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Member Spotlight: Peter de Costa (2010 GSA Recipient)

Thursday, December 17, 2015   (0 Comments)
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This column that started in the previous issue features a member who received the Graduate Student Award and has continued to remain an active member of this organization. Following Laura Collins from Concordia University in Montreal, introduced in September, this issue delivers a message from Peter de Costa at Michigan State University.

“My first AAAL conference was in 2004, when I was getting ready to start my doctoral program in SLA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Returning to Portland in 2014, I was gratified to see how my professional network had grown in the interim decade; having attended every AAAL conference except for the one in 2008, when I was in Singapore to collect my dissertation data, the conference has become the ultimate one-stop event for me to keep abreast with latest developments in the field, make future academic plans, and catch up with my former professors, colleagues and students.

The 2013 conference brought together fellow applied linguists who came together to celebrate the life of my former colleague, the late Leo van Lier. Kathi Bailey and I were grateful to the AAAL Executive Committee for allowing us to organize his memorial. I distinctly remember Christopher Candlin, Jim Lantolf, Alastair Pennycook, and Steven Thorne regaling colorful moments that they had shared with Leo. Indeed, while we reminisced about conferences past, I reflected on the 2010 conference in Atlanta, the year that I was honored with the AAAL Graduate Student Award. On the market at the time, I remember Leo, who was a member of my search committee at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), attending my presentation.

As I look back, I remain convinced that being the Award recipient (one of six) that year helped me secure my first academic job at MIIS and my current position at Michigan State University. In 2011, I made it a point to contribute to the FFAL initiative in order to give back to an organization that has played a pivotal role in raising my visibility in the field and giving me ample opportunities to be mentored. For example, working with Suresh Canagarajah to organize my first colloquium in 2012 enabled me to bring together like-minded scholars who were interested in skilled migration. And this past year, I was able to extend the prospect of mentorship to my own former student, Dominik Wolff, through co-organizing a colloquium on teacher identity with him. At the same time, however, I was also being mentored by another senior scholar, Bonny Norton, who served as our colloquium discussant.

Regardless of format – colloquium, paper, roundtable or poster presentation – my conference presentations over the years have served as effective platforms to birth new ideas, receive constructive criticism from my peers, and subsequently translate those preliminary thoughts into publications. Over time, I have also given back to the organization, serving as an abstract reviewer for various strands and most recently as the Second Language Acquisition, Language Acquisition & Attrition (SLA) strand coordinator for AAAL 2016. Opportunities such as these have supported my growth as a citizen applied linguist, and it is with similar excitement that I take up my new position as an elected member of the AAAL Best Book Award Committee in March 2016. An early career scholar, I have reaped the rewards of the FFAL initiative that is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of applied linguists. It is my hope that other graduate students will also benefit from the host of professional and personal opportunities that I have been privileged to experience through AAAL.”

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

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