Professor Sandra Silberstein retired in Spring 2019. Hers was our last in-person retirement reception before the pandemic; we look forward to returning to these. Below are excerpts from remarks delivered by English Department Chair Anis Bawarshi at that event wishing Dr. Silberstein fair skies and smooth sailing as the journey continues. The photo shows Sandy and her husband, Doug Brown, with some of her students.
Sandra Silberstein was hired at UW in 1982 out of the University of Michigan, where she earned her PhD in Linguistics (with specialization in Discourse Analysis and Sociolinguistics). She had already coauthored a field-changing textbook in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). In her 37 years at UW, she has published over 30 articles and book chapters, 6 books, and more conference and keynote presentations than I can count. Her critical discourse analysis War of Words: Language, Politics, and 9/11 was a prescient account of war on terror discourse. She has consulted internationally in Asia and the Middle East and founded a UW program in León, Spain.
Sandy has also served on 62 dissertation committees (23 as chair), garnering countless student testimonials. In 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, given to one faculty member across the UW. She has served as editor of TESOL Quarterly, the premier journal in the field. At UW, she has served on a staggering number of campus-wide leadership committees, task forces, councils, and advisory boards. And oh yes, she served as Director of the UW English Department’s MATESOL program for 30 years!
As MATESOL director, Dr. Silberstein has advocated for, sustained, and extended the reach of an area of study and a program that has had a disproportionately large impact on UW and beyond, guiding the program in response to changing paradigms in language teaching, particularly in terms of a critical understanding of, and response to, the multicultural, racialized global context in which language instruction takes place. Antiracism and justice run through her work. She has chaired task forces on academic support for UW international and multilingual students that have helped reshape UW language policy. Her leadership in faculty governance has shaped and will shape the institution for years.
Sandy is the person you want by your side when advocating for the value of what we do and its impact. Her resilience of spirit, scholarly expertise, deep commitment to community and relationships, and advocacy for students have and continue to be inspiring. Her work is guided by a sense that at its core, what we do in terms of programing, curriculum, teaching, mentoring, and administration is ultimately with and for each other. It is about community.
I have learned from Sandy how to be a humane, patient, and supportive mentor, especially during PhD exams and dissertation defenses: The art of asking the needed questions, letting other questions wait; keeping in mind the long view; supporting students so they can grow into their full self, well past the pedagogical moment we are in, in ways that recognize the pedagogical moment we are in. This is what Sandy is leaving us with.
But who cares what I have to say? Sandy might be thinking: what would her favorite Bruce Springsteen say? As it so happens, in his song “Sandy” Bruce sings: “For me this boardwalk life is through. You ought to quit this scene too.”
Congratulations on a banner career Sandy!