The LSA is delighted to announce that its Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics (CEDL) has selected the following students to receive funding to attend the LSA's 2019 Annual Meeting in New York City. 

  • Tynisha Brice, a Master's stduent in TESOL at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Brenda Guadalupe García Ortega, a Master's student in Linguistics at California State University, Fullerton
  • Joyhanna Yoo Garza, a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Barbara
  • deandre miles-hercules, a doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Stefanie Reed, a student at the University of California, San Diego
  • Suttera Samonte, a Cognitive Sciences major at the University of California, Irvine, with a concentration in Language Science

The LSA wishes to thank major sponsor Elsevier, and donors to the LSA's Financial Assistance and Student Support Fund, for their sponsorship of this award.

Awardees were asked to respond to at least four of the questions below.  Click the links above or scroll down to see their answers. 

Questions for the Awardees

1.) How did you become interested in linguistics?

2.) In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to the society?

3.) Where do you see you see yourself in ten years time?  What are your professional goals?

4.) What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

5.) How might the interests and needs of minority students be better addressed in academia today?

6.) What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

7.) What do minorities offer academia today?

8.) Who is your professional role model?


    Tynisha Brice

How did you become interested in linguistics?

I’ve always had a love for words and language, but my interest in linguistics began when I was an English Teaching Assistant in Brazil during my time as a Fulbright grantee. I was enamored by Portuguese, but I was particularly interested by the distinct regional accents that I heard while traveling the country and from my students. Before I even knew the appropriate linguistic terms, I was fascinated by the variation found in the language. Between my passion for teaching English and learning about languages, I knew that I wanted to be in a profession that allowed me to do both.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

I am looking forward to meeting other linguists, particularly linguists of color. Based on my own experiences as a teacher and student, I want to hear about other perspectives and how their identity has shaped their research and/or learning experience.  Furthermore, I am looking forward to learning more about some of the innovative topics that are permeating the field and I’m excited to attend the various panels, especially “Fostering a Culture of Inclusion in Linguistics.”

How might the interests and needs of minority students be better addressed in academia today?

Some of the ways in which the interests and needs of minority students can be addressed are increased access and availability of resources for students of color. For instance, conferences and affinity groups that support these students could be particularly helpful in order to create an environment of support from the inception of our undergraduate and graduate studies.

What do minorities offer academia today?

In academia, minorities offer a perspective that historically have been either neglected or diminished. We offer perspectives that are thoughtful, relevant and important. We can provide a paradigm that differs from the traditional model and be a voice for groups that are so often silenced or forgotten in academia.  From my own experience, I know that my unique cultural background and my experiences has helped shaped then lens in which I learn, teach and view the world and I know that our perspectives matter.  


Brenda Guadalupe García Ortega

How did you become interested in linguistics?

Language has always been an integral part of my experience as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. After I crossed the border, I swiftly realized if I wanted to survive in this country, I would have to learn its language. English was easy for me to grasp, but it was not for my parents. At the tender of age of six, I became my family's sole translator, acting as the bridge between my Spanish-speaking parents and the rest of this English-speaking country. It was these experiences that first sparked my interest in language. I found fascinating how my fluency in English improved dramatically over the years, while my parents' fluency never went further than grasping the basics. At the same time, I found unfair how because of my parents' poor English skills, they were treated as inferior by native English speakers, as if they were not intelligent in their own right. These interests were always present in my life, but I never had the right terminology for them. It wasn't until after my first year as an undergraduate at UCLA, consulting the university's website on what majors they had to offer, because I was unsatisfied as a chemistry major, that I found linguistics. I decided to take the risk and enroll in an introduction to linguistics course to see how I would like it. The first class-meeting was like a breath of fresh air. For the first time in my undergraduate career, I knew where I wanted to be. Since then, I've been involved in linguistics, discovering and understanding the correct terminology for my experiences with language that have shaped me as a person and defined my goals.

Where do you see you see yourself in ten years' time?  What are your professional goals?

In ten years, I visualize myself doing fieldwork in Michoacán, Mexico, working on the Indigenous language, Purépecha. I am interested in this language because it has affected the Spanish I speak natively. I also want to investigate the contact it has had with Spanish and see how Purépecha has nativized Spanish borrowings and vice versa. Furthermore, I plan to develop expertise in bilingualism and learn from Purépecha-Spanish bilinguals especially with respect to bilingual speech perception and production. Finally, I will also look into language maintenance and see what is being done to conserve and document Purépecha, and what policies affect its growth. Overall, I would like to become a professor deeply engaged in fieldwork and not only teach the next generation of students, but also become a role model and mentor to those students who are often left behind by academia.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

This is my first time attending an LSA conference, and also my first conference of any kind. Although I'm not presenting any research, I am still excited to learn how others present their own investigations in preparation to share my own in the future. I am also looking forward to meeting other linguists with similar interests as mine, including those working on indigenous languages of the Americas, psycholinguistics and bilingualism. This conference is the perfect opportunity for me to find mentorship and gain a broader and deeper understanding of linguistics.

How might the interests and needs of minority students be better addressed in academia today?

As a minority student, one thing that I have witnessed in academia is a lack of compassion and understanding from scholars who come from privileged backgrounds when it comes to supporting minority students. By dismissing the struggles these students tackle in their everyday lives, such as financial insecurities and, in my case, lack of citizenship, these scholars are doing a disservice to these students. This can be addressed by providing minority students a safe space where they can engage in their field and not feel as though their knowledge is of a lesser quality than that of their over-represented counterparts. For example, if there were more programs that assisted minority students financially in their endeavors, they would feel more at ease knowing they were being supported by their institution. Furthermore, if privileged scholars did not assume that all students' experiences were homogeneous or comparable to over-represented students, and recognized how minority students sometimes deal with a harsher set of societal expectations, then they would become more understanding and empathetic of a student's situation. With their growth encouraged, these minority students will feel more comfortable continuing the path of academia as well as more confident in their own work, and may one day become the mentors and role models the next generation of minority students need.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

Minorities in academia experience a lack of visibility and representation in mentorship and scholarly roles. For example, I have never had a Latin American professor in any of the linguistics courses I have taken. I have never seen my ethnicity represented in the academic field I am so passionate about. This discourages me from continuing on this path because I have no one that will be empathetic of my struggles with an understanding that we have to navigate academia differently as minorities. Unfortunately I am not the only one with this reality, as it is a challenge for many scholars that come from minority backgrounds.

Another challenge is that literature written by minorities, as well as literature about minorities, is almost always considered supplemental instead of required. We are an afterthought to privileged scholars and our perspectives are often overlooked. It is disheartening to see our work go unnoticed and without merit because of who we are and who we choose to focus our research on. Our work in academia and the work about us as people is important because it defines a necessary facet of our shared human experience.


Joyhanna Yoo Garza

How did you become interested in linguistics?

I became a linguist by way of an interest in Mexican Spanish. The dialectal differences among regional varieties of Spanish and my own experiences as a second language learner are what first piqued my interest in linguistics. While pursuing an MA in Spanish literature, I took my first couple of sociolinguistics courses, which exposed me to the work of socio(cultural) linguists and anthropologists. I knew then that I wanted to pursue an advanced degree in linguistics.

In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to the society?

I do believe that linguists of all stripes are uniquely positioned to contribute positively to the communities they work with and to society at large by way of our attention to linguistic structure and language use. For example, linguists might work with communities to develop pedagogical materials or continue revitalization efforts. Others might work to identify raciolinguistic ideologies and to combat linguistic discrimination. I am most drawn to the work of linguists who have an explicit political engagement in their work. They not only continue to push the field in the pursuit of social justice but are inspiring subsequent generations of linguists to do so as well.

How might the interests and needs of minority students be better addressed in academia today?

Academia in general and linguistics particular is still in dire need of diverse perspectives and epistemologies that often stem from the lived experiences of minoritized students. One way that linguistics as a field might achieve this is taking into consideration the specific needs of current graduate students of color and offering tangible steps to diversify graduate programs with a focus on retention rather than stopping at recruitment. Academic institutions should also consider how to more effectively engage with current graduate students from “diverse backgrounds” and to address the ways in which inequities are reenacted through the labor of graduate students of color who are often disproportionately asked to do certain kinds of work. Finally, professors with job security and structural power might consider how to provide crucial resources and tangible opportunities to graduate students of color. Some of these may include the explicit teaching of invaluable skills such as grant-writing and editing as well as providing opportunities to co-author a publication.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

Students from different minoritized populations will surely experience academia in diverse ways, not to mention the variability of experiences within communities. Still, there are arguably a number of similarities shared by minorities in that academia as a whole is founded on values that uphold the perspectives and voices of the already-privileged in society (white, patriarchal, cisnormative, able-bodied, heterosexual, etc.). One such similarity might be not having enough support or guidance from professors with similar backgrounds. Without these crucial mentors, graduate students of color risk burnout or worse, exploitation. Another challenge faced by minoritized students is the burden of being one of the only students or being the first student of a given background. This burden is often instantiated through tokenization (e.g. being positioned to be the spokesperson for an entire group) and essentializing statements.

What do minorities offer academia today?

Our voices offer Western academia and the field many important opportunities to self-critique and to acknowledge its limitations, shortcomings, and failures. It does so precisely by underscoring the perspectives that have traditionally been marginalized. 


deandre a. miles-hercules

How did you become interested in linguistics?

I entered Emory University in the autumn term of 2014 without an inkling of what linguistics was. I had been guided towards STEM professions in my secondary education, especially through admission to Bladensburg High School’s Biomedical Program, and it was a foregone conclusion that I would major in a STEM field. However, with available credits after signing up for biology, statistics, etc., I stumbled across a course called LING101 “History of the American Languages”. It was taught by Dr. Susan Tamasi, who had been an interviewer for the Robert Woodruff scholarship I was awarded that spring, and the course description mentioned attention to African-American English; I was intrigued. In brief, that course was a watershed experience.It provided me with conceptual tools to process things I had noticed and thought about for years.  At the end of my first semester I declared a linguistics major and I am now pursuing a doctoral degree in the field.

Where do you see you see yourself in ten years time? What are your professional goals?

In my view, community engagement is the summum bonum of scholarly endeavor. As a sociocultural linguist, my research is inextricably tied to the lives, histories, and experiences of communities I am a part of and work with. In ten years, this responsibility will hopefully land me in the role of assistant professor on the tenure track at an institution where I can engage inclusive pedagogy, build meaningful community partnerships, and continue to probe the intersections of language, race, gender, and sexuality.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

As this is my first (though certainly not last) LSA Annual Meeting, I find many elements exciting For one, I will attend both the 2nd Annual Scholars of Color Mentoring Roundtables and the LGBTQ+ Special Interest Group Meeting to fellowship and learn with linguists with whom I share some identity space. The Language in the School Curriculum Committee meeting will apprise me of progress on their front, which I will draw upon in teaching a linguistics course to high schoolers this spring through the SKILLS program in Santa Barbara. More generally, I am invested in broadening my knowledge across the field by attending the poster sessions and presentations.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

The challenges that racially and ethnically minoritized individuals face in the academy today are of a largely unremarkable quality. In other words, of the “old” problems, few (if any) have been substantively laid to rest. One of the many enduring challenges is intellectual erasure in the politics of publication and citation. I often think of how Zora Neale Hurston’s name is curiously absent from anthropology course syllabi though she, the sole African-American student enrolled in Barnard College of Columbia University at the time, conducted ethnographic research with Franz Boas. I would urge scholars in all fields to curate intentionally inclusive reading lists by centering authors who write from marginalized positionalities.


 Stefanie Reed

How did you become interested in linguistics?

My interest in linguistics developed from an accumulation of many experiences. I grew up moving around different cities and countries close to thirty times before starting college. One of the few constants of each move was exposure to new languages, dialects, and accents.  I then ventured into learning new languages, constantly comparing them to Tagalog and English, which were spoken at home. Later I tutored English to students with L1’s ranging from Arabic to S’gaw Karen, trying to learn as much about their languages since they were putting in such great efforts to learn one of mine. These experiences led me to think about our tacit knowledge of language, and its structures, variations, and similarities. I started noticing patterns and wondered how to account for them and how they interact with each other at different levels. I wondered how this knowledge is applied when we communicate and how are our brains accomplishing this in the first place! Seeking answers to these questions, I enrolled in an introductory linguistics course at my community college and have been hooked since.

In what way(s) do you think that linguists can make a substantive contribution to the society?

I think linguists are in a unique position to uncover a lot of the biases (implicit and explicit) present in society that is revealed in how we use and judge language,  which is an important step in any effort to stop perpetuating linguistic discrimination. It’s not a coincidence that many people have the problematic attitudes they do about certain language use and decoupling racism, sexism, classism, and much more from those attitudes turns out to be tricky because they are so deeply intertwined. For example, things like accents and dialects that diverge from the standard or creaky voice engage the listener’s opinions about the speakers using those features of speech. It’s also not a coincidence that  historically oppressed groups are the victims of this kind of discrimination. There’s also a lot to be gained from examining the kind of profanity we use and how they relate to these themes.

I feel linguists have the opportunity to shed light on and clarify misconceptions on how and why people speak the way they do which can have positive impacts on society in general, especially regarding pedagogy and improving our curriculum that needs to continue taking into account linguistic diversity. While there are many institutions doing excellent work,  many schools still fail to meet linguistic needs of bilingual students and emergent bilinguals and many current policies in place devalue these students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Fortunately, there are many linguists working on changing this. Additionally, linguists are also able to better inform our algorithms regarding language and technology, provide consultation in legal situations, and make contributions towards our understanding of linguistic development and language disorders. The list goes on and on. It’s exciting that there are so many people working on these issues and so much more by continuing to provide insight into our humanity by exploring and expanding our understanding of something so crucial to the human experience.

What are you most looking forward to when attending the LSA conference?

This is the first big linguistics conference I’ll be attending, so I’m really excited to get a feel for what that is like. I’m looking forward to engaging with researchers whose work I’ve been following, attending many of the talks (especially the LGBTQ+ panel) as well as the workshop I signed up for, and getting exposure to different methodologies and subfields.

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

Some the challenges that minorities face in academia can be traced back to how K-12 education is handled because in order to be in academia, you have to first get into college. This is a lot harder when you take into account the achievement gap, deficit ideology, and tracking systems, all of which create stratification and inequality in education and can lead to a lack of quality resources and instruction. Unfortunately, a lot of education policy is built on a foundation that includes misinformation that helps perpetuate many of the issues minorities face, sometimes even attributing these shortcoming not on the system that contributes to minorities becoming or remaining disenfranchised in the first place, but on the marginalized individuals, families, and groups themselves. They have to overcome these obstacles to get into college only to later be in a position where they’re not quite sure how to navigate higher education in the way that more privileged groups are, they face discrimination and are often stereotyped, and they don't have many role models who have backgrounds similar to theirs.


Suttera Samonte

How might the interests and needs of minority students be better addressed in academia today?

I believe that proper guidance and good exposure to different fields of academia is essential for minority students. Growing up in households where they may be first generation college attendees may put them at a disadvantage for they must learn how to find resources for success on their own. However, through diligence and intrinsic motivation guided by quality role models (advisors, professors, etc.), we can push for more diversity in the academic setting. 

It only takes one to start a movement. Minorities who are currently breaking down boundaries in academia should take it upon themselves to show the younger generations that it is possible to achieve any goal with the right mentality. Before entering college, I never would have thought that I would be capable of performing my own research and presenting at a conference. Today, I truly believe that the sky is the limit and that others should strive to push themselves to be the best student they can be. 

What special challenges do minorities face in academia today?

A challenge that minorities face includes competition with peers in the field who may come from a different racial or socioeconomic background. It is difficult to build professionalism without proper guidance or the means to pursue knowledge/research if they do not know where to start. In my experience, fellow minority students are the first in their family to attend college and therefore are at a disadvantage in knowing how to approach collegiate activities in comparison to students whose parents have completed a degree and perhaps have conducted research themselves. I initially struggled with finding the confidence to complete my own research since my parents never taught me about research and I had no clue how to begin, but I was fortunate enough to attend a university with faculty that helped pave the way for my academic success. A supportive faculty was key for my accomplishments, but the quality of resources available to students may also depend on where the individual is located or attending school. It is wonderful to see that the presence of minorities in academia is increasing, but there is no limit to growth and accessibility for students who are in pursuit of knowledge. Colleges and universities across the globe should provide better access to the materials needed to support their students' academic interests. 

What do minorities offer academia today?

As a Filipino-American, I am proud to have completed linguistic research in my parents' native language, Tagalog, to share with my peers in the field. I expanded on a study conducted in English in order to uncover universal trends in human language. Much of my undergraduate education was primarily centered on English, but the study of language goes beyond the scope of what may be learned in English alone. My research confirmed that there are similar linguistic mechanisms between English and Tagalog, providing evidence to support that the cognitive pressures that shape human language are not so different after all. 

Minorities offer academia what anyone in the majority can bring to light, and even more. We bring a wide range of discoveries and a diverse pool of knowledge that stems from different backgrounds, upbringings, and mindsets. The presence and representation of all peoples is essential for the truth to be uncovered; for research is a community effort. The ability to perform science and research is universal and there is no growth without variety.

Who is your professional role model?

I can not say my professional role model is limited to one person, for many people have helped me achieve my goals and grow to become the woman I am today. Two people that have guided me to many of my accomplishments in research are Professor Lisa Pearl and my advisor, Professor Gregory Scontras of the University of California, Irvine. Through their direction and kindness I was able to push myself further in my research endeavors, and surpass my own expectations. Their commitment to furthering knowledge is inspiring, and I am thankful that they were part of my undergraduate experience. 

Throughout my life, my number one "professional" role model has always been my father. His profession may not reflect the same career I aspire to have, but his work ethic and motivation to keep going no matter the situation always inspired me. As an immigrant who built his success up from the ground, not once has he complained about having to fulfill his responsibilities and takes on overtime whenever possible. He is the reason that I carry the internal drive to pursue my goals no matter how out of reach it may seem. He reminds me that with the right mindset I am able to accomplish anything.