Director’s Message Fall 2021

(continued from the Fall 2021 SLA Newsletter)

Headshot of Monika Chavez
SLA Program Director, Monika Chavez

Another bright spot has been that thanks to the support of the College of Letters & Science (and especially Associate Dean Sue Zaeske), we now have a recurring Project Assistantship designated for an SLA student. Project assistants work with the Language Institute on outreach and research. This year’s (and inaugural) position holder – Sandra Descourtis – has, among other activities, been planning events for K-12 language engagement. In another effort to sustain our program and to embed it more firmly in academic and professional networks, we have been developing joint degree options between SLA and SLA-affiliated programs.  I hope to be able to provide good news updates on new curricular and professionalization options as well as on reliable continuous funding for SLA graduate students soon.

We have continued in our professionalization activities for graduate students. This fall semester, we had two faculty panels (one on ‘hidden aspects of faculty careers’, the other on ‘life as a language program director’) that featured colleagues from the SLA Steering Committee (Cathy Stafford, Heather Willis Allen, Junko Mori, Mariana Pacheco), affiliated departments (Erlin Barnard, Asian Languages & Culture; Juliet Huynh, English; Rajiv Rao, Spanish & Portuguese) and program alumna Lauren Goodspeed (now at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) and two alumnae of our PhD Minor program,  Adeola Agoke (now a colleague in African Cultural Studies) and  Jaerin Ahn (now a colleague in Asian Languages & Cultures). We also enjoyed an inspiring talk on ethics in motivation research by Ema Ushioda (University of Warwick, UK) and look forward to a research presentation on the use of input and tasks to improve L2 vocabulary learning, to be given by Joe Barcroft (Washington University) and Susanne Rott (University of Illinois, Chicago) on December 3.

I also wanted to both thank and apologize to alumni who have responded kindly to my inquiry about whether they would be willing to continue as mentors to current students. Last year’s pairings were very successful and much appreciated. However, we felt that we were ready for a somewhat different format that would enable potential mentors and mentees to find each other. We are envisioning an on-line matchup system. The process has turned out to be (did we ever expect it to be different?) more involved than we had hoped. But we are still working on it. As a matter of fact, we are trying to enable our program website to facilitate interactions between all SLA community members, regardless of when they first joined us (all the way back into the early 2000s!). Among other possibilities, we are looking at a function that enables those who present at conferences to post when and where they will be and what they will be talking about (for example, you might want to attend colleagues’ sessions) and for recent graduates to present themselves and their research interests (perhaps building professional connections). We are also hoping to implement an alumni email list that would enable us to contact all our alumni at the same time as well as for alumni to stay in touch with each other. We will soon send out inquiries to see who among our alumni would like to join such a list. Please feel free to chime in on other means of keeping each other informed, too!

One of the leading SLA events of 2022 will be the Graduate Student Symposium on April 1-2 with the theme ‘Language, Culture, and Globalization: Transdisciplinary Perspectives.’ While the program is still being firmed up, we do know these things: (1) Student organizers Eric Ho, Jose Luis Garrido, and Sandra Descourtis are planning an engaging event for our students, faculty, and attendees and presenters. (2) Our students have secured a premiere venue at the Pyle Center (lakeview and all!). We are aiming at in-person meetings with the possibility of accommodating some synchronous online presentations. The call for papers is about to go out (or may already have gone out) and the deadline for submissions will be January 10, 2022. Please check the symposium webpage as it goes through updates. (3) We are excited that Professor Manuela Wagner has agreed to give the keynote address, which will be co-sponsored by the Graduate Program in German. We also hope to welcome back some of our alumni and in the spirit of interdisciplinarity, invite colleagues from around the UW-Madison campus who work in related fields.

The last development that I need to report on is the imminent departure of our Program Coordinator Kristin Dalby. She has accepted a position on campus that allows her to focus exclusively on graduate program administration. It is thanks to her work with you all that Kristin has identified a career trajectory that truly inspires her. I know that the move resulted from a difficult decision process and that Kristin will miss us as we will miss her. She has contributed essential innovations to the program both in matters of administration and in matters of connectedness and community. Kristin has been exceptional in her dedication to the program and its members, her meticulous attention to detail while keeping a firm gaze on the big picture, her ability to see not only where improvement is needed but also to suggest and implement solutions and to carry them through, (and many other excellent qualities) but foremost, in being a fantastic colleague and a generous, kind, enthusiastic, and bright-spirited person. I am personally immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with her and know that everyone who has encountered Kristin, feels the same. Kristin has joined our community and will remain a part of it no matter where her office is located. Going forward, we are working toward administrative structures that will continue to strengthen our program in substance, cohesion, and standing and will help us build and maintain community.

I thank you for your support and interest and would be grateful if you contacted me with updates, suggestions, or ideas ( ).

Forward, SLA!