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February 28, 2002 Grad students in applied linguistics make it a clean sweep



by Barbara Black

Each year the American Association for Applied Linguistics offers three awards to promising graduate students at the MA level. This year, applicants from the applied linguistics program in the newly merged Education Department have managed to win all three.

Eowyn Crisfield and Ioana Nicolae, two MA in applied linguistics students supervised by Elizabeth Gatbonton and Marlise Horst respectively, are the lucky recipients of this year’s prestigious American Association for Applied Linguistics Travel Grant Award.

The Association gives four grants each year to allow two PhD students and two MA students to attend its annual conference, which is the largest gathering of applied linguistics researchers in North America. The competition is open to graduate students from around the world, and selection is based on the candidate’s academic work and promise in the field of applied linguistics.

Eowyn and Ioana’s awards bring to four the total given to Concordia students in the past four years. Laura Collins received the PhD travel grant in 1998, and last year Julie Boulé received one of the MA grants. Both were supervised by Patsy M. Lightbown.

Beverly Baker, also an MA in applied linguistics student, has won an award in the Association’s other competition for graduate students. She won a scholarship to attend the Summer Institute in Applied Linguistics, to be held at Penn State University from July 1 to 26.

These scholarships are awarded to one MA student and one PhD student, also selected for the quality of their academic work and promise in the field, and they carry a full tuition waiver of $1,600 US as well as $1,000 US to defray costs of room and board.The awards will be given at a special presentation during the conference, which will be held in Salt Lake City in April.

Ioana Nicolae is exploring issues related to the acquisition of vocabulary in a second language. Eowyn Crisfield’s working title for his thesis is “L2 Accent, Ethnicity and Group Membership.”

Beverly Baker says that over the past two years, her interests have been in “sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, bilingualism and multilingualism, and corpus linguistics. I hope to go abroad to teach for a short while, then return to undertake a PhD in a more specialized area.”

There are 56 students in the MA program. Most of them, as well as doing research, are active ESL (English-second-language) practitioners, teaching what they study, and using the richness of their classrooms as background for their research.

“We see practice and research as going hand in hand, each informing the other,” said Marlise Horst in an e-mail. “Applicants must have had some actual experience of language teaching in order to be accepted into the graduate program.”

Students can opt to write a thesis if they are interested in doing experimental research, but there is also the option of doing a coursework-based MA.

The master’s program is 45 credits and is usually completed in about two years. Core courses address the subjects of bilingualism, language development, language-teaching methodology, research methods, and the grammars of English.

“We have a long tradition of offering graduate students interesting opportunities to participate in funded research projects,” Horst added.

These graduates find work in university or CEGEP ESL programs in Quebec, or they may teach English overseas.

For the MA students, as with the 200 undergraduates in Concordia’s TESL’s degree and certificate programs, wanderlust is a major factor. Many TESL graduates keep in touch with the TESL Centre from all over the world for years after they graduate.