Carnegie Mellon University

Barbara Freed and other audience members, masked, applauding at an event

March 28, 2022

Modern Languages Panel Celebrates Barbara Freed

By KellyAnn Tsai

On Friday, March 18, the Department of Modern Languages gathered for “Study Abroad & Applied Linguistics,” a panel and discussion in honor of Professor Emerita Barbara Freed, who established the Barbara F. Freed Faculty Research Fellowship last year. 

Left to right: Uju Anya, Celeste Kinginger, Khaled Al Masaeed, Anne Lambright, Barbara Freed, Alan Mittelman, Adam van Compernolle, and Dan DeweyFreed's gift comes after an illustrious career at Carnegie Mellon University marked by firsts. She was the first head of the reconstituted Department of Modern Languages, one of the first female heads in Dietrich College, and, with her recent gift, the first donor to establish an endowed professorship in the Department of Modern Languages. 

“This represents the largest single gift to the department, a remarkable gift that bookends her service to the department and college started more than 30 years ago,” said Richard Scheines, Dean of Dietrich College.

The event also marked another notable first: the first in-person scholarly event hosted by the department in its new home in Posner Hall, bringing together the Modern Languages community in person for the first time in two years.

“This represents the largest single gift to the department, a remarkable gift that bookends her service to the department and college." — Richard Scheines

Panelists Uju Anya, Celeste Kinginger, Khaled Al Masaeed, and Dan Dewey seated at a table during a Q&A sessionThe panel and discussion focused on research in study abroad and applied linguistics, Freed's areas of interest, and featured presentations by recognized researchers in the field:

  • Dr. Celeste Kinginger, Professor of Applied Linguistics at The Pennsylvania State University;
  • Dr. Dan Dewey, Chair of the Department of Linguistics at Brigham Young University, and one of Freed's first graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University; 
  • Dr. Uju Anya, Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University; and 
  • Dr. Khaled Al Masaaed, Associate Professor of Arabic Studies and Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University 

Beyond discussions of their research, Drs. Kinginger, Dewey, Anya, and Al Masaeed recognized the significant influence of Freed's work on the trajectory of study abroad research, as well as their own careers. 

“Barbara’s first volume provided empirical research and questioned the long-held assumptions and anecdotes about study abroad, and worked as the basis for other researchers to bring in insights from different or diverse contexts,” said Al Masaeed. 

“Her work opened the doors for the work I was able to do,” said Anya. 

Freed was a key inspiration and mentor to Kinginger, who attributed “some of my accomplishments, certainly, if not lots of it” to her influence.

Dewey, who completed his Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon under Freed's guidance, credits her with helping shape his academic career. “I would not be where I am today professionally if it weren’t for [Barbara’s] influence. I’m so grateful for the interdisciplinary education I received [at CMU], and I thank Barbara’s vision.”

After the discussion, Freed, too, expressed her immense gratitude: “To me, creating this chair was an opportunity to literally thank all the people at this institution that made my time here everything it could have been. We teach our children and our students about giving back literally, not just figuratively. It was my honor to give back.”

Barbara Freed holds a microphone and asks a question during Q&AThe panel and discussion were followed by a reception celebrating Freed's gift and her impact on the field and the department. 

“Barbara provided the foundation for the innovative language acquisition and cultural studies scholarship and teaching that, to this day, mark the department,” said Anne Lambright, current head of the Department of Modern Languages.

“Without a doubt, Barbara’s ‘firsts’ will continue to resonate and reverberate through all of Modern Languages’ work for many years to come.”