Introduction to U.S. and World Englishes

This first-year level, special topics course is open to all majors and explores the history and development of multiple Englishes in the U.S. and worldwide, including an emphasis on the history of colonialism, the dynamics of language contact, the various influences on the changes and perceptions of English, and the role of English in the modern digital world.

Language and Culture

This senior-level course at Oakland University investigates language viewed as cultural behavior, especially its system, acquisition and use, its relation to history and power, attitudes and behavior, standard languages, social dialects, and so on. It is designed largely as a introduction to topics in linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, with some emphasis on implications for the classroom, because this course is popular with education majors and those in the TESL program at Oakland. The course culminates in an educational development material designed for an audience outside our classroom (like the Admission Office or the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning), called the Linguistic Diversity Education Group Project. Examples include infographics on inclusive teaching for linguistic diversity, interviews with international students about their experiences on campus, etc.

The Humanity of Language

This general education course is Linguistics 101 for non-majors at Oakland University. We explore human language through a series of questions like, What is language and how does it work? How do babies acquire language? Why doesn’t everyone speak the same? What’s the difference between language and writing? Students learn that there are no easy answers to these questions, but gain skills on how to use evidence and critical thinking to engage them, and relate these questions to their own experiences and linguistic backgrounds.

Crafting Your “Academic” Voice: Success for Multilingual Learners

In collaboration with Gustavus Adolphus College’s Writing Program, the Center for Inclusive Excellence, and the Center for International and Cultural Education, I designed this small, half-semester course for first and second-year multilingual students to help them find affirmation and community while they transition into college. The class was typically comprised of about half international students and half domestic students. We reinforced basic skills like writing as a process, presentation skills, keeping up with course readings, classroom discussion, and so on. We asked, what is “academic English” anyway, and what is the history and ideology at work behind that term? How have students already been adapting their linguistic and cultural practices successfully for their own purposes, and how can those skills be leveraged in the new context of college? I usually organized this class around a particular theme. The last time I taught it, the theme was the international/multilingual history of the college.

Resiliency and Rebound

This course at Gustavus is offered to students who have experienced setbacks in their college journey and need a little help getting back on track. We covered current research on topics like resilience, grit, and growth mindset, and discussed them with a critical lens. How are those concepts historically and culturally situated? What can we gain from them? What practices and views do we want to cultivate for success? In addition, we engaged in mindfulness practices as a classroom community and maintained a safe space for reflection and growth.

Ethnic American Literature

I approached this general education course for UMass as a survey of language contact in American fiction, beginning in the late 1800s, up through the early 2000s. We explored the ways that U.S. writers respond to their own historical moments of colliding cultures and languages, as in Abraham Cahan’s Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto (1896), as well as the way they re-imagine earlier moments that still inform us today, as in Diane Glancy’s Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea (2004). We read famous as well as little-known writers, including Ora V. Eddleman Reed, Charles Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, Junot Diaz, and Toni Morrison.

Gender, Sexuality, Literature, Culture

Drawing on my previous studies of African American linguistic culture, I decided to theme this general education course at UMass around Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop texts became our literature, which is a rich subject for the analysis of gender and sexuality. Listening to music and watching music videos was an excellent way to keep an online course engaged. This framing also required me to educate the students about African American English, which, for those who aren’t speakers, is important general education for our future teachers, policy makers, and so many others.

Humanities First Year Seminar: “Code-switching” and the College Experience

I taught one of UMass’s first year seminars, a reduced-credit add-on course designed to introduce students to the humanities as well as help them adjust to college. We used my favorite metaphor for transition and adjustment, “code-switching,” to talk about how students may feel that they are juggling multiple worlds and identities, and that’s ok. We followed NPR’s “Code-switch” blog as our shared reading material, and practiced discussion around those topics, which included education, global affairs, art, racial and ethnic identity, and so on. Students’ final project was to write a blog post about their own “code-switching” into college.

College Writing

This foundational course is offered to all first years at UMass, and covers argument, use of sources, and the cultivation of an “academic voice” that enriches, but is not intended to replace, students’ existing literacies and linguistic practices. The course begins with my take on a “literacy narrative,” in which students are asked to write about a time they had to negotiate between different languages and/or Englishes to accomplish something. The course then moves to engage with the arguments of others, eventually to using outside sources. Students leave the course understanding how “good” writing is about attending to audience, context, and purpose, and not about “correct” or “incorrect” English.

Classroom Communication for International Teaching Assistants

I helped international graduate students at Purdue University improve their presentation skills, including how to build rapport with students and how to facilitate classroom engagement. Students also met with me one-on-one weekly to practice any oral skills they wanted to reinforce, like pronunciation, intonation, and so on.

Dream Courses:

  • Linguistic Landscapes of Michigan
  • African American Linguistic Cultures
  • Linguistic Approaches to Literature
  • Multilingual Memoirs
  • Language Ideologies of the 19th Century
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