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Wendy Herd Graduate Student Support Award


The Department of Linguistics at the University of Kansas would like to announce a new scholarship for graduate students that will honor Dr. Wendy Herd, a 2011 graduate of our Ph.D. program. Wendy is currently in hospice care, spending time at home with her family, after battling cancer for many years. The goal of this scholarship is to honor her energy, intellect, and strength and to keep her spirit with us always.

Wendy was in our department for seven years, completing both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Linguistics. During that time, she served as a teaching assistant, a research assistant, taught full-time at a junior high school, and helped her husband Zac to raise their two children, Breanna and Jacob. Wendy gave birth to Jacob the same year that she defended her dissertation, emailing her dissertation advisers Drs. Allard Jongman and Joan Sereno from the hospital to let them know she was still on track. That is just one small story, but it encapsulates the energy, drive, and good humor that she had in graduate school. There were times in graduate school that Wendy commuted to KU from Missouri, driving 400 miles roundtrip twice per week. Because Wendy worked full-time, she had to collect data for her dissertation, which was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation, on the weekends. The dissertation, which was titled Perceptual and Production Training of /d, ɾ, r/ in L2 Spanish: Behavioral, Psycholinguistics, and Neurolinguistic Evidence was an extremely complex study that examined whether native English speakers could be trained to perceive and produce new sounds in Spanish. The study involved three different kinds of training and multiple experimental methods, including event-related potentials, a technique which allowed her to examine the processing of new sounds in the brain. The participants in Wendy’s study came to the lab between two and twelve times for her experiment, depending on the group they were in. It was not uncommon for Wendy to be at the lab for 12 hours each day over the weekend. Wendy’s study was interesting and successful; she found that training in perception improved both perception and production of the sound contrasts in Spanish. She went on the publish the research in  Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics.

Wendy was also successful in getting a job right after graduation. Combining her expertise in teaching English as a Second Language and Linguistics, she got a tenure-track job in the English department at Mississippi State University, earning tenure in 2017, despite facing a difficult battle with cancer along the way. In 2017, she was also recognized as the Mississippi Public Humanities Teacher of the Year. In her new position and in her new geographic location, Wendy’s research expanded. She developed a fascinating research program on the phonetics of Southern varieties of English, publishing several articles on this topic. In 2020, she co-edited with Dr. Irina Shport of Louisiana State University a special issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America on English in the Southern United States: Social factors and Language Variation.

We are proud of Wendy’s accomplishments, in awe of her energy and strength, and thrilled to list her as a distinguished graduate of our program. But what we will always cherish most and keep with us closely is her positive energy and her sincerity. Wendy used her great strengths to help others and she used her great laugh and sense of humor to lift up everyone around her.

Despite the challenges she was going through, she often reached out to others who were struggling and offered support. We value her as a scholar, a colleague, a teacher, a friend, a mother, and as an overall exceptional human being. This award in Wendy’s name will support graduate students, enabling them to conduct research and attend conferences, ensuring that her spirit of intellectual curiosity and her spirit of community will stay with us always.

To contribute to this award, please go to: https://linguistics.ku.edu/giving

Click on ‘Give Now’ under the Wendy Herd Graduate Student Support Award. You will be directed to the KU Endowment page for Linguistics. In the box marked Special Instructions, please indicate that your award should go to the ‘Wendy Herd Graduate Student Support Award.’



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