Retention Plan

Revised 7/2014

Linguistics seeks to improve in recruitment and retention of students from non-traditional and underrepresented backgrounds. The following sections describe the obstacles to retention of students from these groups, and outline the department’s planned activities to support these efforts. Some activities (“current” or “continuing”) reflect diversity activities already in place. Others represent new efforts.


Funding sources  Departmental and CEDL data both suggest that students from underrepresented groups are more likely to drop out for funding reasons. We seek to meet two goals: (1) improve our ability to fund continuing students, and (2) improve circulation of funding information.  Our department has revamped (in 2013) its funding model to offer multi-year support packages. We will monitor the success of that program and make changes as is prudent.  In the past, we collated and circulated a list of potential funding sources for graduate students in Linguistics, including sources specifically targeted at minority students.   We are shifting to a model that provides online links and information about funding via a Funding and Student Aid link in the Resources section of the department website. New students and thesis advisors will be alerted to this link, to facilitate regular discussions with advisees seeking funding.    Third, we currently circulate information about on-campus funding events, such as the Graduate Funding Information Seminar. In 2012, we instituted a required Funding Proseminar, to be taken by all new incoming PhD program students, to educate them regarding funding sources on UW campus and sources of support advertised by external funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

Career opportunities  Because Linguistics is widely viewed as a career path that may not be economically viable, it is critical for retention of students and improving their competitiveness on the job market, that the department provide preparation for a range of careers in Linguistics (academic and non-academic), and connect our students with people in those careers.  

The CLMS program currently hosts a series called "Career Explorations".  The department currently co-hosts the quarterly Microsoft/UW Symposium, a colloquium-style event that takes place alternately at the UW and on the Microsoft main campus in Redmond, WA, and showcases recent research being completed by computational linguists in both locations. In 2012, we have scheduled the first colloquium talk in which students in general Linguistics can learn about the career path of an alumnus. We seek to host these career colloquia with some regularity.  For undergraduates, we plan to develop an information sheet providing guidance in choosing courses that may serve as preparation for particular careers in Linguistics, including those at the intersection of Linguistics and other disciplines (e.g., Law, Computer Science, Public Policy, Anthropology, Sociology, Speech and Hearing, Bioinformatics).  Finally, we plan to clone and expand the CLMS Job Search online database. The departmental job search web database will replace the existing, underutilized distribution list, and will be accessible (for both viewing and data entry) to students as well as faculty.

Research opportunities, internships and specific job opportunities The job search web database mentioned above will also be used for announcement of department-internal research assistantships (e.g., on faculty grants) and internships.  Students can also view the archive to see what sorts of opportunities have become available in past years.

Alumni networks We will track and publicize information about (1) the types of jobs linguists are getting when they leave our department and (2) contact information for UW Linguistics alumni who might be available to help students build professional networks.  We have endeavored to bring one alumnus back to campus to provide a colloquium talk, focusing on their career path following graduation from the department.

Opportunities for research and study of understudied languages We currently maintain a list of uncommonly studied languages that are the focus of faculty research.  We plan to create an information sheet describing courses in this department on less commonly analyzed languages, in order to highlight our position as a department interested in describing underrepresented languages.

Student life We currently update and expand the department's web page as a portal to information about the scholarly life of the department so that new students can quickly become connected.  This page links to information about (and mailing lists for) subdiscipline-specific roundtables, laboratory groups, LSUW, colloquia, and interdisciplinary centers on campus of interest to linguists.

Successful completion of undergraduate and especially graduate degrees depends on a sense of community among the students.  For underrepresented minorities, the community of one department might not provide critical mass. In addition to promoting scholarly community, we currently support social interaction and networking between students and their families. Graduate students host a weekly trivia night at a local venue.  The LSUW site contains information about places to shop and eat. The “Lingkids” group invites families to socialize in a family-friendly event (zoo trip, cherry blossom picnic).

Links to other organizations We will build out the department’s Diversity web page, which at present provides only the diversity mission statement.  The new web page will link to relevant organizations on campus (e.g., McNair Program, GO-MAP, DO-IT) and in our field nationally (e.g., CEDL, COSWL) which work towards increasing minority recruitment and retention as well as to sources of student mentoring and support.

Flexibility  Our current degree programs (with the exception of the CLMS) are designed around full-time study. We will consider whether and how other degree programs can be adapted to part-time study in a way that works well for students who need work while in school, without prolonging time to degree.

Including graduates and undergraduates in department activities There are several ways in which Graduate students have a voice and participate in departmental affairs: (1) An LSUW representative attends faculty meetings, and (2) each graduate student has a senior graduate student mentor. Undergraduates are given opportunities to participate in faculty research. We can go further, and increase the participation of undergraduates in a wider range of research opportunities, subdisciplinary discussion groups, and colloquia.  Students declaring a Linguistics major will be invited to join relevant email mailing lists and presented with a packet of information or web page links connecting them to department goings-on.


Progress Tracking Beginning in 2011, we created our first diversity report, containing historical data on admissions, enrollment and retention of students from underrepresented backgrounds.  We now gather and review these data annually.

Coordination with other departmental activities We will continue to ensure the diversity committee initiates discussion with other departmental committees regarding diversity priorities in their work (e.g., admissions committee, resources committee). This includes keeping a calendar of diversity-related events (e.g., fairs), and communicating these events to other committees.