Pitt Linguistics receives Pitt SEED Award to create an engagement platform for connecting linguistics to the community and industry

A team led by Dr. Soudi received one of twenty-three First-Ever Pitt SEED Awards from the Chancellor. The award is one of six made to the Dietrich School.  The innovative project will create an engagement platform for connecting linguistics to the community and industry.

Dr. Soudi, a Sociolinguist in the Department of Linguistics and Linguistic Internship Program Advisor, and his multi-disciplinary team, have been awarded one of the first ever Pitt seed grants for a proposal to build an engagement platform, and eventually a center, for connecting linguistics to the Pittsburgh community and industry. This proposal has grown out of Soudi's work designing the linguistic Internship program as well as extensive collaborative work with healthcare and tech industry. The proposal for an engagement platform supports several goals within the University’s strategic plan. 

Linguistics has many useful applications outside of academia, including speech recognition systems, mobile development and software design, understanding the impact of technology on human conversation, and facilitating cross-cultural communication. Linguistics has a central role in helping optimize how we integrate technology into our lives. Despite these choices, linguistics graduates often do not feel confident in effectively selling themselves in today’s job market. In response, Dr. Soudi wanted linguistics graduates to learn to draw attention to their unique and valuable skill set as humanities majors. As such, he designed an internship class which has been placing graduating seniors in jobs around Pittsburgh for the last five years. In the years to come, using the Pitt SEED award, he and his team plan to build on the success of the Linguistic Internship and expand the program. 

The team has an established history of cross-disciplinary collaboration that they have been able to sustain over several years. They have cooperated with both community and industry partners. For example, they hosted 3 national conferences in which connections between Linguistics and partners in health, business, education, and tech industry were showcased: (a) 2016 Humanities in Health, (b) 2017 Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Working and Living Together, and (c) 2018 Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Family and Healthy U. 

Capitalizing on these experiences the engagement platform will formalize their relationship with local industries and create a space where interns, alumni, faculty, staff, community, and industry partners work in a cooperative and supportive environment to share knowledge through research, education, and recruit from the linguistic talent. This will (1) increase the visibility of linguistics, (2) prepare students for challenging careers where linguistics is part of the solution, (3) train them in a supportive environment, and (4) strengthen Pitt Linguistics-industry partnerships. 

The team emphasizes this is the perfect time to be launching a new partnership between the city and the University. As Chancellor Pat Gallagher pointed out, the University of Pittsburgh is located in an increasingly diverse city that has transformed from a metropolis anchored in the steel and coal industries to one known for educational and technology incubator institutions and an internationally recognized health system. It is crucial to prepare humanities graduates to take advantage of this growing opportunity in the region. It is equally imperative that medical and tech organizations realize the potential contributions of linguistics and humanities in general to their projects.

In addition to technological growth, demographics in Pittsburgh are changing and represent a diverse set of cultures and languages, which the growing city must be ready to engage with. The expansion of the Linguistic Internship program will aid Pitt in engaging with these diverse communities and will also allow Pitt linguistic talent to support industries as they work across language and culture barriers to improve lives and build safe, healthy, and inclusive environments for all.

Abdesalam Soudi (Linguistics) will lead this project in collaboration with Faculty members Shelome Gooden (Linguistics), Audrey Murrell (David Berg Center), Judy Chang (Ob Gyn), Jeannette South-Paul (Family Medicine). Representatives from the local community and industry, other Linguistics Faculty, Staff, and Linguistics Alumni will be also be engaged in the process to move the program forward and expand it.  


Please contact Dr. Soudi (soudia@pitt.edu) for any questions