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News & Press: AAALetter

From the Editor - Planting the Seeds to Grow and Nurture Future AAAL Leaders

Thursday, April 27, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala
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A recurring theme of this particular edition of our AAALetter is one that relates to leadership and service. As you read through the various contributions you will see that the AAAL leadership is working towards ensuring that we all support the future leaders of AAAL. Many of us, if not all of us, probably agree with the idea that this goal in higher education is important for the work we do with our students at our own universities as we prepare them for their active role in our profession.

Given that ensuring that we help prepare the future leaders of this organization by attending to the needs of our graduate students has been a topic we have discussed in Executive Committee, I thought I would take an opportunity in this introductory piece to share an example of what we can do at our institutions. I would like to share with you an illustration that I strongly believe has been quite successful in supporting the growth and development of graduate students in applied linguistics/TESOL at my own institution: Colorado State University (CSU).

This past April, CSU celebrated the 10th year anniversary of TESL/TEFL Advocacy Week! Each year, students in the M.A. in English (TESL/TEFL concentration) come together to organize themselves in a student organization to plan Advocacy Week. The work CSU students accomplish unfolds over the course of several months, as students have to work towards raising the funds to put together a week of events hosted on campus to help educate the university community about issues that affect the TESOL profession and English language learners. The week of events typically begins or ends with a renowned applied linguist who comes to CSU to deliver a lecture on a topic relevant to our campus community, and/or community at large. This year, CSU welcomed again Eli Hinkel who delivered the following talk: "Teaching and Learning Vocabulary for Academic Writing."

It was timely to have Eli Hinkel address this topic of utmost importance to the CSU community. The reason being is that, for the past five years, CSU has been working to significantly increase efforts in campus internationalization. Eli, as the case of all our previous speakers, is not only an inspiration for our own students, but is key in helping us advocate for the work that needs to happen with English language learners to support their academic success at institutions of higher education, such as CSU.

Prior to Eli visiting CSU, who has been here before to participate in this event, the graduate students in TESL/TEFL have welcomed many others. The very first speaker who was instrumental in putting this idea in to action was Dana Ferris. The success of the first Advocacy Week inspired many others to maintain this effort in years to come. Since Dana, CSU has hosted the following, including: Paul Kei Matsuda, Andrew Cohen, Lyle Backman, Rebecca Field Freeman, Maureen Snow Andrade, Fredricka Stoller, Diane Larsen-Freeman, and Lourdes Ortega. All of these colleagues have left us with the imprint of the work and contributions to applied linguistics that have helped us educate our own communities. Therefore, one can only agree with what our own President in this issue of the AAALetter stated: “AAAL is a wonderful, collegial association,” and it is this spirit that has supported Advocacy Week at CSU for the course of 10 years now!

Again, the seed for TESL/TEFL advocacy week was planted 10 years in the graduate methods course I was teaching at the time. I had just joined the graduate faculty at CSU, and during that first semester, I shared the successes another group had already put into motion at my previous institution, Illinois State University (ISU). It was a group comprised of undergraduate students in bilingual / bicultural education who started this concept as they were strongly advocating for issues affecting their profession and learners in the State of Illinois. When CSU graduate students learned about this example, they thought they would certainly want to replicate what undergraduate students had accomplished already, as they saw much value in that effort. So I want to certainly also credit the bilingual / bicultural education majors at ISU for starting something others would want to replicate and continue to embrace!

I hope this example inspires many of you to have conversations with your own students at the undergraduate and / or graduate levels. When students join CSU they quickly understand that their time on campus is to develop some essential skills they will find valuable in their future career. As we all know, the life of new successful faculty members often requires that they put into practice their ability to write grants, collaborate across disciplines/campus, educate the campus community, serve in leadership roles, in addition to conducting research and demonstrating effectiveness in teaching. Example of efforts as the one I have described here offer a platform to introducing our students to the importance of developing multiple skills and putting all of it together! Faculty can serve their programs by inspiring their students to engage in these efforts. Established leaders can, as we have experienced here, contribute to their success by their willingness to support these events. Many of us on campus who have moved to serve our universities into other roles can continue to support these efforts as well. It is a worthy endeavor that will bring much satisfaction both at the personal and professional level.

I hope you will consider sharing these stories with your students too! Last but not least, I invite you to read about the AAAL Grad Student Association in this issue of the AAAL, and ensure your students know about this great way to connect with AAAL! We are here for them, and the future of AAAL depends on them.


Anthony P. Becker, Colorado State University says...
Posted Thursday, May 4, 2017
Nice article, Fabiola. If not for you, Advocacy Week at CSU would not exist. It is a wonderful opportunity for our students and something that all of them take great pleasure and pride in doing every year. Here's to hoping for many more great Advocacy Weeks! :)

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