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Oakland University launches new initiative to celebrate linguistic diversity

Oakland University’s Linguistics Department recently launched a new inter-departmental, campus-wide initiative to promote an agenda of celebrating linguistic diversity and advancing linguistic justice at OU and its affiliated communities.
“As our mission statement explains, the Oakland University Linguistic Diversity Initiative (OULDI) was created because linguistic profiling and discrimination are everywhere, yet the role of language is often overlooked in efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Dr. Kuniko Nielsen, associate professor and chair of the Linguistics Department at OU. “As a proxy for identity, the way we use language affects things like access to jobs, housing, education, and equal treatment in the justice system.

“We believe it’s time to raise such awareness, and that with this new initiative, OU is poised to become a regional leader in linguistic justice education and programming,” Nielsen added.

The mission of OULDI is to foster and support linguistic diversity at Oakland University by:

· raising awareness of linguistic diversity in our communities,

· expressing affirmation of the linguistic diversity on campus, and

· practicing advocacy for the legitimacy of linguistic diversity and the importance of linguistic justice.

Toward these ends, OULDI will support linguistic diversity and linguistic justice in the Department of Linguistics itself through greater emphasis on linguistic diversity in departmental course offerings and promoting student research projects on under-studied languages.

OULDI will also collaborate with other campus units and academic departments on student demo- graphic data collection, campus programming, and community outreach and engagement.

“Understanding the range and value of all languages and varieties of English prepares Oakland students to be better teachers, doctors, supervisors, voters, co-workers, neighbors, etc.,” said Dr. Carly Overfelt, a special lecturer in the Linguistics Department. She developed OULDI with Dr. Jason Overfelt, an assistant professor in the Linguistics Department.

“The Linguistics Department at OU already has a strong tradition of educating about linguistic diversity in its introductory courses, and reaches a lot of students that way,” she said. “We wanted to build on that and reach outside of the classroom.”

In an effort to raise awareness of linguistic diversity and the importance of linguistic justice, OULDI will host a virtual celebration of International Mother Language Day at noon on Sunday, Feb. 21 on Zoom.

The event will include a screening of Signing Black in America, a live talk on linguistic justice featuring Ph.D. candidate Aris Clemons from the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Rebecca Mercado-Jones from Oakland University, and a showcase of students’ projects on linguistic justice and diversity.
The virtual event is open to the public and no pre-registration is required.
“All are welcome and invited to join OULDI and help shape its mission,” Nielsen said.
For more information, or to learn how to become involved, visit or email

Chamber Trustees