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News & Press: AAALetter

Member Spotlight: Laura Collins (1998 GSA Recipient)

Thursday, August 27, 2015  
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As you may recall, our June issue included a report submitted by the Fund for Applied Linguistics (FFAL) Board of Trustees about their recent survey and interviews with the past recipients of the Graduate Student Awards. Starting this issue, AAALetter will feature a member whose achievement was recognized by different awards offered by the organization. Our first member to be introduced in this column is Laura Collins from Concordia University in Montreal.

“In 1998 I was a doctoral student and about to present my first paper at AAAL. Learning that I had been selected for one of the two Graduate Student Travel Awards that year provided some welcome support at a time when my financial resources were dwindling. As there were just two recipients of the award that year, we were given an opportunity to say a few words to the audience before accepting it. I tried to convey my gratitude to the organization for providing this support for new scholars, and said that I looked forward to being in a position one day to be able to contribute to the fund myself (a promise, I hasten to add, that I kept when I took up my first tenure track position two years later).

During the reception that followed, many scholars whose work I knew but whom I had never met, came up to congratulate me, including the President of AAAL, Mary McGroarty. My presentation was in one of the final slots on the final day, on what turned out to be a very sunny day in an often-rainy Seattle. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find some of those same senior scholars make the effort to attend my talk. What further impressed me was their generosity following the presentation, as several offered constructive criticism on the work and advice on how to write up the study for publication. I left the conference convinced that AAAL was an organization I valued, and that I wanted to be part of.

Since that time I have served as local chair for the conference twice (Vancouver, 2000 and Montreal, 2006), strand coordinator, panel participant for professional workshops on publishing and abstract writing, and more recently as a member of the AAAL Executive Committee. Among the Executive Committee members during my term was the other recipient of the Award in 1999, Paul Kei Matsuda! I have also attended and presented at every AAAL conference since 1998, often initiating graduate students from my own institution to AAAL, many of whom have served as volunteers. A few have also been recipients of the Award themselves.

So, when asked to reflect on what the award has meant for my career as an academic, I would say that it introduced me to and gave me visibility in an organization that truly mentored me into the field. A particularly valuable aspect of the mentoring has been the models of behavior for encouraging new scholars in their own research endeavors. From personal experience, then, I applaud AAAL for the FFAL initiative, especially in light of the recent growth in student membership and involvement in the organization.”

To support our graduate student travel awards with a donation to the FFAL, please visit

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