Q & A With Graduate Kathy Rossell

Q & A With Graduate Kathy Rossell

Kathy Rossell is the winner of this year's 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?

Several years ago, I was serving as a volunteer ESL teacher in a church-based program.  While language and communication had been long-standing interests of mine, this was my first experience as an ESL instructor.  Through that program, I met an older gentleman (in his 60’s) who told me that he was taking courses at GMU.  I was intrigued, and thought I could try an Introductory Linguistics course to give me some additional background for my ESL teaching.  Although I found that first course a bit intimidating – after being out of academia for 30+ years – I was soon hooked.  One of the things I’ve liked most about linguistics is how it overlaps with so many different fields – languages, psychology/cognitive sciences, social sciences, communication, education….maybe even math (if predicate calculus counts).  It’s a fascinating mix of disciplines.   


Why did you choose to come to Mason for linguistics?

I liked that Mason’s offerings cover both the pedagogical side of linguistics (with courses leading to the TESL Graduate Certificate) as well as the science/theory that provide a foundation for both formal and applied linguistics. It’s given me a broad linguistics background that can serve as a springboard for a range of career options.


What did you research while you were here at Mason?

I appreciated the fact that, at GMU, I’ve been able to tailor my degree program to focus on second language acquisition.  Last fall, I had the chance to perform research among English language learners, comparing their spoken and written language production. I also had an opportunity to conduct research among multilingual students and native-English speakers regarding phonemic sound symbolism.


What would you say about your time here?

One of the things I’ve appreciated most about my time at Mason is how the professors have worked to support students and promote an environment of inquiry, investigation, and independent learning. I’ve been thankful that the linguistics professors and fellow linguistic students have exhibited such a passion for learning, encouraging me to ask questions and dig deeper. 


What are you planning on doing after graduation?

I’m currently helping to oversee operations in the Learning Resource Center at the INTO-Mason Global Center, and plan to continue my work and tutoring there.  Without a doubt, being a graduate student in GMU’s linguistic program has enabled me to be a much better teacher.  Material that I’ve studied, skills I’ve learned, and class interactions with professors and other students have all deepened my understanding of “how language works” and has given me the tools I’ve needed to serve the English language learners with whom I interact on a daily basis. 


If you would have told me, several years ago, that I’d be getting my Masters in Linguistics (and my CERG in TESL), I would have been doubtful.  I had absolutely no idea what phonology, morphology, and pragmatics were.  After getting my undergraduate degree decades ago, then working at the Department of State, and then homeschooling my three children through high school, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of “going back to school.”  However, I’d like to encourage “old people” and “empty nesters” to take the plunge and give the linguistics program a try.  I’m so glad I did!