Dr. Shenika Hankerson is an Assistant Professor of Language, Literacy, and Social Inquiry in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland-College Park. Her research explores the relationship between writing instruction and writing outcomes for African American Language (AAL)-speaking students in college writing, with a special interest in the opportunities that are created through Afrocentric, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive writing pedagogies. She has published or forthcoming work in Language Arts Journal of Michigan and Talking Back: Senior Scholars Deliberate the Past, Present, and Future of Writing Studies.

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? 

I joined LSA in 2015 or 2016 while I was in graduate school. 

How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined? 

I am honored to currently serve as the Senior Co-Chair for the Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics (CEDL). CEDL’s aim is to promote racial and ethnic diversity in linguistics. The work of the Committee includes, but is not limited to: exploring issues related to linguistic diversity and equity, and suggesting ways in which LSA can serve the interests of racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse populations. 

What are you currently researching/working on?

My current research has two strands: (1) examining the ways in which college writing educators develop dispositions toward AAL equity and justice, and (2) examining the ways in which anti-racist practices influence the writing opportunities, experiences, and outcomes of African American Language (AAL)-speakers in college writing. I am currently preparing two manuscripts associated with ongoing and completed research within these two strands. Both manuscripts seek to combat anti-Black racism and promote greater equity, justice, progression, and success for AAL speakers in college writing education in particular and K-12 writing education more generally.

I am also the Principal Investigator and Director of RISE: Research Institute for Scholars in Education. RISE, funded through a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES), is designed to prepare underrepresented minoritized undergraduates with research and career development training in language and literacy. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a talented postdoctoral research scholar, Dr. Megan Stump. Currently, we are preparing research material associated with this grant.  

What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

I have many favorites! Some of my staples are Talkin and Testifyin (Geneva Smitherman), Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English (John Rickford & Russell Rickford), The Sociology of African American Language (Charles DeBose), African American Literacies Unleashed: Vernacular English and the Composition Classroom (Arnetha Ball & Ted Lardner), and African American Literacies (Elaine Richardson). These are the texts that I continuously reference when researching and writing for their accessible, enlightening, and comprehensive contribution to the understanding of AAL. I also use We do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom (Anne H Charity Hudley & Christine Mallinson) for a secondary writing graduate course that I instruct. My students appreciate the valuable practical applications that this book provides.

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

LSA provides important service to members and the field by way of its annual meetings, committees, webinars, publications, and summer institutes. I’ve been very happy to see the recent initiatives geared toward racial equity and justice in linguistics. Recently, there were a series of LSA webinars on “Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Linguistics Curriculum.” Also, Anne H. Charity Hudley, Christine Mallinson, and Mary Bucholtz’s article “Toward Racial Justice in Linguistics: Interdisciplinary Insights Into Theorizing Race in the Discipline and Diversifying the Profession” was recently published in LSA’s Language journal. There was a correlating LSA webinar that allowed members to meet the authors of this article and several other authors who provided vital responses to this article. I still think more progress needs to be made toward racial equity and justice in linguistics, but LSA has made successful strides in this direction in the past few months.