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To SLS Students
The Department of Second Language Studies welcomes you to its program of studies leading to the Bachelor of Arts in Second Language Studies, the Master of Arts in Second Language Studies, the Advanced Graduate Certificate in Second Language Studies, or the Ph.D. in Second Language Studies.
The curriculum has been designed by the graduate faculty to meld the theoretical with the practical. As with any such curriculum, there will be some students who feel that it is too theoretical, some who will feel that it is not theoretical enough, and some who will feel that a proper balance has been achieved. The same arguments probably obtain for every curriculum ever designed. Sstudents will develop their own programs of study with their advisors from among the many course offerings each semester. Faculty and students will work together to ensure that their programs of study provide the necessary foundation for high quality research in the area of the student’s interest. From the students’ perspective, the curriculum may seem a static entity; indeed, it usually doesn’t change much during the few years that most students engage with it. However, a careful inspection of curricular changes over the years in the Department clearly shows that there have been many changes, changes which have reflected the growth and development of the second language teaching profession and the fields of applied linguistics and SLA. Students busy with their studies are often not privy to the sometimes agonizing discussions on the curriculum in which the faculty engage on a frequent basis. In this connection, suggestions from students for curricular change and improvement are always welcome, especially from those students who have completed the program, and gone into the second language profession and discovered areas where training during their studies would have been particularly helpful.
One of the major tasks facing new students (as well as those in subsequent semesters) is synthesis of academic study so that the students emerge from the program with a balanced view of the field as a whole. While part of the responsibility for making the links between one course and another, or between course work and “real life” is clearly the role of the professors teaching the courses, the student also has a responsibility for establishing relationships. Thus, the student should be actively trying to tie together the material presented in the different courses into a coherent whole, rather than looking at each course independently and checking it off as completed once course requirements have been satisfied.
Graduates of the SLS Department find themselves working in a variety of different jobs when they leave our shores—or if they elect to remain in Hawai‘i. Clearly, it is impossible to predict the type of job each and every graduate will fill and the requirements of those diverse jobs. Therefore, in designing the curriculum, the faculty has to make some educated guesses and has in the past and will undoubtedly in the future lean in the direction of the theoretical, predicated upon the axiom of the scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, who said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” An emphasis on practice alone could easily be achieved in our curriculum but we prefer to educate students so that they realize that elements of practice are subject to change as a function of new knowledge and theoretical developments gained through study and research. We would prefer that our students remain a bit apprehensive about the whole area of second language studies rather than absolutely confident that they have the answers. In this field, the profession has many more questions than we do answers. Of course we are not alone; all disciplines are very much alike in this respect.
Graduates of the Ph.D. in SLS have all found high-level university positions and represent the department well through their numerous publications and awards. Thus far, graduates of the AGCSLS program have also succeeded in their professional endeavors, or gone on to study at the doctoral level.
There are many resources available to the graduate student at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The most obvious of these is the faculty. The faculty is a valuable resource—exploit it. The holdings of Hamilton Library represent another valuable resource—exploit them. The SLS-Linguistics Reading Room is yet another valuable resource and it, too, should be exploited to the fullest. Another resource some students overlook is their fellow students, many of whom have had rather extensive experience with second/foreign languages in a variety of places around the globe. The student organization (SLSSA) provides a rich opportunity for students to get to know each other and to talk over common concerns and interests.
In addition to the classroom aspects of the program, and the resources just mentioned, there are other ways in which the graduate student can experience educational growth during graduate education. The SLS colloquium (“brownbag”) series, which includes both research presentations and those directed at professional concerns, is one. SLSSA
meetings are another resource. Listed in the weekly University online news at www.hawaii.edu/ur/news@uh/ are many other presentations on a variety of subjects, open to the university public, to which graduate students are welcome. Attendance at thesis and dissertation defenses is yet another means of broadening one’s education. Finally, the activities of the Hawai‘i TESOL affiliate such as the TESOL Roundtable, the jointly organized HATESL–LSH conference, and various language-related conferences and workshops are locally held professional meetings which could profitably be placed on the agenda of each graduate student.
Once students have completed their formal program of studies we hope that they will keep in touch with us by sending us word of what they have been doing so that we can include it in our SLSletter, which is posted on our website, http://www.hawaii.edu/sls. Moreover, we are always happy to welcome our graduates back and to hear of their experiences should they chance to find themselves back in these Hawaiian Islands.
With best wishes in your program,
The Faculty of the Department of SLS