Student of Distinction: Julia Whelan

Student of Distinction: Julia Whelan

Julia Whelan is a graduate student receiving her M.A. in Linguistics, along with a certificate of advanced study in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). She is the Dean’s Medal nominee for the Department of Linguistics.

“Her strong intellectual capabilities, passion for research, and wonderful contributions to our Department and the greater community make her well-deserving of this award,” said Dr. Jayden Elvin.

As a Freshman in 2017, Whelan began working on an independent project studying Latin meter, whose findings led to her M.A. thesis on lightness skew. As a Sophomore, she presented her research on Latin at conferences at the University of Stockholm and the University of Georgia, Athens. Whelan obtained her B.A. in Linguistics at Fresno State in 2020. 

Whelan was the only undergrad to work on the prison code project in 2019, where she and four other graduate students deciphered the recordings of an inmate speaking in a made-up language. Their work was presented in court and helped convict the suspect of murder.

For three years, she served as the President of the Linguistics Club at Fresno State, where she helped organize the Western Conference on Linguistics (WECOL). Currently, the club is collaborating with the Native American Initiative to attract more Native American students to Fresno State and the linguistics programs. They do so by providing materials such as stories in Yokuts languages, like Chukchansi, to show students that they can study, document and preserve their native languages.

Whelan participated in a study abroad program in Lyon, France. At Fresno State, she has worked as a teaching assistant, a supplemental instruction leader, and an instructional student assistant. She has been on the President’s list, the Dean’s list, and has been awarded Dean’s Council Funding. She has presented at two conferences and attended the LSA Summer Institute in 2019.

“She’s very capable, self-guided and academically talented,” said Dr. Chris Golston, professor.

“My goal after completing my Master’s degree is to pursue a Ph.D. in Linguistics,” said Whelan. “The two research interests that appeal to me the most are rhyme and autism. My goal is to utilize both my linguistics and TESOL degrees to further our understanding of autism from the perspective of both linguistics and education. I have seen firsthand how teachers are ill-equipped to work with neurodivergent students, and this is one of the issues I am interested in undertaking.”

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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