Translate this page:


CESL Stars

Celebrating Our Alumni!

Learning a new language can be hard. Sometimes, it can even seem impossible!

That is why CESL likes to invite our most successful students back to share their advice, stories and tips to learning the English language! CESL hopes that these Stars will inspire current and future students to commit to their studies and follow through with their goals and dreams. For many students, learning English is key to improving their academics, professional careers, and livelihoods, and each of these Stars have used English to do this in some way!

Search below for videos of the Stars’ presentations as well as their summaries and bios! Each presentation is different, because each Star had to find their own pathway to success! Is there a star from your own home country? Will you be a star one day too?


Minen Al-Kafajy -- January 27, 2016 -- Iraq

CESL Stars - Minen Al-Kafajy from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.

This embedded video will include a text link.


Minen is from Iraq and arrived in the United States in 2010.

1. How did CESL help you to get where you are today? CESL is early necessary step to adopt to the American universities, it helped me prepared for the University by practicing different skills like reading, writing, grammar and spelling. Having great and caring teacher is an important factor in making friendly class atmosphere. Diversity in the class helped me in practicing talking English.

2. What do you think is the hardest part of learning English? Nothing is hard, every language need time and effort to master it.

3. Explain what English skills you use in your work such as reading, writing, listening and speaking and grammar). Can you remember how you gained confidence in these skills as an ESL student? In my school, or any school you will go you need all the English skills to be successful. My advice to the ESL students is to spend your to practice all the skills equally. I am until today still learning English every day I learn something new, or learn how to pronounce words correctly.

4. What are the most important skills to learn to be successful in this country? Please give examples of how you use these skills in your life today. In my field talking and writing is the two most important skills we need to communicate to Faculty and graduate students.


Moise Djigbenou -- November 11, 2015 -- Ivory Coast

CESL Stars: Moise Djigbenou from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.


[Biography will be posted soon!]


Nobuko Patton -- September 16, 2015 -- Japan

CESL Stars: Nobuko Patton from UK College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.


Nobuko teaches Japanese at the University of Kentucky and she was our student in 2001. 


Ali Sadi Turabi -- May 6, 2015 -- Turkey

[Biography will be posted soon!]


Jack Huang -- April 22, 2015 -- Taiwan


Shih-Che "Jack" Huang is from Taiwan. He arrived in the US in August 2000. He attended ELS program at the University of Kentucky from level 2 to lever 5. He studied at the University of Kentucky after he finished the ELS program in May 2001. He has both bachelor and master degrees in computer science.

Currently, he works as a computer software engineer and a part-time instructor of computer science department of Eastern Kentucky University.

He received following scholarships when he was at the University of Kentucky.

Bluegrass Scholarship, University of Kentucky Academic Excellence Scholarship, University of Kentucky John A. Brittain Scholarship, University of Kentucky, College of Engineering University of Kentucky, College of Engineering Dean’s List.


Rasoul Taghizadeh -- April 1, 2015 -- Iran


In 1988, I started teaching part time accounting courses at the former Lexington Community College (now BCTC). Later I accepted a full time position and I have continued to teach until the present. I have volunteered to work on the boards of nonprofit organizations, teach financial literacy classes for Fayette County Public Schools and other institutions. During the past several years I have developed entrepreneurship interests in retail and real estate businesses. 

Where are you from? I was born in Azerbaijan in northern Iran. I lived there until I moved to Tehran to attend Tehran Business College. 

When did you arrived in the US? I arrived in the US in 1984 and settled in Lexington where my brother lived.

What your English background was before coming? Before coming to the US, I worked for a company which conducted business in English.

What are your university studies and degrees? I received my BS degree in Business from Tehran Business College and my MS degree in Accounting from the University of Kentucky.


Mike Sagandykov -- February 18, 2015 -- Khazakhstan

[Unfortunately there is no video from this event]


Where are you from? I am from Kazakhstan, a newly independent country of the former Soviet Union.

When did you arrive in the US? I arrived in the US twenty years ago on January 5, 1995.

What was your English background before coming, and which levels did you attend here? Before coming to the US I knew no English. I started at the UK ESL program on level 1 then level 3 and 4

Your university studies and degrees:

  • PhD in Mathematics, University of Kentucky, 2000
  • Master's degree in Statistics (concurrently with PhD in Mathematics), University of Kentucky, 1999

Can you give us a description of your current work and life? Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Baltimore, Maryland. I am married to a UK graduate, have a daughter who is a high school student, and live in the Greater Washington DC area.

Honors and special recognition:

  • Member of American Academy of Actuaries
  • Member of British Institute of Actuaries
  • Associate of the Society of Actuaries
  • Certified Financial Risk Manager
  • I’m also proud to be a team member of the Office of the Actuary, which for decades has played a big role in terms of providing unbiased technical information to the country’s policymakers, such as various Federal Agencies, Congress, and many other organizations.


Anushka Karkelanova -- January 21, 2015 -- Bulgaria


Where are you from? I am originally from Plovdiv. This is the second biggest city in Bulgaria, which is located in Eastern Europe. The capital is Sofia.

When did you arrive in the US? April 13th (Friday), year 2000.

What was your English background before coming, and which levels did you attend here? I never studied English in Bulgaria. I had 11 years of Russian, 7-German and some Armenian since I am a mixed child. When I arrived in USA in year 2000 I attended only the last (4th) level at UK’s ESL Center for 8 weeks.

Your university studies and degrees: I have masters in optoelectronics. I am an engineer. I also have Master in Statistics from University of Kentucky and now I am Doctoral Candidate from the Department of Curriculum and Administration with major Math and Statistics education

Can you give us a description of your current work and life? At this time I am full time instructor for the department of Statistics. I teach about 15 section of Statistics 210 class every semester. This is a UKCore class. At the same time I am working on my doctorate and hope to be done in August 2015. I am married from 16 years and I have 2 kids: Eric-7 years old and Petya-15 years old.


Maria Gomez -- December 2014 -- Peru


How did CESL help you to get where you are today? The CESL helped me in a very significant way. The teachers at the CESL not only taught me writing and reading English, but also they taught me about American Culture and the U.S system in general. I learned about the process to attend graduate school in the U.S and what would be necessary in order to be successful. They guided and provided me excellent advice about studies, career development, and life in general. The writing classes I took were fundamental during my doctoral studies and to write my doctoral dissertation.

What do you think is the hardest part of learning English? For me it is spoken English. I believe that probably the different types of words’ pronunciation, sounds, and the verb conjugation are hard at some extent. Vocabulary is very important for word choice as well. That’s why it’s fundamental to read a great deal. I believe that a non-native English person needs to work hard and be very dedicated in order to achieve fluency in written and spoken English.  

What are the most important skills to learn to be successful in this country?  I believe that being well prepared and communicating well are important skills. If you communicate well, you will gain more confidence. If you know your topic you will be prepared for any situation. If we fail in any aspect, we shouldn’t be discouraged. We need to keep trying and improve yourself, be enthusiastic, and positive. In my life now, I read and stay current in my field. I exchange opinions with colleagues. If I am attending any lecture or conference, I learn about the topic ahead so I am more informed. Networking is also a good strategy to make connections.

What is the most important advice you could give to our students? They should be focus in learning English, to study, and do their homework. It’s very important to have a support system of fellow students, to have American friends, and also to ask for help when needed.  Specially the teachers at CESL can help them and guide them in different situations that may arise. The teachers at the CESL really can make a great positive impact in our lives that we will always remember. 


Helen Gulgun Bukulmez -- November 2014 -- Turkey


Where are you from? I am from Turkey (Bosnian descent from my fathers side, Greek descent from my mom's).

When did you arrive in the US? August 3, 2001 :)

What was your English background before coming, and which levels did you attend here? I knew how to say "hello" and ask someone "how are you" but I couldn't understand if the person I am interacting actually answered that question. As such, I began in level I. About a month into the level, I spoke with Bobby and she was convinced that although I didn't know English at level II, my determination could make up for it. So, I was moved up to level II. Also, when I was in Turkey, I attempted to get into law school in my native language there three times. I couldn't score high enough on the national college entrance exam to qualify.

Your university studies and degrees: University of Uludag - Business and Economics in Turkish, University of Kentucky, ESL Completion; Chase College of Law, Juris Doctor; and, Queen Mary University of London, UK, Certificate in Global Arbitration

Can you give us a description of your current work and life? I am an attorney currently specializing in immigration and plaintiff's work including medical malpractice. I am a proud mother to my son who is a premed student at Thomas More.

Honors and special recognition:

  • My son is my biggest accomplishment. He was only 9 when we moved to the United States. He learned the language in a month and has excelled in everything he has done. 
  • Most of my academic and professional accomplishments are in the legal field and understanding these may require some legal background. So, I will say that I have awards in legal writing and client representation. 
  • I also consider it a huge accomplishment that I have been published as a writer both online and in print.
  • Another accomplishment is my recent purchase of land in Garrard County :) I plan to clear, develop and build a cabin within the next year. 
  • Lastly, I consider my volunteer work to be another accomplishment. I will mention my work with HealthWatch USA for those interested.
Enter your linkblue username.
Enter your linkblue password.
Secure Login

This login is SSL protected