Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
Madeleine Stewart, a native of Minneapolis, Kansas, will graduate in May with a degree in Spanish Linguistics with an impressive 4.24 GPA, and she also successfully earned a certificate in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (TESOL).
Stewart, who first started a theater major, had an eye-opener while watching the movie “The Arrival” and saw how complex and rewarding linguistics can be. At that point, she knew she wanted to change majors and study Spanish linguistics at ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures.
Stewart enthusiastically embarked on her new journey of linguistic adventure, difficult as it was.
“I remember how Maddie approached me before I even had her in one of my classes. She said she had heard about my approach to teaching German and was intrigued to be in one of my classes,” said Sara Lee, senior lecturer in German at the School of Letters and International Cultures. “We had a conversation right there. about language learning and her enthusiasm for languages was just wonderful. She has taken five classes with me and her linguistic and inquisitive mind is constantly working and making amazing connections.
“As a linguist, I tend to be very enthusiastic about complex and difficult grammatical structures and their cross-linguistic connections. She is the perfect example of an intrinsically motivated learner, whose mind yearns for challenges and to expand and deepening her knowledge at every moment. Maddie never missed any assignments in any of the classes, but she often asked for extra materials to make sure she fully understood everything. Without a doubt, Maddie will change this world for the best, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
And Stewart’s passion for linguistics does not stop. In the fall, she will return to Kansas to pursue a master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Kansas.
We caught up with Stewart virtually to ask her a few more questions about her journey at ASU:
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
To respond: My beautiful “aha” moment when I realized I had to study linguistics was when I watched “The Arrival” with Amy Adams. There’s this scene where she explains to the mathematicians why it’s so complex to communicate with aliens who stole my heart and made me go from majoring in theater to majoring in Spanish linguistics! I’m so dedicated to my job that I’m taking a master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Kansas this fall!
Q: What did you learn at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I learned not to take as many classes as humanly possible! Graduation will happen – one way or another – and suffering miserably in 21 credit hours just isn’t worth it.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: Honestly, I chose ASU because I was ready to move out of state, but wanted a good, affordable education. With the high school GPA scholarship that I gratefully received, ASU seemed like the right fit!
Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?
A: German Department lecturer Sara Lee was and still is one of the most inspiring people I have met at ASU. With my disability frequently interfering with my education – not to mention the disabilities of my immediate family members – she remained steadfast in her mission to support me and my classmates in our language learning endeavors. Additionally, she is studying dyslexia as a hobby, which inspired me to do the same with my future research in linguistics.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?
A: The most important advice I can give to a current student is to put yourself and your health – physical and mental – first. Grades are only important if you grow enough to see them. Homework can wait, but not your health and well-being. Prioritize you.
Q: Where was your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends or just think about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus that I miss SO MUCH is the big tree near the WP Carey School of Business. I loved sitting in the grass under that tree and hanging out. So beautiful!
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan to move to Lawrence, Kansas and pursue my college education there! Jayhawk Rock Chalk!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I suddenly ran into $40 million, I would try to fix the issues that prevent individuals from getting an education, whether it’s debt, childcare, transportation, etc. Education is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity in our tough economic climate. ; therefore, I believe that every individual can achieve a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Q: Any advice for future SILC students?
A: Reach out to people! Talk to your teachers! Talk to other people in your classes! Build relationships so that when you get college applications or job references, you have someone to lean on. Likewise, if you plan to do research with your language, read all the academic papers you can get your hands on! Start an annotated bibliography NOW so you can refer to these articles for future assignments!