The fall 2018 Spanish 441 linguistics course was so successful with a mock trial, some of the undergraduate students were asked to present at a national linguistics conference the following spring.
The linguistics class continued into an independent study course in spring 2019, where six of the students prepared for their first conference presentation. In addition, the students also worked on an article about the mock trial, which they have been invited to submit for publication in an online academic Portuguese journal on linguistics.
It's not every day undergraduate students get this kind of enriching experience. Usually, conference presentations are reserved for graduate work and journal publications come from full-time faculty. The students in World Languages & Literatures Lecturer, Gerald McMenamin's class are well on their way to first-choice graduate schools and career options.
The class traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to attend the Georgetown University Round Table linguistics conference.
"I was so impressed and humbled that what we had done in our class was considered worthy of presenting at a conference at Georgetown," Senior Ashley Keaton said. "It made me realize the importance of what we had done and how it can be implemented at other institutions."
The students were one of the first plenary speakers to present at the conference, but they had enough practice that most of them felt it was easy to present. They were also able to attend four days of presentations from renowned linguists, even listening to some presenters of which they studied in class. "Several of the speakers presented on research I had read during undergrad. It was so interesting and exciting for me to see these people in real-life talk about the research that I had read," Keaton said.
"I would definitely say it was the most beneficial experience I've had in college. We had to attend the conference all four days - so we got to listen to the most up-to-date linguistics information," Senior Annette Tan said.
Tan thought it was most beneficial for her to attend the conference to see the many different career paths in linguistics. She said it opened her eyes to new possibilities. Tan is working on becoming an interpreter and trying to obtain her interpreting certificate.
This was one of McMenamin's goals from the earlier 441 course - to give students a taste of the many career choices within the field of linguistics.
Other teammates used this conference as a networking opportunity to interact with graduate schools. Keaton said after meeting graduate students and faculty from Georgetown, she now is considering it as an option for her to attend after she finishes a gap year.
Keaton graduated in May and is weighing her options to complete service work or obtain an interpreting certificate and work for the school district or the courts. She also is the lead author of the article the team is trying to publish. She said she is fortunate that she should be able to use a published article on her graduate school applications.
"The most important thing to me in this experience was that this was so unique, especially as a liberal arts undergraduate student," Keaton said. "It was so cool that this University supported us to go and present this research and that it was funded by this University."