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UT Arlington linguistics professor to serve as new National Science Foundation program director

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 • Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

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University of Texas at Arlington Linguistics & TESOL Professor Colleen Fitzgerald has accepted a position at the National Science Foundation as the new director for the agency’s Documenting Endangered Languages Program.


Fitzgerald, who serves as director of the Native American Languages Lab in the College of Liberal Arts, begins her assignment in August and will return to teaching after one year.

The new role will require Fitzgerald to review grant applications on research related to endangered languages as well as develop opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations at the federal level. She said her experience researching Native American languages as well as leading the Native American Languages Lab at UT Arlington should prove invaluable at the NSF.

“This will be an incredible learning opportunity on a national stage,” Fitzgerald said. “While I currently have great exposure to people working on language documentation all over the world, this new role will take that expertise and develop it to the next level. We’re seeing tremendous growth and interest in interdisciplinary collaboration in this field, so I think I’ll learn a lot about the approaches to those types of projects.”

Over the past few years, Fitzgerald and the Native American Languages Lab have collaborated with Native American communities and other partners to document and revitalize languages, to train community members and students, and to support the survival of American indigenous languages. Fitzgerald served as the principal investigator on three separate NSF grant projects totaling more than $270,000 and last year directed the Institute on Collaborative Language Research, which attracted hundreds of linguists and related scholars to UT Arlington.

Ron Elsenbaumer, UT Arlington provost and vice president for academic affairs, commended Fitzgerald on her new role with the NSF, noting that it distinctively aligns with the University’s Strategic Plan: Bold Solutions-Global Impact.    

“Dr. Fitzgerald is fully engaged in efforts to build on faculty excellence and to strengthen the academic offerings at UT Arlington such as the Linguistics & TESOL program,” Elsenbaumer said. “Through her commitment to language revitalization, student success and community training, she is helping to address cultural issues that have a global impact.”

Fitzgerald said that while she will miss her colleagues and students at UT Arlington, she knows that she will be better when she returns.

“When I come back, I’ll know so much more,” she said. “I’ll be able to be an even greater advocate and resource for UT Arlington for federal grants and program development.”

The Documenting Endangered Languages Program is a partnership between the NSF and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit

-- James Dunning, contributing writer

About the College of Liberal Arts

The College of Liberal Arts includes 12 departments that house disciplines in the arts (with national accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art & Design and The National Association of Schools of Music), the humanities, the social sciences, and the areas of communication, languages, and linguistics. More than 4,700 students are enrolled in its 27 undergraduate and 19 graduate degrees, which include the M.F.A. and Ph.D. programs in English, Transatlantic History, and Linguistics. Students and faculty have been recognized nationally and internationally for their research scholarship and creative activity. Visit to learn more.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 50,600 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at