Chair’s End of Year Message


May 07, 2014 Bookmark and Share

Patrice Speeter Beddor

Dear friends of the department,

This past year began with tremendous work that had huge rewards: we hosted the 2013 Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society of America. Under the leadership of co-directors Andries Coetzee and Robin Queen, the 2013 Institute was among the largest in the history of LSA Linguistic Institutes, with 83 faculty, 515 participants, and 67 courses. It was truly a departmental undertaking. Nearly all of our faculty and graduate students were involved in the Institute and many of our undergraduate majors participated as well. For four summer weeks, weekdays were filled with courses and weekends with workshops; many evenings were spent at lectures, film events, receptions, and informal gatherings that encouraged faculty-student interactions.

Another major development was the Winter 2014 launch of the undergraduate cognitive science major. This new interdisciplinary major was proposed, and is now administered, by the Departments of Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology. In its inaugural offering, the gateway course Cognitive Science 200, taught by Sam Epstein and Rick Lewis, filled to capacity at 150 students. Some of these students have already gone on to declare the new major. A related, exciting development is the creation of the new Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science, funded by a major gift from Marshall Weinberg to support interdisciplinary research and teaching in the cognitive sciences. Sam Epstein will be the Director of the new Institute.

Our main alumni-focused event this year was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Linguistics at U-M. The April 5th MLING50 co-chaired by Ezra Keshet and Carmel O'Shannessy, featured academic talks by alumni David Lightfoot (now on the faculty at Georgetown), Jessica Rett (now at UCLA), and Lauren Squires (OSU). Talks were followed by a panel discussion of career opportunities with a B.A. in Linguistics. Panelists were former undergraduate majors—Neal Blatt, Shang Kong, Keli Licata, Emma Schroeder, and Kate McCreight Young—who chose career paths outside of linguistics and who discussed the role of linguistics in their current work. Over 100 current and former students and faculty celebrated with us; many others who were unable to attend sent warm wishes for our next 50 years.

Other important highlights from this year include recognition of the outstanding accomplishments of faculty and students. Three Linguistics faculty were recommended for promotion by the Department and College: Carmel O'Shannessy was recommended for promotion to associate professor with tenure; Acrisio Pires and Robin Queen were recommended for promotion to professor with tenure. (These recommendations have been forwarded to the Provost.) Marlyse Baptista completed her distinguished and important service as President of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. Marlyse and colleagues also received an MCubed Award to model linguistic convergence, divergence, and innovation in Creole genesis. Acrisio Pires received a Michigan Humanities Award for Fall 2014 to pursue a project on bilingual language development and maintenance. Graduate student Jae-Young Shim received a prestigious Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award from the Rackham Graduate School. Graduate students Erica Beck, Tim Chou, David Medeiros, and Jon Yip, were awarded their Ph.D.s during this past year. And on May 2nd we celebrated with many of the 65 undergraduate majors and minors in Linguistics who received their B.A. degrees in the spring commencement. Congratulations to all!

I thank Linguistics faculty, staff, students, and alumni friends for your support while I have been interim chair this year. Beginning July 1, Robin Queen will be the new department chair. Our department is truly fortunate that she will be taking on this role.

With my best wishes,
Pam Beddor