Alumni Interviews — Dr. Katie Welch (’03)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Dr. Katie Welch (’03). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated from Baylor in December 2003, but was in the BIC cohort that graduated in Spring of 2004. I had some credit from AP classes that allowed me to graduate a little early, but I stayed in Waco that final semester and commuted to DFW for graduate school just so I could spend a few more months with my friends. I majored in Spanish and took several linguistics courses as part of my major that awoke something in me that ultimately led me to a career in linguistics.

What has been your journey since graduating from Baylor? What are you doing currently for work/career?

I continued on with my love of languages and pursued a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington, graduating in 2009. I now teach linguistics courses to future bilingual and ESL teachers at UNT-Dallas as part of the Emerging Teacher Institute. My parents and only sibling are all Baylor alums who happened to meet their spouses on the Baylor campus, but I broke with family tradition and married outside the Baylor Line. My husband Casey is not only extremely supportive, loving, and just an all-around great guy, he’s also been a good sport as I’ve dragged him to homecoming year after year. We have two fantastic sons, Hunter (8) and Archer (5).

What do you enjoy most about your work–or what is something you are currently excited about in your work?

What I love most about my work is getting to be around curious and hard-working students. Every semester we embark on an intellectual journey together as we seek to answer some challenging question about language such as “Where is correct English spoken?” There are so many misconceptions about language that society collectively buys into without doing any empirical analysis, so I enjoy introducing students to the scientific study of language and facilitating “mythbusting” conversations. It’s also very rewarding to see students apply their new understanding of language into their chosen careers, be that future teachers becoming more aware of the challenges English languages learners face or future attorneys realizing the ways linguistic discrimination impacts the criminal justice system.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

Linguistics is a highly interdisciplinary field, and my time in the BIC gave me a solid foundation for this type of work. I am a linguist who is housed in a School of Education who teaches psycholinguistics courses but also regularly lectures on internet language, so that requires being able to span many disciplines simultaneously! Additionally, the concept of “the examined life” has been a guiding principal that not only informs my professional self, but also who I am as a follower of Christ. One of the best gifts the BIC offers its students is the freedom to ask questions and reflect on why we believe what we believe.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

I have so many it’s hard to choose! One favorite was when Dr. Frieda Blackwell taught us the Christmas carol Brincan y Bailan as we talked about Christmas traditions in other countries as part of World Cultures. Another was when we did a semester-long study on a specific country as part of World Cultures V, and Dr. Lizbeth Souza-Fuertes made Brazil come alive for our class. However, my all-time favorite memory happened in the first week of classes Freshman year when we were asked to read Stephen Pinker’s The Language Instinct. I’ll never forget sitting in the drawing room of Alexander Hall with a bunch of a wide-eyed BICers as we contemplated if it could possibly be true that almost every sentence uttered is a brand-new combination of words. (I now use this same reading with my own students!)

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

When I teach, I like to have my students read original sources, similar as we did in the BIC. I also encourage my students to interact with a text by annotating/asking questions/making comments on the page itself. I still remember being so shocked when Dr. Lenore Wright encouraged our Examined Life I class to physically mark up a text, since in high school writing in a book was completely taboo!

What are your goals for the future?

My kids are finally at the age where they can travel more easily, so one of my parenting goals is to introduce them to new cultures and languages so that they can better appreciate the beautifully diverse world we inhabit.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Engage with the community of scholars that surrounds you. The most cherished friendships of my life are with fellow BIC-ers who became lifelong friends. We have navigated the examined life together through not only 4 years at Baylor – but also through all the life stages since, which so far has included adulting, job seeking, singlehood, parenthood, triumphs, hardships, and everything in between.

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