 at 11:15 pm

Ohio Program of Intensive English Celebrates 50th Anniversary, Oct. 4

An OPIE class in the 1970a, black and white photo with teacher and three students.

An OPIE class in the 1970s.

The Ohio Program of Intensive English invites the Ohio University and Athens community to celebrate 50 years of excellence in helping students prepare culturally and linguistically for their academic studies and professional careers.

The OPIE 50th anniversary is Wednesday, Oct. 4, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Nelson Dining Hall Banquet Room.

OPIE History

OPIE was founded in 1967 by Dr. Robert F. Dakin, a graduate of the Linguistics program at the University of Michigan.

Dakin came to establish OPIE because senior administrators at Ohio University recognized the importance of a culture and academic English as a Second Language (ESL) program to the growth of international enrollment at the university. OPIE was also viewed as central to Ohio University’s efforts to create an international environment on campus that would benefit all students.

OPIE started as a small program serving the needs of students admitted to Ohio University. In 1973, the program began to grow as it accepted large numbers of sponsored students sent to study English before seeking admission not only to Ohio University but also to universities throughout the United States.

OPIE 1980s classroom, black and white classroom

OPIE 1980s classroom

Shortly thereafter, Ohio University began increasing the number of students admitted on a conditional basis—academic admission guaranteed once students satisfy the language requirement through OPIE classes. By the early 1980s, annual enrollment peaked at 635 students. At that time, the students in OPIE’s classrooms mirrored world economic and political trends as the program had students from Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. Enrollment ebbed and flowed throughout the 1980s and 1990s as students also came from East and Southeast Asia, particularly from countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand.

OPIE students in the early 1980s, group photo in fall colors

OPIE students in the early 1980s

Then, from 2007-14, due to a large influx of students from China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, enrollment increased dramatically, reaching an annual figure of approximately 1,200 students. From fall 2014 to spring 2017, enrollment averaged approximately 500 students annually. Over this period, OPIE students came from countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Korea, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Benin, Jordan, and Kuwait.

Fulbright visitors in 1993, group shot on steps of Gordy Hall

Fulbright visitors in 1993

Variety of Programs

While many OPIE graduates went on to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ohio University, others came to OPIE on its special programs. For 24 years, OPIE has hosted more than 1,000 Fulbright Scholars who have come for language and cultural training.

Chubu students in 1994, group shot on Gordy steps

Chubu students in 1994

OPIE has also played a key role in the long-standing relationship with the university’s sister school in Japan—Chubu University. For close to four decades, Chubu students have attended Ohio University on OPIE language and cultural programs. A key component of the Chubu programs is the service-learning experience that Chubu students provide throughout the Athens community.

OPIE is particularly proud of its track record of providing exceptional teacher-training programs for educators from throughout the world. OPIE has conducted programs for educators from Brazil, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

OPIE students from Indonesia and Africa in 2009

OPIE students from Indonesia and Africa in 2009

Quality in Programming, Faculty and Students

Since its creation as the first university-based ESL program in Ohio and one of the “early” programs in the United States, OPIE has enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout the field of ESL.

In 1973 after thorough review by the Consortium of University and College Intensive English Programs, OPIE was invited to join this distinguished group of Intensive English Programs. In 1981, OPIE was selected by a Committee of International Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) to participate in a study of curricular organization, faculty status and employment conditions of intensive English programs in the United States. Most recently, OPIE has undergone an accreditation review by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

OPIE culture event in the 1990s, four students playing game

OPIE culture event in the 1990s

OPIE faculty and staff also have assumed leadership positions in their professional fields.

They have served as the presidents of NAFSA, International TESOL, OHIO TESOL, and UCIEP.  In fact, it was an OPIE faculty member who successfully led the international efforts to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices based on one’s native language background in the TESOL profession. OPIE faculty also have served on numerous committees within Ohio University and in the greater Athens community.

OPIE Taiwanese students in 2006

OPIE Taiwanese students in 2006

Alumni of OPIE have also gone onto distinguished careers in the public and private sectors.

Eiman Alhosani, now in a managerial positon at the Ministry of Education in her country, describes her experience at OPIE and the impact on her career: “I very much enjoyed studying at OPIE and had the opportunity to learn English language there. My experience in OPIE seemed to be a good match for my position at work…. I bring with me to the position an extensive knowledge of the different styles of communication and strong communications skills…. During my break at work, I am passionate to talk and convey my experience to my staff about the series of classes I took in OPIE. I really appreciate every moment I spent there.”

Other prominent OPIE Alumni include:

  • Dr. Ali S. Altuwaijri ’76, Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Physiology and Health Sciences at King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia
  • Dr. Ziad Aki ’84, Director of Online Education at Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio (from Jordan)
  • Kumiko Saito ’98, Senior Administrative Assistant for the Foreign Multinational Corporates Group in JPMorgan Chase, N.A.; Ohio (from Japan)
  • Tommaso Bilancioni ’02, clothing store owner, Italy
  • Dr. Fernando Mendoza Jara ’06, Professor, National Agrarian University, Nicaragua
  • Mohammad Sharifi ’07, Director of Information and Communication Technology Institute; Professor at Kabul University, Afghanistan
  • Peng Zhao ’08, Intel Corporation, California (from China)
  • Dr. Burçin Şimşek ’10, University of Pittsburgh (from Turkey)
  • Dr. Ibrahim Alofi ’14, Vice Dean for the College of Education at Taibah University, Saudi Arabia

To learn more about OPIE alumni and OPIE, please go to OPIE Alums and the OPIE website.


  1. Great article! Amazing history of stellar Intensive English Program of which I am proud to have been a part.

  2. John Bagnole says:

    So many wonderful memories of this excellent program, its diverse students, talented colleagues, and special projects. All best wishes for continued success as one of the preeminent academic English programs in the country!

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