Letter from Director Junko Mori


Greetings from the UW-Madison Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition! 


We are excited to share with you news about the students, alumni, and faculty who all come together to form a community actively engaged in research, teaching, and outreach activities in our field. We hope that this newsletter, which we plan to publish once per year, will serve to help keep that community together even as our young scholars graduate and go to all corners of the globe. 


First, our program by the numbers:

  • 25 SLA Ph.D. graduates since program inception in 2002.
  • 23 current students, 8 of whom are at the coursework stage and 15 of whom are at various stages of the dissertation research and writing process.
  • 14 faculty and academic staff SLA core members, all of whom also serve as steering committee members, from 9 departments in the College of Letters & Science and the School of Education


Our core faculty continues to provide leadership for our students in roles as instructors, advisors, and mentors.  The past few years have seen a few retirements and additions of new faces in our faculty group.  We miss the presence and leadership of Sally Magnan and Jane Zuengler, founding members who were so crucial to the formation of our program and students. But we continue to grow and change with the addition of new members: Heather Willis Allen (Department of French & Italian), Jacee Cho (Department of English), Karen Evans-Romaine (Slavic Languages & Literature), Dianna Murphy (Language Institute), Mariana Pacheco (Curriculum & Instruction), Katrina Thompson (Department of African Languages & Literature). With the unflagging commitment of all of our core members, the program remains a vital intellectual community for discussion around issues of second language acquisition. We are proud of what our program is able to accomplish with a dedicated team of core faculty, great administrative support in the Language Institute, and an outstanding group of students. 


For example, with funding from the Language Institute, this summer opened a new chapter in our history, with the creation of student/faculty research partnerships.  Their areas of research focus were as diverse as the discipline of second language acquisition itself.  Prof. Richard Young and student Sandrine Pell engaged in a focused reading project to delve into subtleties of language in the works of Foucault and Bourdieu and to consider their application to SLA research. Prof. Heather Willis Allen and Lauren Goodspeed developed a survey instrument to be used in the French program language sequence.  And Prof. Jacee Cho and Amy Clay worked on a project to look at Korean and Russian LI speakers’ use of articles in English. We hope to continue supporting this apprenticeship model of learning, which benefits both students and faculty and helps them produce concrete outcomes in the form of publication or other critical deliverables. 


Our program is also active in providing opportunities for students in our program to develop professionally, by learning from each other and from faculty to sharpen their “tools of the trade,” to plan their studies and prepare for the job market. We have started a new tradition (begun by Monika Chavez, under her directorship two years ago) in twice-monthly lunchtime chats, to bring together students, faculty and special guests for informal gatherings over coffee and tea, giving everyone the chance to share their ideas and get to know each other. Last spring, we held an informal SLA student poster session, allowing students the chance to share their research and get feedback from fellow students and faculty.  This fall, we switched the roles to gather faculty for an informal “research roundtable,” where students heard SLA core faculty speak about their current research projects. Finally, workshops on cv writing and turning conference papers into publishable articles were well attended by our students looking to put their most professional self forward in advancing their careers. 


Along with these emerging traditions, we are happy to report that the tradition of the annual graduate symposium that started in 2008 remains strong. Indeed, the University of Minnesota has just joined as a third partner to the existing relationship with the University of Iowa, and so the symposium will rotate among the three institutions in the future.  The planning and organization of the 2016 symposium to be hosted at UW-Madison is moving along nicely thanks to the leadership of Daria Aleeva, Colleen Hamilton, and Sue Hyu Mun.  The theme for the symposium is The Multilingual Turn: Reframing Research and Instruction, and the event will be held on April 15-16 at Union South (for those of you who have not been back in Madison for a while, this is a new facility that opened in April 2011). Join us if you can, or encourage your students to participate in the event!


In addition to this annual symposium, as usual, our academic year is filled with various talks, workshops, and other opportunities.


Finally, as you might have heard, our campus is facing an unprecedented cut in state support (read more about the budget cuts facing UW-Madison at budget.wisc.edu.) This undoubtedly has an impact on the university’s operation, and several home departments of SLA faculty, including mine, are in the process of restructuring. But I would like to assure you that the greatness of the university will be maintained. I have been impressed by our administrators, faculty and staff, who are coming together and taking this challenge as an opportunity to reevaluate our practices and to explore innovative ways to achieve our goals. We all embrace the campus slogan “All ways forward!”


Our community doesn’t end with graduation.  Our alumni are doing great things, engaged in exciting research, fulfilling important roles as teachers and mentors to students, as well as enjoying life to the fullest in their personal lives.  We look forward to their continued success.


We hope you enjoy reading this newsletter.  Please consider sending us your news. Stay in touch! 

Yours sincerely,

Junko Mori