STONY BROOK, N.Y. – Agnes Weiyun He, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies, and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University, has been named a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Based on distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for the future, the Fellows were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 candidates.
“To receive one of the highest honors in academia is not something I could have dreamed of when I first arrived in the U.S. to start graduate school 25 years ago,” said Dr. He. “It has been a long and improbable journey. Along the way, many people have inspired me, guided me, cheered for me, believed in me, offered me opportunities and extended a helping hand. I am very fortunate to have benefited from the wisdom and warmth of so many. And I am very grateful.”
Dr. He’s Guggenheim project is titled, “Language of the Heart and Heritage.” It will involve writing a book that explores the trajectory of Chinese heritage language development.
“In the U.S., the term heritage language (HL) has been used to describe an immigrant, indigenous, or ancestral non-English language with which a speaker has a personal, cultural connection,” explains Dr. He. “HL speakers typically possess some oral skills in the language but lack proficiency in written communication. Their range of HL language usage is often limited to settings, audiences and purposes involving solely friends and family. In spite of the rich personal, familial and national benefits HLs may bring, they are often considered a linguistic and cultural liability.”
Anchored in discourse linguistics and linguistic anthropology, Dr. He’s book will examine how heritage language speakers acquire, challenge, reject, resist, learn, embrace, and transcend repertoires of language forms and functions associated with complex and changing contextual dimensions over time and across space.
The Guggenheim Fellowship follows Dr. He’s other major research fellowship, The National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, which involved research into the discourse and socialization in Chinese heritage language classes. Dr. He’s work has also been funded by The Spencer Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. He is the author of “Reconstructing Institutions: Language Use in Academic Counseling Encounters” (Greenwood), and is the co-editor of “Talking and Testing: Discourse Approaches to the Assessment of Oral Language Proficiency” (Benjamins), and primary editor of “Chinese as a Heritage Language: Fostering Rooted World Citizenry” (University of Hawaii Press).
Additionally, Dr. He has published over 30 journal articles and book chapters.
After earning a B.A. in English from Beijing Foreign Studies University in China and an M.A. in English as a Second Language from the University of Arizona, Dr. He received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from UCLA.
Dr. He lives in South Setauket with her husband, Duanfeng He, and their children, Luran and Yiran.
Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation has granted nearly $290 million in Fellowships to more than 17,000 individuals. Time and again, the Foundation’s choice of Fellows has proved prescient: thousands of celebrated alumni and scores of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prizewinners grace its rolls. In a time of decreased funding for individuals in the arts, humanities, and sciences, the Guggenheim Fellowship program is all the more important. Donations have ensured that the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation will be able to continue the mission Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim set for it: to “add to the educational, literary, artistic and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding.”