Joseph P. Vitta '03
Currently, I'm finishing my Doctorate of Education at Queens University of Belfast in Northern Ireland/UK. My academic career is primarily interested in now relevant and recent applied linguistic thought can improve the language teaching and learning process. In this arena, I've enjoyed some success (e.g. program chaired two conferences, published at a low level, have had some funded talks/presentations) but still have some ground to cover until becoming a bona fide academic. Professionally, I have been active in ESL/EFL, teaching English to students whose first language isn't English, since 2004 and have worked in Tokyo, Brooklyn, Seoul, and Saudi Arabia. Since 2011, I have taught ESL/EFL at the university/college level in both Korea and Saudi while also managing language programs from 2013 until July of this year. I'm especially interested in implementing courses and learning initiatives aligned with the: 1 - lexical approach and 2 - a connectionist (and sometimes constructivist) view(s) of language.
There are three ways in which the program helped me in my career.
Studying with and being assessed by (i.e. directly without TA's) professors who were well established in their fields ensured that I acquired the material as much as possible and this made all the difference in my postgraduate studies. To cite a specific example, I studied the different theoretical perspectives of Cultural Anthropology with Dr. Goluboff during my junior year in a class with only a handful of students. To say that the class was thorough would be an understatement and to this day I can still summarize the differences between French and British structuralism because of the expectations and operation of the course. In my applied linguistics work later on, the same perspectives I learned in 2002 came up again, rehashed within the language context (e.g. Malinowski's influence on Halliday's grammar system), and I was able to acquire them easily/quicker than some of my classmates because of the quality of the instruction provided when I first encountered them. Additionally, the department imparted me with the habit of engaging with literature/prior research in a way where I can not only acquire the information but use it to synthesize my own ideas which has helped me.
The department's emphasis on having students engage with and produce actual research within the social science realm is another positive influence on my academic and professional life. To be sure, the work I produce now is better than what I had done over a decade ago. But W&L was the first to teach me how to posit, investigate, and answer research questions within the genre of formal research. This experience was invaluable to my work later on because of the care taken by the faculty within the department to ensure that students were given a good base in the process.
In my professional life, it is imperative that I am able to positively interact with students while still motivating and guiding them to the expected learning outcomes. Through positive examples, the people in the department introduced me to the way to do this. Despite their heavy work loads and outside projects, my professors always had time for me and were genuinely interested in me and my work. When it was my turn to do the same for my students, I had good models to aspire to because of the department's interactions with me all these years ago.