Daniel Ginsberg is Manager of Education, Research and Professional Development at the American Anthropological Association and Anthropologist in Residence at American University. His research investigates anthropologists’ careers in academic, business, government, and nonprofit settings, as well as anthropology education at graduate, undergraduate, and pre-university levels, and supports the Association's professional development and public outreach programming. Trained in sociocultural linguistics and education, Daniel has also written about classroom discourse, educational linguistics, and critical pedagogy.

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

When did you first join the LSA? How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined?

I first joined the LSA to attend the 2010 Annual Meeting. I was in the process of transitioning careers, and in my previous work as a public high school ESL teacher, I had invited Maya Honda and Wayne O'Neil to come in and teach linguistics to one of my classes. We had written up that project and were presenting it at that year's conference. I got to give my first academic conference talk, attend Word of the Year, and met a few people who I'm still friends with to this day. I've never had a conference abstract accepted since that one, but I have stayed involved as a member of the Language in the School Curriculum committee and the Linguists Beyond Academia interest group. 

What are you currently researching/working on?

I'm now working as manager of education, research and professional development at the American Anthropological Association, so I'm working on a lot of things that have nothing to do with linguistics: leadership development for Association members, research on the status of anthropology in US higher education, career diversity programming at the Annual Meeting. Once you have that linguistics training, though, it does show up everywhere! In my survey research, for example, linguistics helps with both item development and analysis of constructed responses. I've also been collecting interviews with anthropology PhD students who are aiming for careers in government or industry, and I get a lot of great narratives from them about how they came to make that decision and what kind of response they got.

What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

In my first career as an English language teaching professional, I became interested in culturally relevant pedagogy. When I finally came back to linguistics, the publication that most inspired me was Shirley Brice Heath's 1983 monograph Ways with Words. The way she seeks to understand poor children on their own terms, to identify what they're good at and how they're valued in their own communities, is a powerful antidote to all of the mainstream education research that just sees them trying and failing to be middle-class white folks.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing the field comes from its position as a nexus between so many different areas of inquiry and contexts of employment. Language is crucial to everything humans do, and linguists have rightfully engaged with all of these areas of intersection and application, but sometimes this comes at the expense of their identity as linguists, or their inclusion in the discipline. How might we foster a community of practice that is inclusive and accessible to linguists working on the border of anthropology, sociology, communication, neuroscience, data science, digital humanities; across business, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors?

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in linguistics?

My best career advice comes from Gretchen McCulloch: nobody really just does linguistics; they do "Linguistics + X," for some value of X. For me it's always been linguistics plus education, and that has taken me to a variety of professional settings, not only in the classroom but also in materials development and education research. Job seekers should think about what their X is, find people -- even non-linguists -- who are already working there, and talk to them about what they do and how linguistics might relate to it. Or to put it another way, Alexandra Mack said this about anthropology, but the same is true in our case: you turn the job you have into one that needs a linguist, because you're a linguist. Where do you want to work, and what would linguistics do for people in that professional setting?

What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?

I believe the most important service the Society provides to the field is its efforts to introduce linguistics to nonspecialist audiences, from the "Why Major in Linguistics?" and other FAQ brochures, to our support for the Linguistics Olympiad, to our efforts to create a linguistics AP curriculum. The circumstances of my own introduction to the field speak to how important this is: I didn't take linguistics until senior year of college because I was too busy trying to complete a double major in comparative literature and mathematics, which is to say, I would have been a linguist if I had known such a thing existed.