Kathleen Evans is the new Director of the the IU Summer Language Workshop. She was appointed to her post in fall 2017. Dr. Evans received her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Michigan and previous experience includes serving as Director of the Arizona State University Critical Languages Institute and work in Moscow's private publishing sector. REEI M.A. student and REEIfication Publications Editor Nicholas Jackson caught up her for this edition of REEIfication.
NJ: Can you tell me a little bit about your personal and academic background?
KE: I grew up outside Boston and studied German and Russian as an undergrad, which is often referred to as the “Cold War Combo." After graduation, I spent a few years in Germany working on my language studies before attending graduate school in Linguistics at the University of Michigan, which included more time studying in Germany. It was completely by accident that I found myself living in Moscow for a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. I managed to get a job in private industry, where I was hired for a position in publishing. I worked for a string of Russian companies as they attempted to negotiate the change from state- to private-ownership. It was an exciting and unsettling time to be there. For example, I had to leave my first position when the journal failed because their paper subsidy was eliminated by privatization. My second position would have been eliminated as well, but the jounral decided they could stay afloat if they accepted X-rated advertisements, which was a lucrative option at the time. After my time in Russia, I returned to the U.S. and worked at Ohio State University during the academic year and spent my summers at the Middlebury College Russian Language School. From there, I spent a decade directing the Arizona State University Critical Languages Institute before arriving at IU in 2017.
NJ: What initially garnered your interest in foreign language?
KE: That is a question I may not be able to fully answer. I took German in middle school to get out of study hall. I quickly realized it was a fascinating and never-ending puzzle, full of unexpected discoveries and delights. If you have studied languages, then you know the joy of suddenly making a connection, or understanding something that had previously been a mystery. One of my strongest tween-aged memories is that of sitting with the dog and a grammar reference then suddenly understanding what the comparative degree was and why it works the way it does in German. I woke up my parents to tell them about it. My parents did not care. So, maybe the answer is that I am a born and bred language geek?
NJ: Could you tell me about your experiences at Arizona State and Middlebury?
KE: One thing that stands out in my mind is the experience of learning at Middlebury and what it taught me about the importance of immersion training. It was there that I realized how a well-structured immersion program can, for some levels of study, be more effective than a study-abroad experience. I took that experience with me to Arizona State, where we did our best to provide immersive experiences in the U.S and pair them with structured study-abroad programs at more advanced levels of training. These experiences also taught me about learning the difference between studying hard and studying effectively; to me, there is a clear difference in outcomes between the two.
NJ: What do you see for the future of the Summer Language Workshop?
KE: We want to maintain the decades-long tradition of excellence in language instruction and continue to keep the program accessible to a variety of language learners. Simultaneously, I want to develop program enhancements by working with departments and centers at IU to more fully integrate into established IU language sequences. Specifically, we are working to offer new options for IU students to accelerate and advance their studies through the SLW. We also want to expand the impact of the Workshop by offering instruction in new language families and regions. For example, we have a developing partnership with CLACS to create new opportunities for students of the Caribbean to learn Haitian Creole through the workshop. Or, I anticipate the chance to build a partnership with EALCS to offer new language-learning opportunities for students of East Asia. We want to do all of this without compromising IU’s traditional strength in Slavic, East European, and Central Asian languages. Of course we continue to seek out ways to offer student support through scholarships and awards. We aim to expand the range of awards offered by the Workshop and are prioritizing the creation of new and expanded opportunities for undergraduates.
Nicholas Jackson is a first-year M.A. student with REEI and the current Publications Editor for REEI.