Grad School: An Interview with Ariel Jackson

Ariel Jackson is a 2012 graduate of Southern Oregon University. She received an MA degree from UC Davis in Linguistics in 2014.

EB: What is your graduate program like? What courses do you take and what sorts of things are you reading?

AJ: It was a linguistics program. We read some theoretical linguistics, some sociolinguistics articles, some anthropology books, interesting stuff really.

EB: How has your experience so far shaped your career goals?


AJ: My career goals are slowly being firmly settled but I did learn the theoretical frameworks that are being used in the linguistics world and a bit about the world of academia and publishing.

EB: What is/was the most rewarding part and the most challenging?

AJ: I really did enjoy teaching, not only the students but I had one classmate who was a TESOL student (teaching English to speakers of other languages) so she was a very proficient ESL teacher but she knew very little about theoretical linguistics, and because I had taken a grand total of two linguistics classes, decided that I could explain things better than the professors of the prereq classes we both had to take. That was almost more challenging than the students. It could have been because I had to teach her higher level material, or it could have been that the students who thought “dear God I have no idea what’s going on” mostly realized this and came to my office every week but she would sometimes call me and say “explain this concept in 2 hours because I have to turn in this assignment or teach it,” and that was challenging. There was a lot of swearing at articles at 4 AM. But once we got through it and saw the light in her eyes that she understood it, it was really quite exciting, and that was rewarding, to know that I really could teach. (I also learned the value of office hours. I realized how bored I was when no one came to my office hours, and how frustrated I was when students complained about not understanding after not going to someone’s office hours. To every professor, I should have gone to your office hours.)

EB: That’s funny. What’s been your focus and how has grad school changed you?

AJ: My focus was morphophonology and I wrote a thesis on Australian nicknames, but I’m not sure if that’s what I wanted to study forever. It furthered college as a “figure things out for yourself” experience. The MA wasn’t really so different from the BA for me except you taught, and got an office, and were aware of people going to conferences.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

AJ: It’s not that scary. The professors and fellow students were very friendly and tried to make me feel welcome. the classes have fewer checks of “do you get it?” and at least in the linguistics department the grade was based on one paper and one presentation so I wasn’t expecting that. Start your papers early! If you haven’t done that in college and got by, they’re bigger and nastier and there usually two or three of them, so really, start them early.

EB: What’s next for you?

AJ: I’m not sure, though I’m really getting into Celtic languages and I’d like to go to Wales and find out more.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

AJ: You’re welcome.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology was released by Oxford University Press in June of 2014.
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