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Tasheney Francis

Tasheney Francis is geared up to continue her research in the Faculty of Arts

3MT competitor spends summer in California

September 6, 2019 — 

We had the chance to catch up with LSA Linguistics 3-minute Thesis (3MT) winner, and Ph.D. candidate here at the University of Manitoba, Tasheney Francis. Francis was a finalist in the March 2019 U of M 3MT competition. After spending four weeks at LSA Linguistics Institute’s Summer Program at University of California, Davis (UC Davis), Francis is geared up to continue her research here in the Faculty of Arts.

Tell us about your background, past degrees and how you got to be where you are in your education.

I’m Jamaican, born and bred. I moved to Winnipeg in August 2017.

The irony is that I was never a fan of school. Yet, here I am doing a Ph.D., right? While doing my undergrad, two of my professors back home [at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus], decided to have a meeting with me. They asked if I was going to apply for the Masters of Philosophy in Linguistics, which was never my plan. At the time, I thought I would go into communications. It was never my plan to do a research masters.

I’ve always wanted to teach, so I chose a double major of linguistics and language education. My professors used the lotto line on me, “If you don’t buy your ticket, you won’t stand a chance.” After I did my Masters I was teaching, and my professor again pulled me aside and told me, “you need to do the Ph.D.” At that time, my supervisor was telling me the same thing. After hearing a number of different voices, I figured if I was going to pursue academia, then I have to go all the way. I had come to Canada often to work with people and I thought the U of M program would be the right fit for me. So, here I am doing my Ph.D., and as they say, the rest is history. 

What is the main goal of your education? Where do you hope it will lead you?

One of the things that I really want to do is explore consultation with respect to communication. Linguistics is the science of communication and a means to study this. Communication is a tool and there are people who have challenges with that. If it is such an integral tool in our everyday life and interactions, and I can help, I want to do that. I also love and am passionate about education. I still want to pursue that with communications.

Why did you choose Linguistics?

It chose me. You hear that phrase so often. But, it really did choose me. Linguistics is a really fascinating area that taps into so many other disciplines like psychology or even architecture. If I can get people in different areas to see the value of linguistics or to use linguistics to enhance their disciplines, I want to do that.

Tell us about your current research.

My advisor is Dr. Terry Janzen, Department of Linguistics. The research is based around the Tivoli Gardens Massacre in Jamaica. In 2010, armed forces marched into the community and over 70 residents of the community were killed. The question is, why? Because of this event, a truth commission was created [the West Kingston (Jamaica) Commission of Enquiry]. So what I am exploring are the interactions in that truth commission. Specifically focusing on resident witnesses cross-examined by the councils of the Jamaica Defense Force—those are the soldiers—and the Jamaica Constabulary Force—the police officers. I am focusing on the communicative goals that are in conflict between those sets of participants.

Summarize your 3MT (3-minute Thesis) for us.

Cant Avoid Avoidance is about how the less powerful in the courthouse manage questions from those who are more powerful when the goals are in conflict.



What can you tell us about your summer experience at UC Davis?

It was very intense. I was there for just over four weeks. I was enrolled in four courses and audited or sat in on others. It gets really intense because you want to do so many courses, but there are other things happening and other workshops taking place.

There was one workshop about turning your research into public engagement. At one point, they had people from Google come in to talk about the relationship between technology and linguistics. There were talks as well from leading linguists in different fields who shared their research. Dr. Erin Wilkinson from our department [the Department of Linguistics at the Faculty of Arts] was also there presenting her research [on linguistic structures across signed languages].

You want to get your foot in the door of so many different areas, but you only have so much time. It’s exhausting because it’s mental work—it was draining, but it was just a great experience to have.

How did participating in the 3MT competition help to prepare you for the Davis competition?

At the U of M competition, you compete against candidates from many fields of study. It’s a different ball game when you’re competing against people in the same field where the topics can be similar. The judges [at the U of M] were academics and [at UC Davis] it was the general public. Competing at U of M to get the practice of staying within the time limit was also beneficial.

What kind of benefits do you see with competing in competitions like the 3MT? Would you recommend others try it?

I would. It is truly beneficial. One of my primary goals is communication consultation. When you put yourself out there and communicate effectively, with time restrictions, to a non-specialized audience, it challenges you and your communicative ability. At the same time, it strengthens it. In addition, it causes you to think about what you know—what you think you know—about your area of research. I would encourage others to try it. I think it’s a great competition.

What’s next?

My main focus right now is wrapping up my current research. I believe that this is all part of the journey preparing me for more. I may not know what that is right now, but other things will come out of this. The department has helped me, my advisor has helped me, the Faculty has helped me and I want to thank them as well. I am truly grateful.

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