- Graduation Year: 2010
- Degree: Bachelor of Arts in French
Since her 2010 graduation, Heather Smyser has continued to build on her UE education through a variety of experiences. After serving in the Peace Corps Ukraine as a TEFL volunteer, she attended the University of Arizona for her M.A. in Russian. In February 2014, she had the honor of working as an intern with NBC in Sochi, Russia, during the Olympic Games.
Heather is currently pursuing a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, also at the University of Arizona. Her dissertation, scheduled for defense in May 2017, is on the acquisition of print literacy in the refugee population. It combines research in language processing and the current pedagogical context of teaching the refugee population to discover faster ways of teaching print literacy and written word recognition.
While finishing her PhD, Heather is working with the Defense Language Institute's English Language Center where she teaches English as a Second Language to students from all over the world. She was named a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow for 2015-2016 and also nominated for the Ruth Gardner Award for Teaching within the Writing Program at the University of Arizona in 2015.
Heather credits her Honors project for helping her achieve her goals. “My Honors project is directly related to the work I am doing for my doctoral studies. In my project, I explored different aspects of bilingual education in a province in China and discussed issues such as identity that are at the core of our discussions in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. I was able to use my paper for admission into this program, and being able to explore the topic of bilingual education allowed me to realize that studies of second language acquisition are where my passions lie.”
Heather also appreciated the benefits of taking Honors classes. She explains, “I met a lot of wonderful students and faculty as a direct result of the Honors Program. By contracting Honors courses, I was able to get a lot more out of my studies than I normally would have. It afforded me the opportunity to look deeper into issues and questions than I would have done for regular classes.” In addition, she notes, “My favorite part about the Honors Program was the variety of events we could attend for credit. It really helped me to experience different areas outside my discipline.”
Heather’s future plans include finishing her PhD, including minors in French, Language Program Administration, and Cognitive Neural Systems. She then hopes to work as a professor and continue research on the unique needs of refugees.