Second Language Acquisition & Teaching
2017 Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention
The GIDP Herbert E. Carter travel award could alleviate some of the cost for attending the 2017 MLA Annual Convention in Philadelphia, held in January. The MLA is more than 100 years old and brings together thousands of teacher-scholars in language and literature each year. It was the first time that I attended the conference. I presented parts of my dissertation project in two panels, one organized by a forum in language instruction, the other by rhetoric, composition and writing studies. Presenting to these very different audiences was challenging, as I had to adapt my presentation for each of them. Not an easy task, but a very rewarding one as it allowed me to think about my research considering interdisciplinary perspectives, and I also received feedback from the audience that pushed me to think outside my own box (SLAT).
The MLA is not only a conference, but also a hub for interdisciplinary exchange, policy making, politics, and support for the humanities. Of the many events that I could attend, two stood out in particular. As an advocate for graduate students, the MLA organizes a job fair each year. In that venue, I could discuss my application materials with someone who is very familiar with the application process, but completely unfamiliar with me and my research. Discussing my material with a complete stranger helped me to shape it into stronger representations of my identity, which in the end made it better material overall. Secondly, I attended two sessions that discussed the implications of the MLA report, a 2007 report on the future of foreign language study in the US. Although there were moments in these sessions where I could feel the frustration and sadness with current developments (such as program and budget cuts), I was amazed by how invested and hopeful my field was to move forward and make things better. It was a wonderful experience to be part of the discussions that brought together artists, literature professors, deans, linguists, and language teachers who shared the same goal: to advance the human conversation through understanding and engagement.
As a graduate student, trying to find my footing in academia is not only enjoyable, but also necessary. Presenting research at national conferences is part of that. The MLA is a unique conference in my field, as it brings together young and established scholars from interdisciplinary fields, publishers, and potential employers. Attending conferences is also incredibly expensive. Although it is rewarding to be part of them, the financial situation of graduate students is limited and is often the reason why we cannot afford participation. That’s why I’m grateful for the GIDP Carter Travel Award, and the support that I have received from my program and the University of Arizona. Helping to carry the cost did not only take away a financial burden, but ultimately allowed me to get to know my field better and make connections. Many thanks to the legacy of Prof. H.E. Carter and the selection committee.