Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Department of Linguistics recognizes the value that diverse perspectives can bring to our departmental culture and to the academic community, more broadly. Accordingly, we are committed to improving our recruitment and retention of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff from groups that are historically underrepresented in our department and field, including (but not restricted to): speakers of endangered languages and the descendants of such speakers, speakers of stigmatized linguistic varieties, Deaf, DeafBlind and hearing speakers of signed languages.

We believe that linguistic scholarship cannot be successful without participation from scholars of diverse backgrounds and without focus on diverse language varieties and situations of language use. This is because the field includes central foci on the human capacity for language and the ways in with language and attitudes interact with social structures, including systems of oppression.Thus we can only succeed with participation by people with diverse lived experiences of the linguistic reflexes of systems of oppression and connections to diverse language families, diverse language types, and diverse settings of linguistic activity.


Our department has recently made progress toward its diversity goals in the following areas.

Structural Changes:

  • We have a standing diversity committee consisting of at least 3 faculty members, a staff member and a graduate student representative.
  • Our ‘Anti-Racism Statement’ lists concrete steps we have taken and commitments we have made to attain our goals.
  • We established the American Sign Language (ASL) program, now with 3 full-time faculty, which offers a minor in ASL and courses in Deaf studies and culture.
  • We have added a diversity, equity and inclusion metric to annual merit reviews for all faculty members.
  • The added flexibility of our Professional Master’s Program in Computational Linguistics (CLMS program) (e.g., online, in-person, part-time, full-time) has increased the diversity of students in our department.
  • We committed to hosting at least one speaker each year to speak on racism and inclusion in academia and in linguistics and to amplify diverse voices in our field.

Research and Teaching

Our faculty and students engage in research on underrepresented, minority and stigmatized language varieties, and on how to address systemic bias in linguistics research as a whole. Some representative examples include:

  • Faculty research, such as:
    • Prof. Emily M. Bender’s work on ethics in big data AI systems.
    • Prof. Qi Cheng’s work on early language deprivation and sign language development among deaf individuals.
    • Prof. Betsy Evans’s work on perceptual dialectology.
    • Prof. Sharon Hargus’s work with Indigenous communities in North America.
    • Prof. Myriam Lapierre’s work with Indigenous communities in South America.
    • Prof. Alicia Wassink’s work on racial bias in speech recognition systems and variation and change in linguistic varieties of speech used in understudied communities.
    • Prof. Richard Wright’s work on describing the phonetics of endangered and under-described languages.
    • Prof. Fei Xia’s computational linguistics work on collecting and creating resources for low-resource languages
  • Graduate student research, including doctoral dissertations, has focused on topics such as: the social impacts of natural language processing, data bias and inclusion, ethnocentric and sexist biases against second language Mandarin speakers, language attitudes in languages other than English, attitudes and preferences of indigenous communities regarding developing language technology for their heritage language, the influence of gender identity and a person’s generation on acceptance of singular pronoun they.
  • Work by departmental labs, brown bags, and round tables (e.g., “Collecting and using race and ethnicity information in linguistic studies” by Squizzero et al., 2021, members of the Sociolinguistics Brown Bag).


Our curriculum incorporates DEI at both the graduate and the undergraduate level. 

  • We have developed and regularly offer several courses that focus on diversity, such as LING 233 (Introduction to Language and Society), LING 234 (Language and Diversity), LING 432 (Sociolinguistics 1), LING 458 (Language and Gender), LING 470 (Discourse: Analyzing Talk and Texts), and ASL 305 Introduction to Deaf Culture.
  • Our ASL program regularly incorporates topics, invited speakers, and curricular activities related to LGBTQIA identity, Black ASL, and the DeafBlind community.
  • Our graduate seminars have addressed DEI issues (e.g., Naja Ferjan Ramírez’s seminar on ‘Race, Ethics, and Diversity in the Science of Language Development’, Emily M. Bender’s seminar on ‘Societal Impacts of Natural Language Processing’). 
  • Our annual Fall TA training workshop for new and continuing graduate TA’s regularly includes sessions on reducing barriers, fostering inclusion, and dealing with micro-aggressions in the classroom.
  • In 2021, we started offering a  Pro-Seminar series (a year-long course required of our first-year graduate cohort), developed by Naomi Tachikawa Shapiro. Topics include addressing anti-racist practices in research/teaching and raising awareness around imposter syndrome, which is known to affect underrepresented groups disproportionately.

Outreach, Recruitment and Retention

We work towards recruiting a more diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate level:

  • We recruit UGs into the Linguistics major and minor primarily through 200 level classes. 
  • We have advertised LING 233 (Introduction to Language and Society) to specific groups, e.g. the Black Students Union, to encourage enrollment of members of those groups.
  • In Fall 2021, Naja Ferjan Ramírez taught an undergraduate course for the Humanities First initiative for incoming first-year students on how childhood poverty, racial, and socioeconomic disparities affect infant brain and language development.
  • The Diversity Committee is studying other ways to recruit and retain more under-represented minorities (URMs) into our majors, such as advertising our courses with UW’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity.
  • We voted to eliminate GRE scores from the requirements for application to the graduate program, out of concern that the GRE puts URMs at a disadvantage.
  • We established the Linguistics Award in Diversity Scholarship  and the Ryan Neale Cross Memorial Fellowship to support assistive technology in linguistics.
  • We apply for Graduate Student Equity and Excellence (GSEE) fellowships from the Graduate School. These fellowships help us make more attractive offers to PhD applicants from underrepresented groups.
  • Members of our department, along with other campus members, have started a Linguistic bias working group.

Here are additional links to diversity-related resources for current and prospective students.

Department-Internal Resources:

UW-Wide Resources:

Professional Resources: