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Language and Linguistics Student Conference

The Language and Linguistics Student Conference:

Students Engaging, Transforming, and Empowering Students

In early 2008, two undergraduate students at the University of Central Oklahoma approached faculty to help them form a new student organization devoted to the broader study of language as a human phenomenon rather than a narrower approach to aspects of a particular language and its literature, which was much more the purview of the English Society, UCO’s oldest student organization. Part of their prompting for this new organization resulted from their futile efforts to find an academic conference in the region devoted to or which would at least consider both undergraduate and graduate submissions about language and/or linguistics.

As these students talked with other students and faculty about this yet-unrecognized organization, they were joined by more students from a variety of academic disciplines with similar interests and began the process of becoming officially recognized as a student organization, the Language Society. They had also determined that the main event of this organization be an academic conference for both undergraduate and graduate students and that this conference be as broadly accessible as possible. Hence, the Language Society was born and recognized as a student organization the same week student organization budgets were allotted, and because the Language Society did not exist when budget proposals were due, we had no money, just the drive to put on as professional a conference as possible for our students and other students within the region.

The Language Society, co-advised by Dr. Siegfried Heit, teamed with the English Society, which did have a budget, and raised funds, including an Opportunity Grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and considerable assistance from UCO’s College of Liberal Arts, the Department of English, and the First-Year Composition Program. Thus, the first Language and Linguistics Student Conference (LLSC) was on its way to becoming a reality.

From the very first conference, we have been guided by UCO’s College of Liberal Arts’ motto, helping students learn. Students have been and continue to be involved in every step of the conference. Prior to the deadline for abstracts to be submitted for blind review, Dr. Petete conducts an abstract writing workshop and then continues to mentor students with their abstracts through the submission process. Once abstracts have been accepted, Dr. Petete conducts a presentation workshop during which he discusses a variety of ways to present at a conference.

The inaugural conference included a keynote speaker, Dr. Victor Raskin from Purdue University, and a round-table discussion by four UCO graduates on careers in language(s) and linguistics. Most important, it included presentations not only by UCO students but by students from other schools not only in other states but in other countries!

Since that first conference, we have held five more annual conferences, each larger than its predecessor. We continue to attract students—and their faculty—from UCO as well as from other schools in Oklahoma, other states, and different nations. Students’ abstracts continue to be blind reviewed, and the abstracts of papers registered for presentation are published in the conference program. Originally conceived as a small, regional conference, the LLSC has not only fulfilled its initial mission, it has surpassed it by continuing to provide an opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students from around the campus and the world to present their research on a variety of language-related topics.

Over the years, we have modified the LLSC as each conference is, in itself, a learning experience, but we have always maintained our primary goal: helping students learn by providing a quality transformative learning experience. As the LLSC has grown, we have moved away from keynote speakers to allow more time and focus on our participants as the keynotes of the conference.

The LLSC provides students with a unique opportunity to become involved in the planning and execution stages of the conference—from preparing and disseminating the call for papers to reading and selecting abstracts to laying out the schedule and the program to selecting and stuffing tote bags to greeting and registering guests throughout the conference, and much, much more. Because all sessions (excluding the luncheon) are free and open to the public, students have the opportunity to invite their family and friends to hear them speak. This accessibility has remained a steadfast aspect of this conference and has fostered a wide range of networking opportunities that are integral to students’ professional development. During the fifth and sixth conferences, the LLSC hosted the Regional Meeting of the Southwest Region of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, drawing a number of exemplary student scholars and leaders from the region. Students are also encouraged to interact with attendees who represent an established legacy of academic mentorship, such as the keynote speakers and other visitors, including UCO administrators who have attended the LLSC over the years and have noted that the conference epitomizes transformative learning.

The Language Society and the English Society also very much appreciate the ongoing support of so many individuals and offices at UCO, support that comes in many forms, all of which contribute to the success of each conference.