At the behest of the LSA Executive Committee, the Society is pleased to offer an online feature introducing the membership to our staff and interns. This "Staff Spotlight" feature will be published periodically as a complement to the LSA Member Spotlights and Student Research Spotlights that we already publish.


June 2017

Alyson Reed

Executive Director

Alyson Reed






What is your background in linguistics?

I majored in English Literature as an undergraduate, and then pursued a combined Masters degree in Public Policy and Women’s Studies in graduate school. Although I have never taken a linguistics course, I have always been interested in language and remember being a regular reader of William Safire’s column in the New York Times Magazine as a girl. Since joining the LSA, I have learned a lot more about linguistics, mainly by helping LSA members “translate” their work for a general audience.

How did you end up working for the LSA?

I have worked for a number of non-profit organizations and membership associations over the course of my career, including most recently as the founding CEO of the National Postdoctoral Association. I applied for the LSA job when it was posted in the Chronicle and was selected by the LSA’s Search Committee at the time, which included Paul Chapin, Sally Thomason, Monica Macaulay and Steve Anderson. The mission of the LSA had great appeal to me, as did the maturity of its leadership and long organizational history.

How do you spend a typical workday?

A great deal of the LSA’s business is conducted via e-mail so that’s usually how I start my day. My portfolio includes managing all of the LSA’s advocacy work and media relations, financial oversight, staff supervision, fundraising, and non-profit governance. With just two other staff colleagues and a student intern at the LSA, I do a little bit of everything. Being based in Washington, DC during the advent of the Trump administration, I also spend a lot of time working on policy issues with colleague organizations.

What are the biggest challenges facing the LSA?

As with many other membership associations, recruiting and retaining active and engaged members is a continuing challenge. In order to do that the Society needs to: remain relevant, provide value, fulfill unmet needs within the linguistics community, and advance its mission -- all within an operating budget of about $850K a year.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Interacting with the members and leaders of the LSA. I really appreciate the passion they bring to the Society, the trust and respect they place in me, and their dedication to our mission. I just wish we had more members, since there has been a slow erosion of the LSA’s membership base over time, which undermines our ability to support the linguistics community in its work.

What’s the one thing you would most like LSA members to know about the work you do?

The Society does many things on behalf of its members, but we need to be more effective in communicating about these activities. Many members are familiar with the Annual Meeting, the journal Language, and the summer Linguistic Institute, all of which we have been carrying out since the 1920s. But we do a whole lot more than that, including: publishing other scholarly journals and proceedingspublic education and outreach, professional and career development programming, advocacy and public policy work, media relations, conferring honors and awards, and offering a range of special programs for students.

How has the LSA changed in the nine years since you first joined the staff in 2008?

The Secretariat (staff office) has thoroughly modernized its operations since then, including a complete overhaul of the LSA website in 2011. The Society’s members have become much more engaged in communicating with the public and the news media about their work, which is terrific! We have significantly increased our advocacy work, especially in response to recent threats, but also to advance language revitalization programs for Native Americans. Participation in our meetings continues to grow, as does online readership for our publications, and we have been able to modestly expand the number of endowed fellowships and professorships at the Institute. None of this would have been possible without greatly increasing our fundraising efforts, and the generous response of LSA members to those efforts.