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The Language of Innovation

January 20, 2021
By Vicki Grisanti
Photos Rob Bossi

​“Language is a living, kicking, growing, flitting, evolving reality, and the teacher should spontaneously reflect its vibrant and protean qualities.” — John A Rassias

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Learning a new language opens up new opportunities and expands our understanding of other cultures, inviting us to explore different parts of the world and build empathy for those around us. 

At NEIA, our focus on creating a space of belonging and inclusion meant that language would be a natural part of our program offerings. As a new school, we sought a partner who shared our vision for language acquisition and making cultural connections across the curriculum.

Kevin Ramos-Glew, Head of Enrollment at NEIA, taught English and Spanish in graduate school and hosted the Rassias Center’s ESL summer language program for three years. Kevin saw the impact of the Rassias MethodⓇ  early in his career and recognized the unique opportunity it presented to engage students and adults and speed up the learning process. 

“The Rassias Center at Dartmouth College is not only the most effective way to teach languages, but it is also the most scalable way given we can teach students, adults, and even young children,” said Kevin Ramos-Glew, Head of Enrollment at NEIA. “We’re excited to offer such a dynamic language program to our students, and in the future could expand our offerings to prepare adults for international business or personal travel, or offer ESL programs to help the larger NEIA community. The possibilities are endless.”


President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to allow Americans to serve their country and the world through acts of service. The challenge volunteers faced early on was learning language skills quickly and effectively to operate in host countries. At Dartmouth, John Rassias was called on to teach French to those going to work in French-speaking West Africa. Word of his talent for teaching through quick, efficient lessons that offered an environment where people were less inhibited and free to speak up quickly spread.

It had to be fast, it had to be dramatic because they had a short amount of time to prepare..

“It had to be fast; it had to be dramatic because they had a short amount of time to prepare,” said Helene Rassias-Miles, Executive Director of the Rassias Center at Dartmouth College. “How can we do something that also creates the sensation of being in a place and opens you up to speak freely and without hesitation? With the Rassias Method of class and drills, we create an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak up given the pace and excitement of the lessons.”

Adding a new language creates global connectedness while building empathy. As Peace Corps volunteers from Dartmouth and elsewhere honed their skills, they also became adept at understanding the nuance of language, which equipped them to better acclimate to their new environment. The Rassias Method was revolutionary for its time and went on to be a key element in supporting the needs of Dartmouth students, community members including children and adults, and visitors to Hanover from around the world, such as executives, government employees, medical residents, educators, and travelers.  

“The Rassias Method is emblematic of our teaching style, given we look to remove barriers, make mistakes, and iterate,” said Kevin. “Fail forward is part of the Rassias Method. Don’t wait, don’t pause. Instead, live in the moment and iterate to improve.”


Today, the Rassias Center offers a suite of programs designed to provide a wide range of individuals with language skills, and the results are remarkable. 

“There have been so many collaborations at the Rassias Center, and one of the most recent was to prepare public school teachers in Mexico to teach English,” said Jim Citron, Language and Culture Specialist at the Rassias Center who leads the Rassias-NEIA collaboration. 

“The key takeaways from the program we offered in Mexico were the gains made by the students who were learning through the Rassias Method compared to their peer group,” added Jim. “A randomized control trial conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank showed that in 30 weeks, the students who were taught by Rassias-trained teachers made ten additional weeks of progress in proficiency gains compared to a control group. We are excited to bring this teaching approach to NEIA to replicate the success we’ve seen elsewhere.”

By collaborating with different organizations, the Rassias Center is well-positioned to engage all individuals in the excitement and independence that comes with speaking a new language. In bringing the program to NEIA, the team can expand language offerings, plan for cultural exchanges, and engage the community. In the future, the Rassias Center will seek collaborations within the healthcare sector, adult education programs, study abroad initiatives, and much more.


At NEIA, the Rassias Method aligns with the overall curriculum, focusing on the student and inviting them to express their own needs. The five-point philosophy breaks through to communicate language and culture heart-to-heart with Know Thyself, Connect, Special Delivery, Students as Star of the Show, and Sense and Emotions. The philosophy is directly aligned with NEIA’s mission to work with students to help them find their passion, bring their ideas to impact, and prepare for what’s next with empathy and understanding for those around them. 

We immediately recognized the alignment between our own program and the mission at NEIA. Together, we empower students and invite them to bring themselves to the practice.

“If you look at our philosophy it is centered on how students embrace the material,” said Helene. “We immediately recognized the alignment between our own program and the mission at NEIA. Together, we empower students and invite them to bring themselves to the practice.”

By immersing students in the language and culture, Rassias teachers are able to connect the material to real-world application. Innovators at NEIA are quick to engage in conversations in different languages, share and celebrate customs, and begin to express themselves spontaneously in class and around campus. 

“The technique ensures that you never have language without the culture,” said Helene. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is the global interconnectedness of our world. Understanding culture ensures that you understand nuance and are prepared to participate in all aspects of society.”