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UMD vs. Iowa State for Applied Linguistics PhD

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Hi all!

I am pursuing a PhD in applied linguistics and have narrowed down my choices to the University of Maryland and Iowa State, but I'm now stuck between these two. My research interests involve applying pedagogy to computer-assisted language learning (CALL) programs and developing actually useful online language-learning platforms. Also, vocabulary acquisition.

UMD has a smaller department with fewer professors, but they're all very experienced and respected in the field. From the students I've talked to, there are some differences in their availability but overall are still eager to work with their students. There are a lot more opportunities for work and connections in the area by virtue of location, but the department is very cognitively-focused. The research and courses there on pedagogy, assessment, and cognitive processes are still relevant to my research, but I would have to make my own opportunities to apply this to online contexts and learn about issues related to CALL. Other considerations for me: closer to my immediate and extended family, more expensive and perhaps not as nice an area, no guarantee of getting to teach a class. 

Iowa State has a slightly larger department but perhaps not as well-known. The program is very technology-focused, and while there aren't many courses available on the pedagogy side, I'd have a lot of support for CALL, and some of the professors and students are also doing research on learning materials. The area is a bit nicer and less expensive, but there are probably fewer opportunities in the immediate area and it's much further from my family. My graduate assistantship is specifically a TAship, so I'll definitely be teaching. Considering the differences in cost of living, the stipend is about the same (perhaps a little more generous at Iowa State).

I don't really have any doubts that I could do the research I want at UMD, but I am worried about the lack of support for CALL, since that's a broad enough field that Iowa State has a whole program for it. There are definitely things that I don't have much experience in (like natural language processing), that I imagine it would be helpful to have advisors with experience in. However, at UMD I'd have the advantage of bringing in other considerations, like pedagogy and cognition. On the other hand, Iowa State is a bit more tailored to my specific interests. I'd fit right in at Iowa State... but I also don't think I'd stand out. 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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I attended undergrad at UMD for linguistics and the people in the department are really amazing. In my experience I have seen almost every grad student in the program TA and many also get to teach a seminar on their research in their 4th year. You might also want to look into CASL and the language science center. They are both UMD programs that encourage interdisciplinary research and that might help you make a decision in terms of wanting to work on CALL. I hope that helps!

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