Mary Baldwin is the 2017 winner of the Outstanding Graduate Student in Linguistics award. The following is a short Q&A about her time here at Mason.
What interests you about linguistics? Why did you choose to pursue it?
In a very abstract sense, I’m interested in linguistics because I’ve always been interested in human systems, and language is a key human system. I also enjoy looking at a problem from different perspectives, and Linguistics is by nature interdisciplinary. In addition to theoretical linguistics, I could use fMRI studies, the works of Nietzsche, sound wave-forms, or the developmental stages of children to analyze a topic.
In a very concrete sense, I chose to pursue linguistics because I love working with students from diverse linguistic backgrounds. I worked at a community college for several years tutoring Spanish, English Composition, and ESL, among other things. I worked with students from all walks of life, whose native languages ranged from Russian and Arabic to Mandarin and ASL. I wanted to better understand their experience with language, and I think my degree in Linguistics has done that.
Why did you choose to come to Mason for linguistics?
I wanted to go to a school that had a focus on theoretical linguistics and faculty passionate about research. I found that at Mason. I feel prepared to follow my research interests, no matter where they lead me.
What did you research while you were here at Mason?
I was most interested in researching language dysfunction, local dialects, bilingual acquisition, and the neurobiological roots of language acquisition. I took a graduate course in Neuroimaging outside the major as an elective to help support those research interests. I examined topics ranging from drunk speech to the neurobiological factors affecting second language acquisition.
What would you say about your time here?
I always felt like I was on a journey of scientific discovery with my professors. The Linguistics faculty at Mason didn’t want to give you a canned answer, or spoon-feed you facts – they gave you the tools to keep researching, asking questions, and challenge the current research. I always felt like I was being encouraged to be a linguist, not just a student, and I cannot express how much I appreciated that.
What are you planning on doing after graduation?
I currently work in the GMU English Department as an Undergraduate Academic Advisor, and I really love my job.
As a first generation college student who had to fight tooth and nail to afford and navigate an undergraduate degree, it took me several years to decide to go back for my MA. Honestly, getting such an advanced degree just seemed unthinkable given where I’d come from. Now, after all the support I found at Mason, I’m preparing to apply to PhD programs. Advising and empowering students is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done, and I’d like to eventually continue that work as a professor.
April 17, 2017