STEM Shoutout: Dr. Naomi Shin

UNM linguist awarded 2020 Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award


UNM Associate Professor of Linguistics and Hispanic Linguistics, Dr. Naomi Shin has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award. 


“This award is a tremendous honor to me. I care so deeply about teaching and supporting students, so to know that that effort matters and perhaps even makes a small difference in this world is truly rewarding,” Shin said.


This award highlights those who contribute “outstanding contributions to the College’s instructional mission” according to the Arts and Sciences website, and is evaluated on “the basis of the breadth, as well as the quality of their instructional contributions” with preference given to those demonstrating instructional excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 


“I aim to inspire students to work hard, be open minded, and think critically,” Shin said. “The major tenets of my teaching philosophy are to be student centered; be clear, engaging, and encouraging; support students in their pursuit of knowledge; and reflect on pedagogical practices.” 


“I have had exciting opportunities to develop new courses and mentor students. I teach courses in both the Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese and the Dept. of Linguistics, and my courses generally attract students from Linguistics, Spanish and Portuguese, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Educational Linguistics, and Psychology,” Shin said. 


While this award is recent, Shin’s teaching at UNM has been exemplified since her first days on UNM campus — in 2015, she received the New Teacher of the Year Award. She was also a member of the first cohort of UNM Teaching Fellows, and in 2018 she published a textbook based on a what she calls a “socio-grammar” approach to teaching Spanish grammar. This approach not only teaches about grammatical structures, but invites students to examine how there really is no linguistically correct or better way to talk.


“Spanish grammar varies depending on place, social group, and situation. The socio-grammar approach aims to increase appreciation for all varieties of Spanish by highlighting sociopolitical contexts that explain why some forms are deemed prestigious and others are stigmatized. It is not just about teaching about linguistic structure, for it aims to dismantle very frequent, prevalent, and harmful ideas about language in society. Linguistic discrimination is real and, unfortunately, very much accepted in our society,” Shin said. 


Shin says the most inspiring part of the nomination process was reading the letters written by students who all echo how she has impacted their education immensely and profoundly.


“Dr. Naomi Shin is an exceptional professor. Her dedication to the students, to her research, and the Linguistics and Spanish and Portuguese departments proves how deeply committed she is to UNM’s learning community, and how lucky people who study and work with her are,” said Josefina Bittar, a UNM PhD student in Linguistics. 


Since 2012, Shin has actively mentored several graduate students. 


“My first PhD student, Amy Lindstrom, holds a tenure-track assistant professor position and recently published a book based on her dissertation. I am currently supervising four PhD students, two who are all but dissertation and two who are finishing qualifying papers. My mentorship is very hands-on. I guide students to conduct their own research, showing them how to code and analyze data, write abstracts for conferences, and write professional articles,” Shin said. 


One of her current PhD students, Desirée Ramírez Urbaneja, recently published an articlebased on a study that she began with Shin in her Childhood Bilingualism seminar. Shin said she worked closely with Desirée each step of the way, providing extensive feedback and support. 


“At this point in my career, my students’ scholarly achievements are even more exciting to me than my own. It is thrilling to watch students grow and to guide them through the process of conducting research, publishing their findings, and ultimately becoming successful scholars,” Shin said.


When she’s not teaching or mentoring, Shin’s primary research interests include child language acquisition, bilingualism, and language contact. She currently helps run theLobo Language Acquisition Lab (LLA Lab), which focuses on child language research. She and Jill Morford established the lab in fall 2019. 


In the lab, Shin and her collaborators, Dr. Melvatha Chee, Dr. Jill Morford, Dr. Barbara Shaffer, Dr. Erin Wilkinson, as well as numerous UNM students, study “child language development through the lens of usage-based and cognitive-functional linguistics,” according to the website.


Current projects focus on children’s acquisition of minority language grammars in New Mexico, including Spanish and ASL; signed language development; children’s acquisition of morphosyntactic variation; language activation in bi-modal bilinguals; and assessment of bilingual children’s language skills.


“Through the LLA Lab, we are hoping to garner energy around the topic of child language acquisition. We are also hoping to obtain more funding that can help support graduate students at UNM who want to study child language,” Shin said. 


To learn more about LLA Lab and Shin’s current projects, visit her website