Pam Beddor: Linguistics Professor

This week Her Campus had the honor of interviewing Professor Patrice (Pam) Beddor from the department of Linguistics. Professor Beddor has been an incredible mentor to many within the linguistics department, and her experience and knowledge is quite impressive.

Her Campus: “What was your educational background like leading to becoming a professor?”

Pam Beddor: I started my education as a French major. While taking a course on the history of French, we had to compare French to Latin, and that’s when I realized that what I was really interested in was not French specifically, but language in general. I attended the University of Minnesota for Graduate school and started to learn about speech perception, which is when the “pieces fell together.” I was interested in the human mind, and how cognitive representation was related to physical speech. I did a post-doc at Haskins Lab (a Yale affiliate) and taught as a Yale lecturer. Since then, I’ve spent the past 30 or so years at Michigan—the team here is incredible.

HC: “What has been your favorite part about working at U of M?”

PB: I’m from the Midwest (Minnesota), so it feels like home. When I first came to U of M, the linguistics program was new, so I had the opportunity to help shape the department and make decisions. We had to ask ourselves: “what will make the Michigan difference?” It was an exciting time and opportunity.

HC: “Considering your opportunities here at U of M, which have been among your favorite?”

PB: Helping students figure out their passions is among my favorites. Every student is so different, and helping them find where they belong, even if it’s not within linguistics, is rewarding. Another huge component of my time at UM was serving as a department chair for many years. Administration at times drew me away from research more than I had hoped, but it was tremendously rewarding, and I was always supported by great colleagues and students.

HC: “What were some of the first courses you taught here?”

PB: When I started, my department was called the “speech science department.” I taught phonetics/phonology, an introductory course, occasional graduate seminars, speech perception, and graduate level phonetics.

HC: “Which has been your favorite course to teach?”

PB: The senior capstone on Speech Perception. It’s what first interested me in the field and it continues to do so.

HC: “Did your levels of excitement change as the years went on?”

PB: I was always excited over something, now it is odd to think ‘when did I become the “grown up” in the room, or the one others are supposed to look to?’

HC: “What have been the most prominent changes within the field since you started?”

PB: Technology has changed everything. Questions we did not even think were possible to ask now have strong evidence for, thanks to technology. There’s been eye-tracking, ultrasounds, neuroimaging, and more. The way the ideas can change as a result of technology has been cool to see. When I first started teaching, we told students regarding the human mind, “we have no idea what’s happening here” and now that’s changed, thanks to the help of technology. Teaching changes over time, and that’s an interesting part of the work.

HC: “What has been your favorite part about research?”

PB: There’s so much that goes into research and even after all is said and done there’s still questions to be asked such as ‘would this change under different conditions, such as in another language?’ and when the same results are found across languages—its exciting!