Nessa Wolfson Colloquium

The Nessa Wolfson Colloquium is an annual event to honor the memory of Nessa Wolfson, the founder of the Language and Literacy in Education group at GSE, and to welcome new and returning students to the Educational Linguistics Division each year; it is the longest continuously-running colloquium series at Penn GSE.

About Nessa Wolfson

Nessa Wolfson earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics at Penn and was lecturer, then professor of Education at GSE from 1976 up to her passing in 1990. She was founding director of the Programs in Educational Linguistics, TESOL, and Intercultural Communication, and also founding chair of the Language in Education Division (now the Language and Literacy in Education Group), beginning in 1983 until her death. Well-known and respected in the field of TESOL and sociolinguistics, both nationally and internationally, she was as well the first tenured woman professor at GSE.

 After her death, which came too soon for both her family and her professional colleagues, her husband Harvey Wolfson and the Language in Education Division created the Nessa Wolfson Colloquium to recognize her scholarly and program-building contributions and keep her memory alive at GSE. The concept of the NWC is to bring to ELX and GSE each year a distinguished scholar in Nessa's field -- TESOL and sociolinguistics -- to give a talk and meet informally with students. Emphasis is placed on scholars who knew and mentored Nessa, who worked with her as colleagues, who were her own students, who draw inspiration from her research and writings, or whose work represents the same high standards of originality and vision as hers. 

 The Educational Linguistics Division (ELX) holds the NWC early in the fall semester each year, in order to welcome new students to the ELX/GSE intellectual community and at the same time to bring together and reaffirm ties to ELX alumni and colleagues locally, nationally, and around the world. We in ELX and at GSE are grateful to the Wolfson family for making this possible and for participating with us in it each year.


The 26th Annual
Nessa Wolfson Colloquium

October 26, 2016 

Amado Recital Hall, Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce Street

Click Here to Watch This Colloquium 
Who and what is the field of applied linguistics overlooking? Why it matters, and how educational linguistics can help. 

Coffee Hour: 9AM - 10AM
Lecture: 10AM - 12PM
Lunch: 12PM - 2PM

Abstract: Thousands of individuals in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere are currently endeavoring to learn highly endangered, Indigenous languages, most laboring under conditions that are radically different from those of the vast majority of world language learners. These learning contexts are defined not only by shortages of materials, limited domains of use, few proficient speakers, and wide dialectal variation, but by histories of colonialism, racism and oppression. To date there has been relatively limited interaction between scholarship on language learning on the one hand, and Indigenous language education on the other. Concomitantly, despite the massive world-wide demographic shifts of recent decades, applied linguists know little about simultaneous additional language and initial literacy learning among refugees with interrupted or limited formal schooling. Yet these students are among the fastest growing populations in many districts. This imbalance is (arguably) because applied linguistics, as a field, has invested significantly in theoretical and practical development of diverse approaches to doing research more than investigating the relative contributions and needs of diverse populations (Bigelow, 2016). Drawing on the roots of Educational Linguistics as a field, and five years of studies in Minnesota (home to thousands of Ojibwe and ten of thousands of Somali youth), this presentation argues that consideration of contexts and learners such as these is highly productive for educational practice and essential to the development of a robust field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics more broadly. 

Dr. Kendall King is Professor of Second Language Education at the University of Minnesota. Over the last two decades, her scholarship has addressed ideological, interactional and policy perspectives on second language learning and bilingualism, with particular attention to educational practices impacting language use among Indigenous populations in Latin America and Spanish and Somali speakers in the U.S. Her recent projects have examined transmigration, parenting practices, and Spanish/Quichua/ English language learning and use in Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and Saraguro, Ecuador, and the relationship between (im)migration status, second language learning, and school engagement. At the University of Minnesota, she teaches graduate-level courses in sociolinguistics, language policy, language research methods, and language education and also coordinate the undergraduate TESL minor.

Past Speakers


Kendall King

Professor of Second Language Education, University of Minnesota

Who and What is the field of Applied Linguistics overlooking? Why it matters, and how educational linguistics can help

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Professor, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University

Curricularizing Language: Unexamined Assumptions and Interacting Mechanisms

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Marcyliena Morgan

Professor, Department of African & African American Studies, Harvard University & Executive Director, Hiphop Archive

The Compliment as a Social Strategy: Speech Genres and Hustle in Hiphop

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Angela Creese

Professor, Professor of Educational Linguistics, University of Birmingham (UK)

Beyond the Multilingual Moment: Perspectives on Competence in Language Teaching and Learning

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Ofelia Garcia

Professor, Urban Education & Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature and Languages, City University of New York

Languaging, Identifying and Schooling: Global Perspectives

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Awad Ibrahim

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa

One Is Not Born Black (?): Race, Language, and the Semiotic of (Hip-Hop) Identity

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Diane Larsen-Freeman

Professor of Education and Linguistics, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor “Language and Language Development as Complex, Dynamic Systems”


Dr. Elaine Tarone

Professor in the Second Language Studies, University of Minnesota.

"Alphabetic Literacy Level and Oral L2 Processing."


Valerie S. Jakar

Lecturer in Sociolinguistics/ Applied Language Studies at the David Yellin Academic College of Education, Jerusalem, Israel
"Effecting change while maintaining identity: The challenges of TESOL"

Click Here to Watch This Colloquium