Ph.D. Student Gains Hands-On Experience with Department of Education 

This summer, Caitlin Cornell, a Ph.D. student in the Second Language Studies (SLS) Program, is gaining valuable insight into the State of Michigan’s Department of Education (MDE). As a shadow for an English Language and Accessibility Assessment Specialist with the MDE, Cornell gets a first-hand look at state educational assessments and has the opportunity to contribute to current projects.

“I am most grateful for the insider, concrete perspective I receive and the trust that my MDE counterparts have put in my own expertise,” she said. Cornell regularly attends meetings to discuss new approaches to MDE assessments, conference calls that cross state lines, and engages in discussions regarding policy beyond local interests.

“My growing institutional knowledge of MDE enables me to bridge gaps between departments and institutions who ought to be working together but perhaps haven’t yet seen opportunities to build new relationships,” she said.

Cornell just completed her first year in the SLS Ph.D. program and is the first from that program to work for the MDE. Her experience with the MDE has created a unique relationship with the SLS program and opens the door for other collaborative efforts.

“We are all very excited about new possibilities for future collaborative endeavors among our respective researchers,” said Cornell, who serves as the graduate representative on the planning committee of the MSU Accessible Learning Conference and recently was able to bring on board both the MDE and her grant-writing team for an accessible art exhibit on campus.

My growing institutional knowledge of MDE enables me to bridge gaps between departments and institutions who ought to be working together but perhaps  haven’t yet seen opportunities to build  new  relationships.

Cornell received her BA in International and Area Studies and French Language and Literature from Kalamazoo College. She then moved to France to teach English as a second language.

She returned to the United States to pursue an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

After she earned her master’s degree, Cornell taught in several English programs in Chicago and moved to Lebanon where she spent two years working for the U.S. Department of State as an English Language Fellow.

“I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of support for language learners with disabilities and the fact that many teacher training programs offered no training related to special populations, accessibility, accommodations, or the role of universal design in curriculum development,” Cornell said. “I decided it was time for me to return to research where I might be able to shed some light on the language learning experiences of students with disabilities, an underexplored population within second language acquisition research.”

The distinguished faculty of the SLS program are dedicated to providing their students with not only depth and focus, but also breadth and the opportunity for exploration.

When Cornell learned that one of the leading programs for second language acquisition programs was in her home state of Michigan, she said that “the MSU SLS program jumped to the top of my list.”

“The distinguished faculty of the SLS program are dedicated to providing their students with not only depth and focus, but also breadth and the opportunity for exploration,” Cornell said. “My professors have encouraged and trusted me to explore my research interests.”

The Second Language Studies Program within the College of Arts & Letters provides a firm foundation in the fields of second language acquisition, applied linguistics, and foreign language studies. Recently, the program received the 2018 Outstanding Graduate Program Community Award, which was presented by Michigan State University’s Graduate School. Learn more about the program and the award that it received.