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News & Press: AAALetter

2015 Graduate Student Award Recipients

Monday, June 22, 2015  
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At our annual conference in Toronto, the following six recipients of the 2015 Graduate Student Awards (GSA) were recognized for their accomplishments. The 2015 GSA were made possible by AAAL members’ contributions to the Fund for the Future of Applied Linguistics (FFAL), as well as the generous support of Multilingual Matters, Educational Testing Service, and the estate of Wilga Rivers. The recipients’ names and affiliations are followed by the titles of their papers and their remarks.


(From left to right in the photo)

Aziz Ullah Khan, The University of Auckland | The Multilingual Matters Award 

“Unpeeling, Slicing, and Stirring the Onion: Ethnography of Language Policy in Rural Primary Schools in Pakistan”

It was a matter of great honour and immense privilege for me to receive the Multilingual Matters Award for the AAAL 2015 conference. The award enabled me to come all the way from New Zealand to present a part of my doctoral research. This being my first attendance, I was overwhelmed by the extensive and stimulating opportunities the conference provided me to not only get constructive feedback on my study but also benefit from some exciting research being carried out in my field of interest. I look forward to attending the future AAAL conferences.


Dorothy L. Worden, Penn State University | The Educational Testing Service Award

“Inventing the Analytic Essay: L2 Writing Teachers’ Pedagogical Genre Knowledge in Development”

My experiences at the 2015 conference strongly reflected its theme of identité(s). This theme was present in the plenaries, colloquia, and other sessions I attended and in the many ongoing discussions about how we define ourselves as researchers and public advocates. Such conversations led me to reflect on the ways AAAL has shaped my own developing identity as an applied linguist since I first attended as a new graduate student in the field. I was honored to have my work recognized by an organization that has been so influential for me over the years. Thank you.


Sara E.N. Kangas, Temple University | The Wilga Rivers Award

“Divorcing Language and Disability: Educating ELs with Special Needs in a Two-Way Bilingual School"

When I received word that I was awarded the 2015 Wilga Rivers Award, I was just days away from submitting my dissertation to my committee. Hearing this good news gave me the much-needed encouragement I needed to push through final revisions. But, receiving this award was not merely a confidence booster; it reinforced for me the significance of my research agenda on ELLs with special needs. I am both honored by this award and thankful that through it the needs of a vulnerable population of language learners received greater attention in AAAL at this year’s conference.


In Chull Jang, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

“When They Cannot Talk with Native Speakers” Authenticity and the Commodification of Language and Culture in English Study-Abroad in Toronto” 

While studying in North America as an international student, I often engage in an ongoing but unanswerable dialogue with inside-me. Between denial and affirmation on my self and my research, the reception of the GSA encourages me to have confidence in where I am heading. I also appreciate inspiring and supportive conversations and feedback in the Toronto conference. The heated intellectual and personal exchanges actually thawed frozen Toronto, so I felt that spring was coming to the North in this unexpected place.


Elizabeth Ann Hepford, Temple University

“Who are the Translations for?: A Case Study of Business Language Policy”

I’d like to thank the GSA Committee and the AAAL organization as a whole for the award I received this year. I think I speak for all graduate students in expressing my gratitude for the support that AAAL provides us in the forms of conferences, the Ad Hoc Graduate Student Committee, online resources and support networks. This year’s conference allowed me to hear the latest work being done in my research area and connect with colleagues from around the world. My congratulations to the planning committee for a well-planned and intellectually stimulating conference!


Staci Defibaugh, University of Illinois

“The ‘Good Diabetic’ and the ‘Competent Provider’: Identity Construction in Medical Encounters”

The 2015 AAAL conference in Toronto was an incredibly rewarding experience. As always, the conference included many excellent plenaries, presentations, and engaging discussions. The range of research topics highlighted at AAAL is one of the reasons I continue to come back. This year was particularly special for me. Receiving the GSA and being acknowledged by such an outstanding and distinguished community of scholars was truly an honor. I would like to thank the GSA Committee for the award as well as the AAAL community of researchers who continue to inspire me.


The GSA Committee was chaired by Shawn Loewen (Michigan State University) and included Kate Menken (City University of New York), Elena Schmitt (Southern Connecticut State University), Sedef Uzuner Smith (Lamar University) and Shelley Staples (Purdue University). 

For more information about the awards, eligibility and guidelines, visit

We also encourage all members to consider contributing to FFAL, which makes these awards possible. For more information regarding FFAL, please read the following column prepared by the FFAL Board of Trustees and visit

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