Currently we have 22 doctoral students pursuing the SLA degree in FLARE. One-third of them have been recipients of awards (some more than one award), including the Presidential Graduate Fellowship, the Ballard Seashore Dissertation Year Fellowship, the Graduate College Summer Fellowship, the T. Anne Cleary International Dissertation Research Fellowship, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (all UI fellowships).

All of our students (with the exception of those who are A.B.D. and have taken full-time jobs) have funding to support their degree work. The majority serve as teaching assistants in a language department (i.e., Spanish & Portuguese, Asian & Slavic Languages & Literatures, and German). Others have worked for the Language Media Center, the Confucius Institute, International Programs, the UI Center for Teaching, or directly for the FLARE/SLA program. We encourage students to pursue a variety of work experiences, including language teaching, technology support, and research. To see a selected listing of publications and presentations, click here.

Please meet our FLARE students!

Language Program Direction Track

Elizabeth Deifell
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Previous degrees: M.A. Spanish, University of Wisconsin-Madison; B.A. Latin American Studies and Spanish, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. 
Research interests: Elizabeth’s research interests include L2 digital writing, the use of online tools during the writing process and vocabulary development. Her thesis project examines L2 writers’ patterns of engagement with digital tools and texts when they are writing about literary texts in a fifth semester literature course in Spanish. Other current projects involve language learners’ use of online dictionaries and the intersections of Google-assisted language learning, SLA and pedagogy. She has presented research on the examination of discourse, authority and community in the online dictionary

Céline Gaillard
Hometown: Dijon, France
Previous degrees: BA in International Relations, BA in French Studies (2010, Brigham Young University); MA in Second Language Teaching (2013, Brigham Young University).
Research interests: In my MA thesis, I examined the impact of planning conditions (specifically a condition called "pre-speaking") on the fluency, complexity, accuracy and anxiety of students. I am interested in the connections between SLA and pedagogy and in the affective variables that impact L2 learners.

Marion Gibney-Desmaison
Hometown: Geneva, IL
Previous degrees: MA in Spanish, Northern Illinois University; BA in Spanish with a French minor, North Central College
Research interests: Phonology and phonetics, second and additional language acquisition, motivation as a factor in language acquisition, Hispanic linguistics, code-switching

Emilia Illana Mahiques
Hometown: Valencia, Spain
Previous degrees: BA in Early Childhood Education, Pedagogy, and Foreign Language Teaching (English), University of Valencia and Catholic University of Valencia; MA in Foreign Language Literature and Pedagogy (Spanish), University of Delaware
Research interests: Foreign Language teaching and pedagogy, sociocultural approaches, study abroad, SL context of interaction

Anastasia Izmaylova
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Previous degrees: M.A. in Spanish Language & Literature, University of Northern Iowa; B.A. in Public Administration, International University in Moscow.
Research interests: My research interests lie in the intersection of second language acquisition and pedagogy, specifically teaching and acquiring grammar and culture. I am also interested in collaboration and assessment in second language writing.

Brianna Janssen-Sánchez
Hometown: Mattoon, IL
Previous degrees: M.A. in Spanish (Specialization in instructional technology foreign language teaching methodology); B.A. International Trade and Spanish, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Research interests: My research interests include computer-mediated communication, specifically text and video chat between native speakers and non-native speakers. I like to look specifically at development of language, communication strategies and skills as well as development of intercultural communicative competence and adaptation through computer-mediated interactions. I am also interested in other aspects of computer assisted language learning and language pedagogy including web based and blended learning, design of materials and foreign language teaching methodology.

Katharina Kley
Hometown: I am from a small town called Koenigsee located in the middle of Germany in the immediate vicinity of the Thuringian Forest.
Previous degrees: M.A. in German Studies with a minor in Language Pedagogy, University of Arizona; M.A. in Teaching German as a Foreign Language, Communication and American Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany. PhD in Second Language Acquisition expected on May 2014.
Research interests: My research interests are in language testing and assessment, especially in testing second language speaking and vocabulary. I am interested in alternative testing procedures (e.g., Dynamic Assessment, paired/group assessment), new constructs in testing (e.g., interactional competence) and the relationship between instruction and assessment. Additionally, my research focuses on language pedagogy and specifically on teaching German. My dissertation project centers on the construct of interactional competence in paired speaking test tasks.

Yupeng Kou
Hometown: Tianjin, China.
Previous degrees: M.A. in Asian Civilizations (Specialization in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language), The University of Iowa; Double B.A. degrees in Teaching Chinese for Foreigners and in World History, Nankai University (P. R. China).
Research interests: Yupeng’s research interests include Chinese L2 pedagogical grammar, testing and assessment of Chinese L2 oral proficiency (OPI/SOPI/COPI) and Chinese L2 performance analysis in terms of complexity. His M.A. research project studied the perception of Chinese Ba-construction among Chinese-as-a-foreign-language (CFL) learners at different levels. His dissertation focuses on the interface between Chinese linguistic complexity and oral proficiency assessment. Other current projects involve the sociolinguistic analysis of variations of the Chinese Ba-construction in CFL learners’ oral productions, and the quantitative measurement of syntactic complexity among Chinese L2 learners. Yupeng have been serving as a Chinese teaching assistant in the UI Chinese program since 2009, and he was a Chinese teaching assistant for the STARTALK summer intensive program in 2010. In summer 2012 he served as an intern at Center for Applied Linguistics, designing Chinese proficiency testing batteries and building the validity argument. Yupeng is currently teaching Fifth-year Chinese course in the UI Chinese program and co-editing the JUHE Magazine; he is also the editorial assistant for the book reviews section of Modern Language Journal.

Karen Leonard
Hometown: Albert Lea, MN.
Previous degrees: M.A. in Spanish, Loyola University, Chicago; B.A. in Spanish and Sociology, Northwestern College, IA.
Research interests: Karen is interested in the development of listening and speaking skills in L2 learners of Spanish, and she is currently working on a project examining the relationship between decoding and comprehension in listening. Her interests also include second language assessment.

Yu Li
Hometown: Beijing, China.
Previous degrees: B.A. Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, Beijing Language and Culture University; M.A. Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, Beijing Language and Culture University.
Research interests: Yu Li’s research interests include Chinese L2 Vocabulary and Reading Acquisition. Her dissertation topic is Chinese colloquial idioms acquisition. She is also interested in topics such as foreign language anxiety, cultural identity of heritage learners, and study abroad language programs.

Yuan Lu
Hometown: Wuhan, China.
Previous degrees: M.A. Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, Central China Normal University B.A. Chinese Language and Literature, Central China Normal University.
Research interests: L2 Acquisition of Chinese Chinese Language Oral Proficiency Assessment Chinese Language Syntax Chinese Language Pedagogical grammar.

Anna Mikhaylova
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Previous degrees: BA in Theory and Methods of Teaching Foreign Languages and Cultures, Moscow State Linguistic University; MA in French Language and Literature, University of Northern Iowa
Research interests: Second language writing, online teaching and learning, and second language assessment

Brian Olovson
Hometown: Fruitport, MI.
Previous degrees: M.A. in Spanish Linguistics and Literature, Western Michigan University, B.S.Ed. in Spanish Education (K-12) and Bilingual/Bicultural Education: Spanish, Central Michigan University.
Research interests: I am interested in the interface between second language acquisition and second language teaching methodology, L2 assessment, and the development of L2 production skills.

Xiaofei Pan
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Previous degrees: M.A. in Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language at East China Normal University; B.A. in Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language at Shanghai International Studies University.
Research interests: For the first one or two years, I want to remain open and flexible regarding my research interests. As my M.A. thesis was on the code-switch in Chinese-as-a-second-language classroom, I would like to explore more on this topic. I am also interested in Chinese linguistics.

Rajiv Ranjan
Hometown: Patna, India
Previous degrees: M.A. in Linguistics, Delhi University, New Delhi.
M.Phil. in morpho-syntax, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.
Research interests: My areas of interest cover theoretical linguistics, generative and socio-cultural approaches to SLA. I am also interested in language pedagogy.

Alexandra Shaeffer
Hometown: Novato, CA
Previous degrees: MA in Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (French) from Illinois State University; BA in Modern Languages and Literatures (French; Russian) with a Philosophy minor from Kenyon College
Research interests: I am particularly interested in studying pragmatics between French and US English. Time will tell if I maintain that interest considering this is my first year in the SLA program.

Raychel Vasseur
Hometown: Wall, NJ
Previous degrees: M.A. Foreign literature and pedagogy (concentrating in Spanish studies), University of Delaware; B.A. Spanish studies, University of Delaware.
Research interests: I wrote my M.A. thesis on second language vocabulary recall. I am currently working on a replication study on the effects of restricting the L1 in the L2 classroom while learners are working on consciousness-raising, form-focused tasks. I am also interested in the intersection of second language acquisition and foreign language pedagogy, affective variables and identities in the foreign language classroom.

Jennifer Vojtko-Rubi
Hometown: New Carlisle, IN
Previous degrees: MA: Spanish with a concentration in Linguistics, North Carolina State University; MA: English as a Second Language, University of Texas-Pan American; BA: Secondary Education and Spanish, Saint Mary's College.
Research interests: I am interested in connections between second language acquisition and language pedagogy. I am also interested in web based learning, hybrid learning and the design of materials.

Shuyi Yang
Hometown: Bengbu, China
Previous degrees: Bachelor’s degree in Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language at Beijing Language and Culture University; master’s degree in Education Science at Beijing Language and Culture University.
Research interests: Crosslinguistic influence on second language acquisition; Second language reading; Second Language vocabulary acquisition; Crossculture; Second language learner variables.

Olga Kulikova
Hometown: Tambov, Russia
Previous degrees: MA in Russian language and literature, MA in ESL and German (Tambov State University), MA in Second Language Teaching (University of Iowa)
Research interests: The intersection of second language acquisition and pedagogy, specifically, acquisition of vocabulary, students’ learning beliefs and learning strategies, design of teaching materials.


Linguistics Track

Mengtian Chen
Hometown: Shaoxing, China
Previous degrees: BA in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, Beijing Language and Culture University; MA in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Beijing Language and Culture University
Research Interests: prosodic phrasing in spoken Chinese processing


Tania Leal Méndez
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Previous degrees: M.A. in Teaching Languages (Spanish and ESL), The University of Southern Mississippi.
Research interests: My research interests are generative second language acquisition, specifically the acquisition of properties at the syntax-discourse interface, and psycholinguistics. Presently, I study the acquisition of Spanish linguistics properties (P-movement and Clitic Left Dislocation (CLLD), specifically), by L2 learners who are native speakers of English. Additionally, I am particularly interested in examining the different processing patterns for L1ers and L2ers. I am also working on a project examining prosodic patterns in the production of different word orders (related to expression of Information Structure) in different groups of native Spanish speakers.

Elena Shimanskaya
Cheboksary, Russia
Previous degrees: M.A. in Linguistic Theory, Syracuse University, NY. 
Research interests: Currently a fourth year PhD student in FLARE (Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education) I am primarily interested in the acquisition of L2 morphosyntax. My undergraduate diploma is from Russia, where I was trained as a linguist and a language teacher (French and English). After having spent one year in France (Nimes) I started studying linguistics in the US and received my MA with the concentration in Linguistic Theory from Syracuse University, NY. I got interested in SLA because I have always wanted to know more about how people learn foreign/second languages. Being a student at the University of Iowa allows me to do both: learn how to conduct SLA research while at the same time learn about various L2 teaching methods and approaches and continue teaching French.

Technology Track

​Olesia Lyskovtseva
Hometown: Saratov, Russia.
Previous degrees: B.A. in English Philology from Saratov State University; M.A. in Russian Studies from University of Missouri-Columbia..
Research interests: Acquisition of L2 grammar, game-based learning environments, usage-based L2 learning and pedagogy, educational technology.

Students about FLARE

...When I first applied to the FLARE program at the University of Iowa I had never heard of much less been to Iowa City. When I made the decision to join the program my husband and I were literally welcomed here with open arms. In my opinion, the best part of the program is the wide variety of classes and the diverse interests among other students and faculty in FLARE. The sense of community in and outside of the university is so strong and the Iowa City/Coralville area is truly a great place to live. Although leaving Iowa City with a Ph.D. will be quite an accomplishment it will also be sad to say goodbye to a place I have come to love.

~~ Brianna Janssen Sánchez


...Everyone is friendly and willing to help make the transition from wherever to here a bit easier. Potlucks are a frequent occurrence as a part of FLARE and allow us to build a great community and sample foods from around the world. The University of Iowa is a great place to study, and all of my classes and professors are always willing to help and answer any questions that I ever have. They’re also quite encouraging in whatever research interests I’ve wanted to pursue.

~~ Raychel Vasseur


...FLARE helped me ready to become the professional that I am now.

~~ Kyo Koo