The text below comes from a story from the Linguistic Society of America’s spotlight feature. This month they highlighted our own Andries Coetzee
Andries Coetzee started his academic career as a lecturer in Semitic Languages at the North-West University in South Africa in the 1990's. He joined Michigan Linguistics after receiving a PhD from UMass in 2004. Andries's research focuses on the interface between phonology and phonetics, with a recent emphasis on the role of speakers and listeners in sound change. He co-directed the 2013 Linguistic Institute with Michigan colleague, Robin Queen.
Q: When did you first join the LSA?
I am not sure about the exact date, but it must have been somewhere towards the end of my time in grad school. I didn't join earlier, since I didn't think that I would stay in the US after completion of my PhD. Knowing what I do now, I would have joined earlier and remained a member, even if didn't stay in the US. (More on this below.)
Q: Can you briefly describe your involvement with the LSA during the time you’ve been a member?
I've been quite involved over the past few years, and have gained much from the experience. My colleague Robin Queen and I co-directed the 2013 Linguistic Institute, hosted at the University of Michigan. Directing the Institute remains one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had in my career. As an current/former Institute director, I serve on the Committee for Linguistic Institute Fellowships, and I will chair this committee for the 2015 Chicago Institute. This committee reads all of the many applications for Institute fellowships -- another rewarding (even if time-consuming) job. Reading the hundreds of applications from promising up-and-coming linguists reaffirms one's beliefs in the future of this discipline. I have also just started a three-year term on the Program Committee, and I look forward to contributing to the content of the Annual Meetings as part of this committee.
Q: What motivated you to join the Society and to continue or expand your involvement with it?
As a grad student, I didn't understand what membership of the LSA really means. I therefore only joined when I was ready to go on the job market, which meant that I had to attend the Annual Meeting for job interviews. Very soon upon joining, however, I realized the value of being a member of this organization. Even though I was student in a reasonably sized department (UMass) and even though I am now a faculty member in a similarly sized department (Michigan), the community that is provided by membership of the LSA is invaluable to me. That is where I get the opportunity to interact with other scholars who share my exact interests. But that is also where I get to experience the breadth of our field, and where I am challenged to step outside my own little domain.
I opted to become more involved because I wanted to make sure that others realize the benefit of membership of the LSA. This idea is also what motivated the choices I have made for how to get involved. Directing an Institute is one the most durict ways in which the LSA reaches out to students. Since I didn't realize what the LSA could offer me when I was still a student, I wanted to make sure that the message reaches current students. Serving on the Program Committee will similarly give me an opportunity to contribute to one of the LSA's activities that impacts most of its members -- the Annual Meeting. I firmly believe in the value of the LSA, and I try to contribute in ways that will communicate the value of membership more widely.
Q: What in your opinion is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?
The LSA provides us with a community of like-minded people. Given the number of linguists isolated in language departments, this is of great value to many. However, even for those of us in fairly large linguistics departments, this community is important. It is the place where we meet others that share our interests, and where we find new unexpected interests. I believe that the LSA can be of great service to linguists elsewhere in the world too. I started my academic career at a small regional university in South Africa. Had I known about the LSA back then, I would have felt much less isolated and more supported. One dream I have is to increase awareness (and membership) of the LSA in my home country of South Africa, and beyond.