The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. If you would like to recommend an LSA member (including yourself) for a future Member Spotlight, please contact Brice Russ, LSA Director of Communications.

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Anna Marie Trester, FrameWorks Institute

Anna Marie Trester

Anna Marie Trester is an associate on the Learning team at the FrameWorks Institute. Prior to joining FrameWorks, she served as the Director of the MA in Language and Communication (MLC) Program in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University, where she worked with students to apply their sociolinguistic training to professional contexts. She has taught courses at Georgetown University, Howard University, and University of Maryland, University College on topics including cross-cultural communication, language and social media, and the ethnography of communication.

An applied sociolinguist, Dr. Trester has research interests in performance, narrative, intertextuality, professional self-presentation, language and identity, language in social media and the language of business. She is the co-editor (with Deborah Tannen) of Discourse 2.0, published in 2013 by Georgetown University Press. Dr. Trester also works in the fields of improvisation and storytelling, and runs the Language of Storytelling website. She received her M.A. from NYU and Ph.D. in linguistics from Georgetown.

Q: When did you first join the LSA?
I first joined the LSA in 1997 when I was pursuing my MA in Linguistics at NYU.  That year, the Annual Meeting was being held in New York City and I decided that attending our professional meeting would help me see what our field was all about, which would be an important part of my graduate training.  I was very excited to be at the very center of what felt like the important conversations shaping our field!  

Since that time, I have attended several of the Annual Meetings, and I have also participated in the last couple Summer Institutes by offering a workshop for graduate students through COSIAC about professional paths for linguists.  I also have been involved in recent conversations and focus groups about how better to engage the sector of linguists who are professionally-oriented.

Q: What do you do at FrameWorks, and how does it relate to your linguistic background?
At the FrameWorks Institute, I get to think about framing all day, which has been an important part of my own work as an interactional sociolinguist for many years. In a nutshell, the FrameWorks Institute investigates how Americans view complex socio-political issues and then develops research that expands and elevates public understanding through strategic reframing.  We are an interdisciplinary team of social science researchers (anthropology, sociology, political science, etc), who bring myriad methods to the task of identifying how a range of social issues are being talked about in public discourse. We help policy experts, non-profit leaders, advocates, scientists and community educators think about ways that they might better communicate in ways that elevate the level of discourse. I use my analytical research, writing, and editing skills daily to inform our partners’ efforts to advance greater social justice.

Specifically, as an Associate on the Learning Team, it is my role to develop our curriculum (including online interactive courses) and to facilitate trainings.   As an example, right now I am preparing a workshop for policy fellows at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), designed to help them think about how they are framing the need for their own research to legislators and policymakers.  In one exercise, I am asking them to consider the difference in framing tobacco as a vice vs. as a defective product (one of the major framing policy successes in recent memory).  When tobacco is framed as a vice, smokers are responsible for their decision to smoke. If people are addicted, that is regrettable, and if teenagers are smoking, it is probably because their parents have failed to instill the proper values in them.  But conversely, when tobacco is framed as a defective product, it is easy to see how the manufacturers would have responsibility.  If people are addicted, it is because they have been manipulated by a deviant industry, and it is the work of government to intervene through regulation. Our work here at FW is to identify reframing opportunities such as these in the important public conversations taking place all around us every day.

Q: You've done a lot to help linguists learn about careers outside academia. How did you get involved with that?
From my very first linguistics class, I was passionate about finding ways to apply what I was learning.  This in fact was top of mind for me when I was selecting PhD programs, and was why I chose Georgetown as a place to study--because I saw that engaging in application was something that each and every member of the faculty was committed to.  This was especially true of my mentor Dr. Natalie Schilling, who when I was a grad student was actively involved with helping the community in Smith Island tell their story, and in fact, during my defense challenged me to find creative ways to share my findings with the community of improvisers with whom I had been engaged in ethnographic research.  

Years later, when I was graduating with my PhD, Dr. Deborah Schiffrin had been the visionary behind the creation of an MA program designed for students who were interested in finding professional applications of linguistics, the MA in Language and Communication (MLC).  As I had worked in a range of professional contexts both before and during graduate school, I found that I not only had ideas but a passion for thinking with students about their career paths.  I was very lucky to work closely with her in developing and running the MLC program at Georgetown for many years. 

Q: What resources would you recommend to linguists who want to explore nonacademic or 'alt-ac' careers?
My first advice would be that students must allow themselves to be radically curious about careers.  They need to be fearless and non-judgemental as they pay attention to which aspects of their current work make them excited, that give them energy, and which cause them to lose time in flow because they are just that passionate.  I would encourage them to look back and think about what brought them to linguistics in the first place and then to think about what skills and interests have enriched their past successes in order to learn what to pursue in the future.  Only then would I want to start asking whether these passions come to bear in academic or “non-academic” contexts. 

For instance, if someone is passionate about teaching (as am I), that person should do everything she can to best understand which aspects of teaching are the most exciting and interesting to her, and then find people who use those skills every day and to talk to them about their work.  For me, curricular design is one of the aspects of teaching that most excites me, but opportunities to develop curricula do not exist only in academia.  Teaching happens in the Business, Research, Industry, Government, Healthcare Communications, Technology, Education and Non-profit worlds (BRIGHTEN is the acronym I use to talk about careers).

Learning about careers is like any research project – it takes time, it involves lots of data gathering, analysis, and writing, and more than anything patient listening, careful analysis and pattern discernment.  Because I see a tremendous need for our ways of seeing out there in the world, I am particularly committed to supporting linguists who feel called to share our work with the public.

But you asked about resources: Well, the LSA exists as a mechanism for plugging you in with your community of linguists to learn about their work.  I am a huge fan of LinkedIn as the best existing source of career data, and I also am a fan of Versatile PhD, PhDs at Work, and PhD to Life.  I also blog regularly about things like BRIGHTEN and many other ideas about career exploration and career education at

Q: Are you still working on any linguistic research?
Well, I can’t resist the urge to be a linguist here, and call attention to your use of the word “still” here as a presupposition trigger, which assumes that those who are engaged professionally have stopped researching.  [Touche! -ed.] As I do research on career and professional self-presentation, this has not stopped since I left academia, nor do I suspect that it will going forward, only that it might take different forms of expression, publication, and dissemination.

That said, I am actually composing the answer to your question here in the lobby of a hotel where I just presented my work on LinkedIn as part of a panel on social media at the American Anthropological Association.  I also have a book currently under review with Multilingual Matters Press, tentatively titled: Careers For Linguists: The Stories Behind the Search.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today?
At this point, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I think it has to do with our need to be better at engaging the public in seeing the need for and applicability of our work.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members?  To the field?
To my mind, the most important service the LSA provides is community and connection.  Conferences, publications, workshops, institutes, the website: all of these serve as a means for all of us linguists to plug in with our community, whose importance cannot be underestimated.  We are only as strong as our community.  Also, the LSA provides a mechanism for us to be found, by prospective linguists, by members of the broader community, by members of the press, by potential research partners.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say to the LSA membership as a whole?
Our work is important, and worth taking the time to think about how to better communicate its applicability.