Katarina Starcevic is currently in her final year of pursuing a B.A. in linguistics with a Japanese minor as part of the MLC’s Accelerated Masters program. Her major research major lies in applying Sociolinguistics within the horse industry.
In the MLC ProSem, we work together to find (or carve out) places in the ‘real world’ for linguists, places where our understanding of language can make a difference or fulfill some industry need. Raised with horses in central Kentucky, I’ve always had one foot in the horse world, and now I find myself stepping back into familiar territory – this time as a young professional with a desire to use my linguistic training working in the horse industry.
For most people in this highly practical industry, “I study linguistics” = “I speak many languages.” This isn’t the worst association for people to make, but it only hints at what linguistics encompasses. A hurdle I’ve faced is getting the horse industry to value my linguistic skills, in addition to my language skills.
One way I’ve approached this problem is by emphasizing my senior thesis as an example of how linguistic study can shed some light on industry communication. In my thesis, I look at the public media discourse of the Thoroughbred racing industry against the backdrop of the industry’s public perception issues. (After several high-profile incidents and news articles, the horse racing industry has been grappling with a public image problem and a wary fan base questioning the sport’s safety and integrity.)
(image via www.hoffberger.com)
I have to convince members of the industry that the horse industry has an area for growth (negative public perception) and a linguist (me!) with an ability to tackle the problem from a unique angle would be a valuable resource. The thesis is one way I can pave the way. It’s a practical application that demonstrates how my particular skillset can be useful and relevant to the industry’s needs. The background research on the industry I’ve done for my thesis has also allowed me to speak (relatively) intelligently about challenges the industry faces in my informational interviews.
The ProSem has really emphasized using all our skills and experiences to create the most marketable linguist. As students, I think we sometimes brush past emphasizing coursework in favor of past work experience. But, when you’re not dealing with logical connections (linguist + horse industry, for example) you have to craft your own! Research projects and papers are great opportunities to explore your chosen field with a linguistic lens (search for patterns, test hypotheses, or just build your knowledge base) and become concrete examples of your interest in the industry and ability to apply your skills.