My name is Alicia Maners, and I grew up in Jackson, TN. In 2015, I started college at Harding University in Arkansas where I majored in English education. I have always possessed an affinity for cultural studies and teaching English as a second language, but I never considered integrating these two passions until the summer before my senior year college. Leading up to this summer, I had studied abroad, taken language and literature classes, and tutored several Chinese students in English. So, when I received the opportunity to teach English to Syrian refugee women living in St. Louis, MO, I was very excited.
After this summer opportunity, I used several interviews that I’d had with these women as the primary text for my senior capstone titled “When Facts Falter: Practicing Reflexive Ethnography when Co-constructing the Identity of Syrian Refugee Women.” This paper later won “Most Compelling Research in Women and Gender Studies” at the 2019 Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) conference. I then expanded my senior capstone in order to highlight the implications of my research, and this new paper was selected to be presented at the 2020 Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) International Association conference. My interests in culture and language, albeit evidently distinct, share a defining characteristic: each tells a story of how outside forces shape our identity.
Next fall, I will attend the University of Chicago in order to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Science. While in this program, my goal is to conduct further research as I continue to study sifting cultural identities and language learning within refugee communities. I am extremely grateful for the $1,000 Community Service Scholarship provided by the Honor Society organization. With this scholarship, I will be able to reduce my tuition cost in hopes of avoiding massive student loans.