Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Esther Yoshiko Liu, GSE ’19

With my goal of becoming a university-based Language Policy & Planning expert, I arranged my unpaid mid-Master’s program internship at the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research at University of Western Cape this past summer. Through my Research Fellows position there, enabled by generous Penn Career Services funding, I built an experiential base from which to discern whether and where to pursue doctoral studies.

In South Africa, I tried on the linguistic anthropologist’s hat for fit – an awkward, floppy hat by design. Channeling Hortense Powdermaker, diving into the process of inscribing community contexts and the full humanity of others, discovering how culture shock and difference are the heart and soul of my field; these tasks of suspending my own norms to subject myself to others’ constraints, and immersing myself as deeply, widely, and openly as possible in human interactions and communicative events were rehumanizing and restorative. They strengthened my intercultural agility and built confidence that I am well wired for this line of work. Through engaging with Southern theory I grew in understanding of my own University’s place of power and privilege, which granted perspective and conviction on how to steward these well through my own academic pursuits.

I collaborated with global leaders in the field of Language Policy & Planning, notably, through working at the 20th International Congress of Linguists. There at my first major academic conference, I was surprised by the approachability of the top scholars (whom I’d previously encountered only by way of footnotes), how invested they were in encouraging graduate students and young/beginning researchers, how they embodied the professional values to which I aspire. I was entrusted with mentoring undergrads and Master’s students in ethnographic field methods, and appreciated “interning” in the fullest sense: My supervisors treated me like a colleague, and gave me concrete opportunities to be (as if) one of them.

I evaluated pious ambitions of South Africa’s multilingual language policy, which grants 11 previously stratified languages equal constitutional footing against the actual implementation of these policies on the ground in creches, colleges, and communities. Outside of 9-to-5 office hours, I got enveloped into the wide web of Western Cape families, and welcomed into their life events, including weddings, funerals, baby showers, 50th birthday bashes, and more — an anthropologist’s dream! All this occurred in a climate of resource scarcity, as Cape Town is limping out of its recent water crisis, and as the historically disadvantaged university where I was based continues to establish itself as a top research institution in Africa. This context accentuated how language differences are implicated in negotiating access to vital resources, and whose concerns get voiced and heard.

The role of language in political conflict and social inequity is often ignored. But within Educational Linguistics, my division at Penn GSE, we examine how language practices and policies (especially through institutionalized education) can either disrupt or reproduce these economic and educational inequalities. My summer research experience put these processes of interactional sociolinguistics under the microscope, and confirmed my abiding interest in linguistic justice as it relates to diversity and human flourishing. It extended my commitment to work through linguists’ lenses, stewarding the great resources and training at Penn to contribute to illuminating the correlative and causal relationships between social fragmentation and language grievances.

The Effects on Language Acquisition in Children

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Breyasia Scott, COL ’20

I was drawn to this PURM project at the Child Language and Learning Lab because of my minor in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies. My minor required me to take classes in the Linguistics field, and from there I became really interested in how children acquire language.

At the Dr. Schuler’s lab I ran a training experiment called the Pattern Learning Study. The goal of the Pattern Learning Study was to see how kids learn language in an inconsistent environment and how they differ from adults at doing so. Inconsistent input is language input that contains mistakes or errors. This often occurs when the language teacher is not a native speaker of the language that the child in learning. In this particular study, children learned an artificial language called Silly Speak in which they would expose to two different plural markers, ka and po. In the exposure portion of the computer game, ka was heard 67% of the time, making in the majority plural marker and po was heard 33% of the time, making it the minority plural marker. In language acquisition, it is typical for children to overgeneralize and use the form they hear the most, whereas adults tend to replicate the percentage that they hear. Therefore, in the Pattern Learning Study, in the production level of the game, where participants had to provide an ending, we expected children to produce ka 100% of the time and po 0% of the time. In contrast, we expected adults to produce ka 67% of the time and po 33% of the time.

This summer I learned that it takes years to develop research and the conditions must be perfect. It’s easy to coerce children to give you the answer that you want but that results in unusable data. Furthermore, I learned quite a lot about myself while working at the Child Language and Learning Lab. While I loved some of the more interactive parts of research such as reading the literature reviews on previous work done in the field and playing with children participants to make them feel comfortable in the lab, I didn’t really enjoy the more technical aspects like inputting data and learning how to code. Because research requires all of these steps, I don’t think the field is quite right for me. I, however, look forward to reading literature reviews of the studies conducted by my peers in the future.

Addressing Gender-Based Violence Through the Lens of Intersectionality

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Zeba Raisa Shah, COL ’19

When I first looked at the Futures Without Violence website, I was fascinated by all the different areas in which this organization was involved. Often, the broad concept of gender-based violence (GBV) is reduced to just a few things that make media headlines, while many other aspects of this issue are overlooked. My internship at FUTURES in Washington, DC this summer has not only taught me to combat this oversimplification of what constitutes GBV, but further delve into the many insidious ways in which it can take form. As someone who identifies as a Bengali, Asian American, Muslim, first generation, low income, immigrant, woman of color; intersectionality has always naturally been a key component of my vision of the world. Through this internship experience, I learned the importance of looking at GBV through an intersectional lens that recognizes the diversity within this massive category of violence.

In addition to regularly attending relevant briefings and hearings on Capitol Hill, some of the projects I worked on at FUTURES this summer included attending conferences regarding reducing sexual harassment in the workplace, researching ways to better aid survivors of human trafficking entering the workforce, advocating for survivors of domestic violence seeking asylum in the U.S., and finding programs that assist survivors of elder financial exploitation and abuse. In each one of these projects, I learned to take an intersectional approach. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace is an enormous issue anywhere; but when we look specifically at high-risk low-wage industries such as the restaurant, service, commercial cleaning, janitorial services, hospitality, and agriculture industries, etc., the risk is exponentially higher. Women in these industries are also much less likely to report incidents of harassment or have resources readily available for them. This is particularly relevant given that women – especially women of color – are significantly over-represented in these industries. For instance, even though women make up less than half of the overall workforce, they make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce. Moreover, African American women’s share of the low-wage workforce is double their share of the overall workforce. Another clear illustration of this can be seen with domestic violence. While domestic violence is an enormous problem for many women, further disaggregated data indicates that immigrant women are at much higher risk than U.S. citizens, due to institutional barriers such as limited English proficiency, fear of deportation, and a biased legal system, which make it nearly impossible for immigrant women to access resources to achieve safety or justice. These are just some of the many ways in which intersectionality play a pivotal role in gender-based violence. Without taking into account these missing pieces, it is impossible to cater the resources at the Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center and beyond to directly impact the root causes of the issue. Thus, a truly effective survivor-centered method of combating GBV requires an intersectional lens.

Interning in DC this summer has been an incredible privilege. Despite being engaged with politics and policy-making since I was young, physically being in the nation’s capital made a huge difference in seeing change happen first-hand. Whether it was standing outside the Supreme Court with signs within minutes of the “Muslim Ban” decision, or attending a press conference with notable representatives from Congress celebrating the introduction of a reauthorization of VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act), I was right there. I wouldn’t have had the chance to witness any of this had it not been for my internship with FUTURES. I leave DC with a further solidified understanding of intersectionality and how advocacy and organizing efforts need to be interconnected and inclusive. I am beyond thankful for this experience, and I know that everything I’ve learned this summer will strengthen my future work in policy, advocacy, and civic engagement.

Penn’s Guatemala Health Initiative

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Zabryna Atkinson-Diaz, COL ’19

Signing yourself up for an internship in extremely rural southwestern Guatemala shouldn’t be something done on a whim but after interviewing for Penn’s Guatemala Health Initiative (GHI), that’s where I found myself. GHI is based in a more residential part of Guatemala on a beautiful lake called Lago Atitán, one of Guatemala’s tourist attractions, there students work with an established connection made between Penn and the Hospitalito of Santiago Atitlán to conduct qualitative research based on the issues and needs of the Hopsitalito. And so, after reading about this internship, I applied. In the group interview, they stated that there were not enough spots for everyone being interviewed to go, but that they also had another site that they wanted to start sending students to but had not yet done.

The way they sold the site was not convincing to say the least. They warned that if you went, you would be the only student from Penn, you would be stationed on a compound, with armed guards, barbed wired fences, wouldn’t be able to leave the compound unless you were going out with the nurses during the daytime, and that the weather would be extremely hot and humid. Somehow in my crazy brain that’s what convinced me to pack myself up and go venture to a clinic based on a banana finca (a banana plantation) for 10 weeks of my summer.

I wanted the opportunity to do public health research this summer, and after hearing that not all of us would be able to go to the original site, I volunteered to go to this rural site to gain the experience of conducting research in a global health setting. I was ready, eager, and willing to be the guinea pig for this new site. For me it didn’t matter where you were sending me, only that I could be useful to the community there. Most importantly, I wanted to be able to learn from them because if it’s anything that I’ve learned during my travels is that learning from others and their culture is the most informative and impactful way to learn.

So I packed my bags, flew into Guatemala city and made the 5-6 hour trek through the rocky, pothole filled roads to what would be my home for the next 10 weeks. Now, given what I had been told I had very limited expectations. I am happy to say that my coordinator, overexaggerated greatly and that I not only lived in rural Guatemala but became part of a community.

My experience there taught me not only how to conduct qualitative research in a rural setting, but solidified an entirely new career path that I was unsure of before. Going into the summer I was still unsure of whether I wanted to fully pursue Public Health Research as a career or continue on the pre-med track to becoming a medical doctor. For over 10 years I was certain that becoming a doctor was what I wanted to do with my life, but after being exposed to public health in my academics and another abroad experience, I began to question whether there were other ways to look at health in a more holistic sense that I was far more passionate about. This summer I got to conduct 47 interviews on mental health, the use of alcohol, and alcoholism and came to the realization that this truly is how I want to be involved with health in my career, conducting research in a community setting. If it was not for the Career Services funding I would have never been able to have this opportunity and been more certain in my decision to change my career path. I fell in love with the research that I was doing, the community that I lived in, and the possibility that in some way my work would be able to support their clinic. Far too many people enter foreign countries with a God complex, the idea that they can come in and fix all problems. I hope that my work this summer, and truly believe that it was shaped in a way that I did not come in to fix, but to learn. And the research that I conducted is a product that the clinic itself can use to make their own change as they see fit. I entered this experience expecting to learn, learn skills, learn about culture, a community, but I didn’t realize until it was over just how much I learned about myself.

Getting Up Close and Personal with Beijing

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Kimberly Batista, WH ’20

Kimberly Batista in Beijing

When I first arrived, it seemed neither I nor my coworkers really knew what to expect for this experience but we were aware it would be a learning period for all of us. Without knowing the language, they weren’t sure how much I could offer but I made efforts to showcase my willingness to learn and to contribute. It first started with small editing and proofreading assignments but as I learned more about what the company was involved with, I too asked to be more involved.

As a public relations company, Porter Novelli is involved with many aspects of their clients interactions with the media. One of my coworkers was working on planning an event for Western Digital and I helped brainstorm ideas and set up a detailed proposal. The other was involving a media crisis regarding an action by one international client that caused a negative reaction in the Chinese market so I helped monitor the response and draft a report. Another of my coworkers was in charge of helping to coordinate a conference and accommodate the US delegates that had been invited, amongst them was a former ambassador and the chief operating officer of an entertainment company. As I helped sort out the delegates flight information and created a briefing book for them to have information about the conference, I became interested and asked if I could attend and help make sure things run smoothly. The conference was about small and medium enterprises in China with the goal of growing globally and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the Chinese business culture and different industries. As a global conference I also got to hear from delegates of other countries and learn more about China’s trade relations. The conference took place at the Beijing Yanqi Lake International Conference Resort and also gave me the opportunity to step outside the center of Beijing and see some of the countryside.

During this time, I also have gotten to grow closer with my coworkers. Although I am the only intern among more seasoned professionals, my coworkers have made efforts to ensure that I feel welcomed and included. I’ve developed mentorship relationships with them and have gotten to hear about their career paths and development, as they’ve offered me advice on discovering and showcasing my strengths and confidence. This has helped me not just in the workplace but also in taking steps to get more involved and adapting to the culture here, giving me the confidence to eat jellyfish, share my personal bubble with people in the packed subway, and hike up the Great Wall. Through all these explorations and new experiences, I can definitely say I’ve gotten up close and personal with Beijing and it has shown me new aspects of myself.