Q&A with Graduate Liz Pratt

Liz PrattLiz Pratt is the 2018 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?
Originally, I began coursework for the Teaching English as a Second Language Graduate Certificate in order to teach ESL classes. Studying the science of language proved to be so enjoyable that I changed my master's program to linguistics.  In delving into the fundamental building blocks of language, linguistics answers many questions like why people speak and write the way they do. Whereas the poet might create a gorgeous masterpiece with language, the linguist comes along and analyzes why those words are beautiful. But more than that, using the scientific method to uncover the mysteries of language will continue to provide opportunities for people of all languages to communicate better with each other. This cultural exchange is another of the many facets of linguistics that I enjoy!

Why did you choose to come to Mason for linguistics?
I grew up in northern Virginia, so I am familiar with GMU's good reputation in the DC area and knew that it would be easier to find a job if I earned my master's degree here. Plus, I needed the flexibility the program offered. As a mother who was homeschooling all 5 of my children when I began the program, I needed the allotted six years to finish. But GMU offered more than just an accommodating schedule. Since I was about to reenter the job market after being at home with my children, I knew that GMU would prepare me with what I needed to know as I began a new career. 

What did you research while you were here at Mason?
My most interesting research was on the passive voice. While most might see this verb form as merely a grammar exercise or something to avoid in their writing, research shows the bias people have towards word order. Yes, word order! I studied how crimes reported in the passive voice can reinforce victim blaming since English speakers tend to give agency to the subject of a sentence. With such consequences, the study of syntax becomes even more important!

What would you say about your time here?
When I began studying at GMU, I was in the middle of a divorce and feeling very overwhelmed in my life. At first, completing a master's degree seemed far-fetched. I even began the program as a non-degree student because I did not know if I could complete all of the coursework due to my responsibilities. However, with each completed assignment, my confidence in my skills and myself grew. The support I received from the professors and my classmates encouraged me to finish to the end. 

What are you planning on doing after graduation?
More schoolwork! I was accepted in the state of Virginia's EducateVa program which trains professionals to become teachers through an accelerated course that leads to a teaching license. With that certification, I can teach high school ESL English classes in the same public school system that my children now attend. Until I get that license, I am teaching college ESL classes at VA Tech's Language and Cultural Institute as well as Northern Virginia Community College.