I have a soft spot for La Trobe University (LTU) in Australia.
LTU is where I got my first tenured job 30 years ago (just over two years after finishing my PhD — ah, those were the days) and still the place I have worked the longest in a somewhat peripatetic academic career (summarised here. I went there in 1981 as first full-time head of the Division of Linguistics and by the time I left in 1995 the Linguistics Department was booming under the leadership of Foundation Professor Barry Blake. We had an excellent group of colleagues (several of whom went on to professorships themselves) and great students, including this blog’s Nick Thieberger, now at Melbourne University and Hawaii.
After this time linguistics at La Trobe changed its complexion somewhat. In January 2000 the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology (RCLT moved from the Australian National University to La Trobe as an independent research facility not directly associated with the Linguistics Department. As the document [.pdf]) outlining RCLT’s history up to 2006 puts it:
“Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, La Trobe had one of the leading linguistics departments in Australia (indeed, this was a major reason that RCLT sought to relocate here). The Department was then considerably weakened by retirements and resignations.”
In 2008 RCLT itself saw leadership changes that led to retirements and resignations at the end of the year as the former Director and Deputy Director left to move to another Australian University.
And now the good news. RCLT and the Linguistic Department have recently hit the research jackpot with several successful large grant applications, including two highly competitive and prestigious Future Fellowships. These are five-year posts that, according to the Australian Research Council, were set up:
“to promote research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia. The aim of Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers.”
Congratulations to Future Fellows Birgit Hellwig, who will be working on ‘Verb semantics in the Baining languages, East New Britain (Papua New Guinea)’ and Steven Morey, whose project is ‘A multifaceted study of Tangsa: a network of linguistic varieties in North East India’. (Congratulations also to the only other linguistics Future Fellow, Mark Donohue of ANU).
These positions are bolstered by Yvonne Treis, who has an ELDP post-doctoral fellowship to work on a grammatical description of Basketo (Baskeet), one of the little known Omotic languages spoken in South Ethiopia, and Anthony Jukes, who will start a post-doctoral fellowship at RCLT in 2011 as part of an Australian Research Council funded Discovery Project ‘The languages of Minahasa: documentation, description, and support’.
Well done La Trobe Linguistics!