From Doctoral Student to Student Services Coordinator, Jennifer Nguyen is a Wolverine Through and Through
Jennifer Nguyen first came to the University of Michigan in 2000 as a doctoral student in the linguistics department. She studied sounds, how they changed over time and how that change occurred in different demographic groups; through this research she earned her PhD in Sociolinguistics in 2006. She still retains her passion and respect for the discipline, “the data coming from sociolinguistics is increasingly being used to look at some big picture questions from linguistics like how language is stored and accessed in our brain.”
More memorable than her research were the people she encountered during her doctoral program. “The faculty were really supportive and the five of us in my cohort were extremely close, we still consider each other our closest friends. While the dynamic we had is hard to (purposefully) create, the UM Linguistics Department encourages people to engage in the department in ways that I don’t think exist everywhere. This creates a spirit of collaboration instead of competition,” explains Nguyen. One major way that engagement occurs within the department is through the inclusion of graduate students on all of the committees, “this allows them to be a part of the ongoing life of the department.”
Nguyen first got her feet wet in the administrative side of academia when she was a graduate research assistant for Lesley Milroy, the linguistics department chair at the time. She helped organize every aspect of a large Sociolinguistic conference that UM ran in 2004. After graduation, she took some time away with her family and taught sporadically at Eastern Michigan University, this experience solidified her desire to pursue more administrative roles. Very soon after she came to this conclusion she was contacted by Robin Queen and Andries Coetzee, they needed an Administrative Director for the Linguistics Institute to be hosted by UM in 2013. This role brought Jennifer back to the university. She maintained this role for two years before taking an event coordinating position in the Philosophy Department and coordinating two theme semesters. This is when her current position as Student Services Coordinator in the Linguistics Department opened up.
“I love working at UM. I like working with people who are interested in the kinds of things that are done at the university. Everyday, everything I do here is informed by knowing the field of linguistics. Understanding the goals and methods of academia makes everything I do easier. And appreciating it all, I have an appreciation for what happens at this university.” says Nguyen.