2020-2021 Recipients

Robert W. Young Scholarship

Leah Grover

Leah Grover, of European and Crow/Blackfeet ancestry, is very grateful to be given the Robert W. Young Scholarship. She has been studying Diné bizaad at UNM since the fall of 2018 and intends to continue for a lifetime so that she is better equipped to understand the goals and needs of the local Diné community. She hopes to graduate with a B.A. in Native American studies and a Navajo minor in May 2021.

Alyssa Walters

Yáʼátʼééh, shí éí Alyssa Walters dashíjiní. Tłʼiziʼłaní nishłį́, Ta’neeszahnii báshíshchíín, Tódíchʼíi’nii dashicheii áádóó Mą’iideeshgiizhnii dashinálí. Naʼneelzhiindę́ę́ʼ éí naashá. Naadiin tááʼ shinááhai.

My name is Alyssa Walters. I am of the Many Goats Clan, I am born for Tangled Clan, My maternal grandfather’s clan is Bitter Water Clan. My Paternal grandfather’s clan is Coyote Pass Clan. I am from Torreon, NM. I am 23 years old. I attended Cuba High School. After graduation, I attended Northern New Mexico College for two and a half years. In 2017, I decided to go to UNM in Albuquerque. I’ve always been interested in language since childhood, so I decided to major in Linguistics and minor in Navajo.

Lukas Denk

Yáʼátʼééh shí eí Lukas yinishyé. Argentinian nishłį́ dóó Béésh bichʼahii dineʼé báshíshchíín.

My first encounter with Native American languages was in textbooks during my undergrad in Regensburg, Germany. I came to appreciate the immense heritage and diversity that languages across the Americas exhibited, and this fascination led me to study one of the most documented ones: Navajo. Without any concrete plan for the future, the study of Navajo kept me engaged and intrigued due to its mesmerizing complexity, and I decided to work through a whole textbook by myself. After my Master’s I decided to visit the NLA (Navajo language Academy) (my first stay in the US!) where I finally could gain more first-hand knowledge about the linguistic and cultural context of Athabascan languages and their speakers. This convinced me to continue my education at the institution that spoke the most to me: UNM. I applied the following year (2016) and was luckily admitted with the help of the Greenberg fellowship. This allowed me to deepen my understanding of my interests and think like a ‘usage-based’ linguist about complexity, functionalism and historical linguistics. My recent paper “Explaining the stability of non-layered morpheme structure in Athabascan languages” reflects this connection between Athabascan languages and usage-based morphology. I would thank Bill Croft, Melissa Axelrod, Mary Ann Willie for their multiple and helpful comment towards this publication. For my dissertation, I am addressing the question of verbal complexity in a broader-cross-linguistic perspective. After graduation I would like to continue my research on linguistic complexity, and closely work with researchers who conduct first-hand experiments on Native American languages such as Navajo, a scholarship necessary for the understanding of language and the strengthening of underrepresented speech communities.

Keiko Beers

Keiko Beers is a PhD candidate in linguistics. She is researching the possible impacts of severe language shift on the evolution of grammar in the southwest language Tohono ‘O’odham which is spoken in Arizona (US) and Sonora (Mexico) and is currently classified as ‘endangered.’ This work evolved out of her long-term involvement in the ‘O’odham Ne’ok Revitalization Project, a collaboration between members of the ‘O’odham community on both sides of the US-Mexico border as well as students and faculty from UNM, past and present. She hopes to continue her involvement in this project beyond her studies at UNM.

During her time as a graduate student, Keiko has also taught Introduction to the Study of Language for which she received the Susan-Deese Roberts Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. She also currently serves as a project assistant and mentor to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows at UNM.

Keiko has been generously supported by a number of departments and institutions during her graduate studies at UNM. She has been the recipient of the Latin American and Iberian Institute PhD Fellowship, the Andrew Mellon PhD Fellowship, and most recently the Center for Regional Studies PhD Fellowship, and Graduate Student Success Scholarship.