Meet a Shocker: Kaitlyn Hemberger

Kaitlyn Hemberger is one of the first two student at Wichita State University to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics.

Kaitlyn is one of more than 2,400 students eligible for spring 2022 graduation. Learn more about her time at Wichita State and what is next for the grad.


Wichita, Kansas


Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics

What made you want to attend Wichita State?

Wichita State was affordable and had a push for applied learning and diversity content, both of which are very important to me. I also had a lot of flexibility in creating my own educational path. My major is brand new, so my advisor really worked with me to make sure I could graduate on time and take classes that made me a more well-rounded linguist. I had a lot of experience with romance languages going in, but I also got to study Chinese, Japanese, American Sign Language, and Swahili.

How are you feeling leading up to graduation?

It’s bittersweet to end such a significant chapter of my life, and I think I didn’t realize how much freedom I had to explore academia as an undergraduate. However, I’m incredibly excited for all of the opportunities I have lined up in the future having earned my first college degree.

What was been your biggest challenge as a student, and how did you overcome it?

In the spring of 2020, I took a class called Field Methods of Linguistics (LING 668). It’s a higher-level linguistics class where students collect data from two consultants on a language with which they are completely unfamiliar. That semester, it was Swahili, and we were tasked with constructing a mini-grammar based on nothing but elicitation sessions; it was forbidden to consult any outside materials. This was challenging as I’d never done anything remotely like it before, but it really taught me to trust myself and my ability to analyze linguistic data. I spent many, many hours working with our database and our recordings in order to piece apart relevant phonological, morphological, and syntactic elements. Eventually, I developed a really solid writing piece that I actually submitted when I applied to graduate school.

What has been your most helpful learning experience at Wichita State?

I’m an honors student, and my track’s original requirement entails collaborative research; however, I was fortunate enough to get to complete an honors thesis on my own instead under the mentorship of the head of the linguistics program, Dr. Mythili Menon. It was funded by the honors college, so I actually was able to conduct human subject research with Congolese refugees who speak Swahili. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity because I now have a published piece of writing under my belt as an undergraduate.

What are your plans after graduation?

Over the summer, I’m hoping to work some data from my thesis into an article that I can submit for peer review. In the fall, I’m returning to Wichita State as a graduate teaching assistant and a graduate research assistant in the English program. My ultimate goal is to become a competitive candidate for a linguistics doctorate, and I really think that this is a great way to do that.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your time at Wichita State?

The pandemic took a big toll on my life, as I’m sure it did for many. I learn best in a hands-on environment, so adapting to an entirely virtual format was challenging to say the least. Despite that, it taught me a lot about personal accountability and adaptability in the face of hardship.

What advice would you give other Wichita State students?

Anyone will tell you to get involved, and I agree with that, but I think that if you’re interested in research, find a mentor. Ask the professors in your field if they have any positions in their labs because even if they don’t, they’re usually kind enough to point you in the direction of someone who does. You’ll get real experience researching and you’ll make some great connections.

My other piece of advice is sort of related: Never be afraid to ask for what you need. It’s scary in theory to do it, but more often than not, people want to help you succeed and will work with you to find a solution. In my experience, WSU has really kind and understanding professors who truly do have your best interest in mind.

Read more stories like this