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Member Spotlight: Phillip Hamrick (2013 GSA Recipient)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: — Phillip Hamrick, Kent State University
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In 2013, I was a Ph.D. student at Georgetown University. I had gone to some AAAL conferences starting back in 2009 when I could afford it. Even then, when I was unable to go to an AAAL conference I really felt as though I were missing out on new research and new opportunities for networking. By 2013, I was finishing up my Ph.D. and applying for jobs, so it seemed especially important to get to another AAAL. My advisor, Alison Mackey, suggested I apply for a Graduate Student Award, and needless to say—because I am here writing this—I received it. For many people, conference budgets are always on a knife’s edge between doable and out of reach. The award most certainly helped make that conference possible.

But looking back, I don’t think the greatest benefit of the award was the funds. I think the greatest benefit was the recognition. There are a lot of people at AAAL every year. A lot. Tons. How does a graduate student stand out among the throng of other graduate students? I believe the Graduate Student Award really helped. Now, I’m not sure how many people flip through their conference programs eagerly hunting for the Graduate Student Award section, but a lot of people do go to the plenaries, and having the award winners come up to the stage and have their names announced there seems to have helped. I believe that the publicity of the Graduate Student Award was a big part of the packed audience that I had at my actual presentation the next day. Of course, then you have to deliver the goods. You’ve won an award and people are there to see why.

So there I am, minutes to go before my presentation, when two of my early academic heroes walk in: Nick Ellis and Jan Hulstijn (well, I say “walk,” but Jan rolled in on a motorized scooter—fast, too, nearly knocking over the table holding the projector). Having academic heroes in the audience is a terrifying experience. This is your big chance to impress them. Not only can you not drop the ball, but you can’t pass it, and you can’t call time out. You have to shoot and score. As it happens, the presentation went great, but that’s not the point. Recall that I was on the job market at this time. Two weeks after AAAL, I gave a job talk at Kent State University, where I am now a tenure-track assistant professor. The same feelings of terror grip you in a job talk, too. In some small way, I feel like the presentation ended up being the preamble to the job talk.

The Graduate Student Award was thus important in many ways. It helped me travel when I otherwise couldn’t. It gave me a bit of recognition, and in some ways it prepared me a bit for the job market. But the award itself is just a microcosm of my broader experiences at AAAL conferences. I go to AAAL as often as possible because good things happen when I do. I get excellent feedback and constructive criticism, see new ideas emerge, make all kinds of new connections with others, and going to the conference has made my academic heroes list longer—and because of conference experience I now get to collaborate closely with my heroes. I suppose at the time, I thought of the Graduate Student Award as the culmination of something—maybe accumulated work during graduate school. But I see it differently now, and perhaps in the way that it was intended—as recognition of the beginning of potentially an excellent career in applied linguistics.

Phillip Hamrick, Kent State University

PS. When I go to AAAL now, I am one of those people who seek out the Graduate Student Award winners and go to their talks. I want to see their beginnings.

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