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Embracing Language Diversity at NC State

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Diversity. The term encompasses much more than race or ethnicity. An accent that sounds “country” or a turn of phrase that seems foreign can lead to stereotyping that diminishes us all. “When we think about diversity in higher education,” says Humanities and Social Sciences alum Stephany Dunstan (B.A. Spanish ’06; M.A. English – Linguistics ’08), “we don’t often think specifically about language or dialect, and unfortunately, there are a lot of stereotypes about language use and misinformation that can negatively impact our experiences.”

Stephany Dunstan

Stephany Dunstan

Dunstan has studied in depth the effects certain dialects can have, and NC State was her research arena. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis at NC State — and won national honors for her dissertation, “The Influence of Speaking a Dialect of Appalachian English on the College Experience.”

“I was trying to understand how dialect as an element of diversity shapes students’ college experiences, particularly when the dialect is one that might stand out on campus,” she says. The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) awarded Dunstan one of its prestigious Dissertation of the Year awards.

Dunstan, who serves as NC State’s assistant director in the Office of Assessment, continues her research.  But in true NC State “Think And Do” fashion, she is also taking action. She is working alongside professors Audrey Jaeger (College of Education) and Walt Wolfram (English) and with Danica Cullinan (English) on a project they call Educating the Educated: A University Wide Linguistic Diversity Initiative that’s aimed at raising awareness and celebrating language diversity on campus. You’ll see some familiar faces — hello, Chancellor Woodson and Dean Braden! — in this vignette that celebrates the rich diversity of dialects that makes us NC State: