Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Linguistics Ph.D. Student and Professional Development Peer Advisor Shawn Warner-Garcia
It was probably inevitable that Shawn Warner-Garcia would pursue an education in a communication-related field. Shawn’s mother is a speech pathologist and her father is a journalist. Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, she had many opportunities to travel with her family and her church, “which has cultivated my respect and enthusiasm for cultural and linguistic diversity,” she said. She is also a performer, classically trained as a vocal musician. Shawn calls upon all of these skills and passions in her roles as a UCSB 5th-year Linguistics Ph.D. student and the Graduate Division’s new Professional Development Peer.
After graduating from high school, Shawn left the Sunshine State and moved to the Lone Star State, where she earned two degrees from two Texas universities: a BA in Language and Linguistics from Baylor University in Waco, and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin.
When she moved to Texas she didn’t know a soul, but she soon met “some of the most wonderful friends and mentors.” Texans, she said on her website, “really do have a special brand of genuineness and camaraderie.”
She ended up marrying “one of those amazing Texans,” Jonathan Garcia, who she says has been “incredibly supportive” as she pursues her Linguistics studies, specializing in Sociocultural Linguistics with interdisciplinary emphases in Language, Interaction, and Social Organization; Applied Linguistics; and Feminist Studies. The couple live with their 8-month-old son Austin in UCSB Family Student Housing.
In this column, Shawn shares details of her research; how she has dealt with graduate school life; who has been a source of motivation for her; her greatest accomplishment; and more.
Tell us a little about your research.
My research is on issues of language, gender, and sexuality in Christian contexts. I chose this topic because it combines many of the things that I am passionate about: linguistic analysis, social justice, equality and diversity, and religion and spirituality. I hope to be able to shed light on the ways in which contemporary Christians are forging new identities and ideologies about issues of gender and sexuality.
What has graduate student life been like for you?
I have really enjoyed the ebb and flow of graduate student life. There have been seasons of feverish activity – when I am taking lots of classes, attending lots of workshops, going to lots of conferences. And then there have been seasons of purposeful pulling back – when I travel during the school breaks, when I gave birth to my son last fall, when I enjoy leisure activities with friends and family on the weekend. Finding a balance between working at a high level and enjoying people and experiences are really important for me as a graduate student. It’s not always easy to do, and I’m constantly having to make adjustments, but it helps me build a lifestyle that is both fulfilling and sustainable.
Is there any particular event that had a big impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?
Such deep questions! I suppose I can briefly talk about what made me decide to go to grad school and pursue a career in academia. I was sitting in one of my linguistics classes as a junior at Baylor, and I looked at my professor, Dr. Clay Butler, and thought to myself, “I want his job. I want to teach and research and mentor in all the ways that I see him being successful.”
What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?
My husband, Jonathan, has been incredibly supportive of me in everything that I’ve done, but particularly in my pursuit of a career in academia. He really is the best partner and friend I could ever ask for. When he pursues his passions like theology, politics, and fitness, it inspires me to pursue my passions.
Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.
For the last four years, I have been proud to be a part of SKILLS (School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society), which is an academic outreach program that brings linguistics curriculum into Santa Barbara County high schools. The program encourages high school students to see themselves as researchers and experts in their own cultural and linguistic heritage. The students are introduced to college-level materials and mentored by UCSB undergraduate and graduate students throughout the program. I have alternately served as a curriculum consultant and program coordinator for SKILLS.
What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do? What makes you happy?
Good people, good food, and good wine are all I need to make me happy. In equal parts, I love spending time outdoors as well as relaxing in front of the TV with my family.
I love to travel. And when money and time permit, I actually do it! I have been to probably half of the states in the U.S., and I’ve even liked most of them. Outside of the U.S., I have traveled to Thailand, France, Romania, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. I’d love to add Australia, New Zealand, Israel, India, Japan, Germany, and England to that list. And I just wish I lived in Italy.
I was a classically trained vocalist in high school and minored in music composition in college, so naturally I love music of almost all sorts and kinds. I play a little guitar, a little piano, but mostly I just like to belt out show tunes when no one is looking.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I am a BIG football fan. I am currently in mourning until August 3, when preseason games start up again. In the NFL, I root for the Jaguars, Cowboys, and (since moving to California) Chargers. In college football, I grew up an FSU fan (much to the dismay of my parents, who were UF fans), then started rooting for Baylor and UT when I attended those schools. I would say that Baylor is my ultimate college team (and I'm so proud of the success they've had in recent years).
Explain what you do in your role as Professional Development Peer advisor. What are your goals as Professional Development Peer advisor?
As the Professional Development Peer advisor, I help graduate students achieve professional and personal goals related to their graduate career, whether it be conducting a job search, learning how to network more successfully, or finding a good work-life balance. My goal is to reach as many students as possible in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them, through workshops, GradPost articles, and one-on-one meetings.
(Editor's note: You may email Shawn for professional development assistance or to schedule an appointment to meet with her one-on-one.)