About the LSA Member Spotlight

Originally created in 2011, the LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month.  If you would like to be featured in a Member Spotlight, or would like to recommend someone else to be featured, please contact David Robinson, the LSA's Director of Membership and Meetings.

Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

Brice Russ, LSA Director of Communications

Brice Russ started his work with the Society on June 2.  As the LSA's Director of Communications, Brice is responsible for addressing the external communications needs of the LSA, including media relations, outreach to the non-member linguistics community, advocacy on behalf of the LSA’s public policy agenda, and efforts to inform the public and build awareness about the field of linguistics.

Brice has several years of experience assisting science and education-focused organizations with communications and outreach.  He received his M.A. in Linguistics from The Ohio State University, where his research focused on sociolinguistic approaches to computer-mediated communication, particularly in social media. Brice's work on using data from Twitter to study regional variation in American English was featured in the New York Times, TIME.com, and the Boston Globe. While at Ohio State, he served as a contributor to the 11th edition of Language Files and helped organize the 2010 Spring Symposium on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sociolinguistic Meaning. He received his B.A. in Linguistics (with a minor in English) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Read more about Brice below.

Q: What will you be doing in your new position at the LSA?

As the Director of Communications, I'll be helping the LSA reach out to a variety of audiences, from LSA members and non-member linguists to anyone with an interest in language. I'm currently managing our social media and press relations, assisting with our mailings and website, and working on a long-term communications plan to help us connect with the linguistic community and share linguistics with the world.

I'll also be developing the LSA's role in political advocacy, working with our membership, committees, and organizations like COSSA to speak for issues of linguistic importance on Capitol Hill.

Q: What led you to join the LSA staff?

I was actually trained as a linguist. I received my B.A. in linguistics from UNC and my M.A. from Ohio State, and I've attended and volunteered at several of the LSA's Annual Meetings. As I went further in my academic career, though, I realized my strongest passions tended to fall more towards scientific outreach and communication than they did pure scientific research.

I spent some time working in PR for a few different science and technology organizations, but it was the perfect opportunity for me when the Director of Communications position opened up. How fantastic is it to tell people how great linguistics is for a living?

Q: What did your linguistic research focus on?

I first got into linguistics through dialectology and regional variation--I was very lucky to take some courses from Walt Wolfram, who was just down the road from my undergrad--but my graduate work focused primarily on sociolinguistic approaches to computer-mediated communication and how we use language on the Internet. My first big project used data from Twitter to construct (and reconstruct) dialect maps. More recently, I was looking at how using abbreviations and other orthographic changes in social media posts can change whether someone is perceived to be younger/older, more/less educated, etc.

I'm not currently doing any active research, but I still try and keep up with the latest studies (beyond what I already do for my work with the LSA, of course).

Q: What are some of your other interests?

I'm a huge fan of space exploration--I think the potential that space provides to humanity is unfathomably great, and I can't wait to see us get out there. I work with a group called Yuri's Night, which throws parties all around the world once a year to celebrate humanity's past, present and future in space. I had the chance to go on a "zero gravity" flight a few years ago, which was definitely one of the highlights of my life:

I'm also a big trivia nut. I used to play on the college quizbowl team when I was a student, and I still enjoy a good pub quiz every now and then.

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

Linguistics is, by nature, an incredibly interdisciplinary field. One of the reasons I first became interested in linguistics as an undergrad was because of how closely it interconnects with history, psychology, English, philosophy, and so many other fields. This gives linguists a unique opportunity to learn from findings and frameworks across academic research and share their own knowledge in a variety of situations, but it can also make it difficult to ensure that our knowledge is called upon in the media or in politics--or even to describe what linguistics is to the average person quickly and accurately.

As science communication and science-based media become more popular, and the value of academic study becomes more heavily judged on its real-world impact, it becomes even more critical for the LSA and the linguistic community to communicate the findings and the benefits of linguistics to the world at large. There's a lot of fantastic work that's already being done with this both inside and outside of the LSA, such as NC State's NCLLP and the LSA's booth at USA SciFest, and I'm looking forward to doing what I can to help linguists develop and promote these projects even more.

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

I think the most important thing the LSA may provide is the sense of unity and interconnectedness it brings to linguists and linguistics as a whole. Because linguistics covers such a broad range of areas, it can be tough sometimes to see the common ground between, say, a laboratory phonologist, a lexicographer and a philosophy of language scholar. But the LSA is what brings us together--whether through the Annual Meeting, our online presence, or just a feeling of identity--to help us remember and share the goals we're all aiming for.