Message from Chair Richard Wright

Submitted by Joyce Parvi on
Richard Wright, Professor and Chair

Last year we welcomed two new assistant professors and said farewell to two faculty, our students and faculty were recognized for their excellence, and we mourned the loss of a beloved PhD student. This year at the beginning of fall quarter we welcome five new students and one new faculty member.

Looking back at the 2020-2021 academic year we continued to grapple with the profound changes in our lives brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am deeply grateful to the Linguistics faculty who taught a full year of courses online and found ways to engage our students, with compassion and empathy, despite being fully remote. I would also like to acknowledge the incredible hard work on the part of our graduate and undergraduate students who adjusted to learning online and completed their coursework while overcoming difficult obstacles. Our faculty and students did this from home while adjusting to schools and daycares being closed, while caring for loved ones, and without the infrastructure that the physical university campus provides. We look forward to in-person learning and research in 2021-2022.

2020-2021 was a busy year with many changes. In September, we welcomed a new assistant professor, Qi Cheng, who specializes in language processing and learning, the neural foundations of language, and early neural plasticity for language, featured in this newsletter. We also welcomed teaching assistant professor, Dan Mathis, who brings years of teaching excellence to our ASL program. In June, we bid farewell to Edith Aldridge who has taken a position as an Associate Research Fellow, in the Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. We also said farewell to Kirby Conrod, who has taken a position as Visiting Assistant Professor in Linguistics at Swarthmore, and Olga Zamaraeva, who is now a post-doctoral researcher at University of A Coruña (Galicia, Spain), working with Professor Carlos Gómez Rodríguez at the Department of Informatics on natural language parsing algorithms. We said goodbye to our program coordinator, Misha Burgess, and welcomed a new program coordinator, Kyung Lim. Finally we are welcoming our newest assistant professor, Myriam Lapierre, whose research interests lie at the intersection of formal phonology, experimental phonetics, language documentation, and typology, focusing on the sound systems of Amazonian languages of Brazil.

In July, we mourned the loss of a most beloved PhD student and longtime undergraduate advisor, Jiahui Huang. The Jiahui Huang Memorial Fund supports the installation of the Jiahui Huang Memorial Bench outside the entrance of Guggenheim Hall, and supports students at all levels in Linguistics.

Our faculty and students are the center of our department and they continued to demonstrate the high caliber of teaching, learning, and research. In June, 50 linguistics undergraduates received their BA degrees, many with honors: 2 linguistics department honors, 5 Phi Beta Kappa, 11 Cum Laude, 1 Magna Cum Laude, and 2 Summa Cum Laude. In our graduate programs, 36 students received their MS in computational linguistics, 3 received a PhC in linguistics, and 4 received a PhD in linguistics. We wish them all the best in this new chapter of their lives and look forward to hearing about their academic and career achievements. Sharon Hargus was awarded the prestigious LSA Ken Hale award for decades of tireless work with three endangered Athabaskan languages of Alaska and British Columbia and the Yakama Sahaptin language of Washington state. Alicia Beckford Wassink was elected to the LSA Executive Committee, continuing a UW tradition in leadership at the LSA.

We are all eager to welcome our students back to campus for the 2021-2022 school year!