Kayode Amusan

Denise Cobb, provost and vice-chancellor for student affairs (right) and Jerry Weinberg, associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school (left) awarded Kayode Amusan (center) the Competitive Graduate Award.

The Competitive Graduate Award, which waive tuition for a year and comes with a $984 stipend, were given to 19 students this year from a variety of disciplines.

One of the recipients was Kayode Amusan, a graduate student from Nigeria studying linguistics. He is currently studying the language of COVID-19 and what linguistics strategies that were and are being used by political leaders, scientists and everyday citizens. 

“Initially when COVID started, there were lots of leaders of the world and they were perplexed as to the dangers, there were lockdowns everywhere,” Amusan said. “I was very much on Twitter and Facebook and there were lots of discussions going on. So I discovered the fact that many people were projecting their thoughts using different linguistic strategies.”

Amusan said he realized that people were speaking about the virus as though it was some kind of enemy and using language of “attacking” the virus, approaching the conversation using metaphors to describe the virus. He plans on studying speeches from current and former presidents, governors and other officials, to see what metaphors and other figures of speech are being used when talking about the pandemic. 

“The approach towards the virus was a kind of war,” Amusan said. “The virus is an enemy, and the approach to combat, it’s like a war, so they have launched a war against the enemy. In a nutshell, my topic is communicating language during COVID-19, looking at the use of various linguistic strategies to communicate meaning.” 

Amusan studied in Nigeria for his undergraduate and has received a master’s from the University of Ibadan in English language. He is currently working on his second master’s here in the United States. 

Jill Smucker, director of graduate studies, said the Competitive Graduate Award is given to students who have written up a research proposal, worked with a mentor at the university and who are highly qualified. Students are given a 10-hour a week research assistantship position, which includes the waived tuition

and stipend.  

“Another piece of it is that students who received the CGA are then asked to present the results of their research during our spring symposium, which happens in early April every year. It provides them with an opportunity to share with the campus community the goals and status and results of their research projects,” Smucker said. 

Larry LaFond, a linguist professor in the English department, is Amusan’s mentor for his graduate studies. He said that Amusan sought him out as a mentor a while ago before coming to SIUE and he has enjoyed working with him.

“We’ve had a good working relationship. Victor [Amusan] is very self motivated and had this idea for this project from the beginning, and it’s interesting questions that he’s asking. We have worked together back and forth with him producing drafts and coming up with research designs, and it’s gone quite well,” LaFond said.

Amusan and LaFond plan on completing a rough draft by the end of the winter semester with the hopes of publishing at the end of the spring semester. 

“Our intent is not to have it completed by the end of the semester, but to at least have a draft of the paper, and then working in the spring on revising, filling in gaps or making corrections and then possibly sending it out for publication. That’s kind of the scope of what we’re going for,” LaFond said. 

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