Our perception and understanding of the social and natural worlds we inhabit is mediated by language and culture. In my research, I discuss the multifaceted nature of language as a lens through which we experience the world, as medium of interaction and communication, and as a meaningful cultural object and resource. In teaching, I strive to apprentice my students into developing the skills of close attention to language and communication that will allow them to analyze contemporary issues with a critical eye. I was a Lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles (2017–19), the University of California, San Diego (2018), and the Goethe University Frankfurt (2014). During graduate studies I have also served as a Teaching Assistant/Associate at the Free University Berlin (2007–08) and at the University of California, Los Angeles (2011–12 and 2014).
In order to demonstrate how theories of language and communication directly bear on contemporary issues affecting local communities, I encourage students to bring issues from the daily news into the classroom. I often use video clips of current happenings and analyse them together with my students in a short data session. I also show how widely held beliefs about language and communication can impact policy decisions with wide-reaching effects on communities. For example, to my Culture and Communication class that I taught at UCLA I gave an assignment to do individual research projects on California Propositions 227 and 58 about bilingual education programs. These two propositions were concerned with the limitation or expansion of bilingual education in California. Students discussed in their final essay the impact that the propositions have on local communities, how language intersects with race and ethnicity, the structural inequalities that are reflected in language use and linguistic policy, and the underlying language ideologies that inform policy decisions.
In the current global political climate, attention to the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and needs of our students, and the fundamental inequalities of opportunity and challenges facing them, is more important than ever. As an instructor I strive to ensure a successful learning experience of students of historically underserved populations and those whose educational and economic backgrounds have not given them the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. I am committed to creating a classroom environment where their perspectives and experiences are valued and appreciated.
(1) I attempt to diversify teaching and evaluation methods as much as possible to provide students a broad range of different ways in which to bring themselves in and demonstrate their knowledge.
(2) I valorize the skills and experiences that students bring to the classroom, such as proficiency in languages other than English, hoping to disrupt whatever associations there may be that they do not belong in university classrooms.
(3) Content of my lectures and readings address the structural and historical reasons for disparities of opportunities, incorporating marginalized, minoritized, and critical perspectives into the syllabus. For instance, I discuss research by Shirley Brice Heath on how mainstream classroom design caters specifically to white middle class learning styles and socialization patterns, thereby placing non-white and non-middle-class populations whose socialization patterns differ at a structural disadvantage and perpetuating systemic inequality.
(4) Finally, I help students develop skills beyond the content of the curriculum that will help them succeed in college and beyond. These range from how to do library research, structure research papers, and create bibliographies to how to write emails, apply to internships, and research and apply to graduate programs.