Faculty members Cecile McKee and Amy Fountain, along with graduate students Elly Zimmer and Hui-Yu Huang have a new paper out in Language and Linguistics Compass entitled "Public Outreach in Linguistics: Engaging Broader Audiences." It details the department's growing public outreach efforts, and describes what has been learned about developing such a program.
Linguistics for the Community
Members of the Linguistics Department have undertaken a variety of important outreach and community service activities for many years. In Fall 2011, the Department formed a standing Outreach Committee, which includes members of the Faculty, Graduate Students and Staff. The work of the committee is supported by volunteer participation from many members of the Department, including undergraduate students, and community members. The major mission of this committee is to familiarize both the local campus and the Tucson community with various aspects of modern linguistics, and to provide awareness of the broader values and benefits of the field.
One of the ongoing activities of this committee, typically a collective effort on the part of the department, is to develop materials that integrate knowledge of linguistics into K-12 and Community College classrooms. Materials include lessons and activities focusing on the rich and diverse linguistic landscape of Arizona and the world, language acquisition and multilingualism, language disorders, language change, language rights and much more. Each year, small groups of Faculty and Graduate Students, sometimes with undergraduate volunteers, visit several local schools to lead class activities on these topics. School visits have targeted middle school, high school, and community college level students, with lessons and activities tuned for these particular audiences. In addition to familiarizing participants with the study of Linguistics, we find these visits an excellent opportunity to build rapport with young scholars whom we hope to eventually see as linguistics majors at the U of A.
Following the same mission, the department is offering its first summer camp through Arizona Youth University, titled Science of Language, during the first week of June 2015. Campers, students entering grades 8-10, will engage in activities focusing on scientific methods in the study of language, and will be exposed to the fundamental concepts underlying contemporary linguistic study.
The Outreach Committee also organizes participation by Faculty and Graduate Students in community-based courses aimed at adult audiences. In the Fall of 2012, eleven linguistics faculty and one graduate student presented 12 lectures, 2 hours each, to the members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). OLLI is a non-profit program that offers challenging opportunities to a group of people over 50 years of age. This group reflects a great diversity of interests, educational backgrounds, career paths, and life experiences. Our department was invited to offer another set of lectures to members of OLLI in the Fall of 2014. Ten faculty members and five graduate students delivered lectures on various topics to this group.
Linguistics on Campus
In addition to our activities in the wider Tucson community, the department participates in a number of annual events aimed to inform the local campus community about the field of linguistics, as well as to promote the undergraduate major and minor. We maintain a strong presence at the Meet Your Major Fair every fall, for which faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students volunteer in high numbers. At this event, the department provides interactive exhibits, such as a portable ultrasound machine (courtesy of APIL) for imaging the tongue, slideshows, and linguistics puzzles and games. Talking with potential majors or minors at this event is always fun and we often have other exhibitors visiting our booth for some of our take-away gifts (such as nametags with waveforms of participants’ names or customized pens). The goal is to show how language can be studied just as scientifically as DNA, and to introduce the unfamiliar with the rich opportunities that a career in linguistics can provide. Anyone looking for a highly interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating major should drop on by. We’re always there!
The Committee, along with Faculty and Student volunteers, maintains a presence at the annual Tucson Festival of Books, which includes a booth with activities and information about Linguistics as a Science. The Festival of Books is a major annual event on campus, and provides an excellent opportunity for community members to meet us and learn a little bit about what we do, and why Linguistics is valuable.
In addition, the department has been pleased to co-sponsor campus visits from our linguist friends around the country. Most notably, our department co-sponsored a public talk by Noam Chomsky in February 2012, and hosted a linguistics talk by him. Both talks were extremely well-received. In Spring of 2015, the department worked with The Tucson Festival of Books and The Nation Magazine to bring Noam Chomsky to our campus once again. In addition to an interview sponsored by The Nation Magazine, Professor Chomsky also delivered a linguistics talk. At both visits, the department organized a seminar exclusively for linguistics graduate students, led by Professor Chomsky.
“Many of us in OLlI-UA Tucson are of the opinion that the "Speaking Our Minds" course is one of the best that we have experienced at OLLI-UA. Clearly, the University of Arizona Linguistics Department is one of the outstanding Linguistics programs in the country.”
2013 Basis Oro Valley
“One of my seniors came into my office the day after your visit. She has been incredibly adverse to even applying to the University of Arizona, let alone attending. When she came into the office she told me that she had gone home that night and applied to UA -- simply because she wants the option of joining your department. She's so excited because she feels like she found a home in linguistics (her words, not mine), and that she finally has some direction for college.”
2013 University High School
“The visitors to my AP Psychology classes today (Mike, Julia, Elly, Dane, & Jaime) were fantastic! Each presentation was unique, interesting, funny, and engaging for the students……”
2013 University High School
"I wanted to say thank you to Simin, Amy, Natasha, Hyun Kyoung, and Alex. The students and I really enjoyed your presentations, and I think that you sparked a great deal of interest in linguistics in our juniors! I was especially impressed with how each of you made rather abstract concepts concrete, understandable, and high-interest for a high school audience."
Victoria Hahn, the organizer for the Linguistics OLLI series on the OLLI side, reported a comment from an audience member at the end of last fall's OLLI series: "During the break of the last lecture held this past Monday, one of our OLLI members summarized the overall sentiment of the group when he asked whether if we have a standing ovation for the lecturer, would we be treated to an additional encore linguistics lecture next week?"
2015 Summer Camp
"Thank you for teaching the linguistics camp. It was very fun, and I learned a lot across a wide span of topics. I particularly enjoyed discussing history and the evolution and types of grammar -- though I enjoyed all of it."