skip to main content
Second Language Studies
University of Mississippi

Student Spotlight


Emad is a highly energetic and enthusiastic teacher. He has taught Arabic as a foreign language in several places including the Middle Eastern Studies Center in Kansas City, The TAFL Center at Alexandria University in Egypt, The University of Texas at Austin, and the AALIM Institute in Morocco. He has demonstrated an ability to teach, motivate and direct students at a variety of academic levels and consistently maintains excellent relations with students, faculty and administrators. 

He received a special diploma in counseling in 2015 and a TOT certificate (Training of Trainers) from NCEE (The National Center on Education and the Economy). He received his Bachelor Degree in Education and English Arts in 1993, a diploma in TESL from England, University of Exeter, School of Education in 2001 and a diploma in TAFL from Alexandria University, Egypt in 2010. He is also a certified OPI tester. He has served as a panel member for TCLP (the Teachers for Critical Languages Program) to select Egyptian and Moroccan instructors for an opportunity to travel to the U.S and teach Arabic. 

Emad worked for American Councils for international Education for over 12 years, first as an Arabic language instructor and then serving as the Academic Coordinator of the Arabic Overseas Flagship program in Meknes, Morocco. As Academic Coordinator, he oversaw the academic curriculum and instruction of the Arabic Overseas Flagship program and led a team of talented Moroccan and Egyptian teachers to provide superior-leveled language instruction to Flagship Overseas Capstone students. He has experience in curriculum development and designed an Introduction in Translation course, materials in Intermediate and Advanced Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, and materials in Advanced and Superior Modern Standard Arabic content-based courses for the Arabic Overseas Flagship Capstone program. Emad is currently pursuing his Masters and PhD degree at the University of Mississippi and teaches for the Arabic Flagship Program at the University of Mississippi and Department of Modern Languages. 


We are excited to feature our fourth-year Ph.D. student Maiyojanna Pelayo. While living in Venezuela, her native land, Maiyojanna studied Administration. After graduation, she embarked on an adventure of learning English at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). During this abroad experience, Maiyojanna tutored students learning Spanish. Through this practice, in combination with her own language learning experience, her love for teaching languages flourished, driving her to obtain a B.A. in 2002 and an M.A. in 2005 in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language.

After graduate school, Maiyojanna taught novice and advanced Spanish at the high school and college levels in Alabama and Wyoming. Then, she moved to Honduras in 2010. For several years she taught English at Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana (UNITEC) and Centro Universitario Tecnológico (CEUTEC) in San Pedro Sula, where, in 2013, she received a teaching excellence award for her performance, hard work, and dedication. During this time, she participated in social activities, advocating and finding resources for orphaned children living in the remote area of La Mosquitia in Honduras. One of her social projects with her students from CEUTEC was a book drive organized to aid in creating a library at the Instituto Vida Abundante in la Mosquitia, an institute that serves orphanages and local underserved children.

Having taught Spanish and English, Maiyojanna decided that it was time to step it up by exploring research work. The University of Mississippi (UM) became her destination for this endeavor. At UM her current research areas are Spanish Literature and Heritage learners. She serves as a Graduate Instructor teaching Elementary and Intermediate Spanish. She has also been granted an opportunity to co-teach linguistics courses (Language and Policy and Modern English Grammar) with Dr. Michael Raines. Maiyojanna believes that “for educators to grow in their teaching, research needs to be explored to widen their perspectives, knowledge, and practices. Everyone who has taught knows that what works in one class does not necessarily work in another. Therefore, making informed decisions to adjust and improve is vital.”


Dayni Diaz, proudly born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, is a Ph.D. student in the Second Language Studies program with a concentration in Spanish. She serves the Department of Modern Languages as a Graduate Teaching Assistant of Spanish. Her parents taught and administered an emergency teacher training course during the Literacy Campaign (1962) in Cuba, where people learned to read and write. The knowledge of her parents’ history reinforced her love for the teaching profession.

Prior to joining the SLS program at UM in Fall 2019, Diaz worked in the International Relations Office at Universidad de Cienfuegos as a Specialist in International Academic Relations. She felt an immediate passion for the role as she could advocate showing the world how valuable education, health, solidarity and collaboration is in Cuba. She was inspired to create a space for dialogue about power imbalances behind political, racial, educational, health and economic issues we face as world citizens. She has learned from her Cuban colleagues inside the academic community and international partners how to promote personal growth and development, self-awareness, and group effectiveness. She put a special emphasis on leading community action and bringing social change that was only possible with the support of committed government actors, NGOs, ministries, and other people involved in projects unified by language studies.

To develop international programs with the United States academic community and other organizations has been one of the most challenging experiences for her. She discovered how similar people are in history, culture, sports, architecture and other aspects in collaborating beyond borders. Despite the one-way mobility of US/Cuban partnerships, she helped Cuban students and staff benefit as well. She was also an English teacher at the University of Cienfuegos. Diaz believes that when students are directly involved in a learning situation, there is greater likelihood that the intellectual grasp of any challenging subject will be achieved. She considers that thinking as a global citizen means that the whole world should care about all opportunities of exchange. After the relations between Cuba and the USA were reestablished, Dayni Diaz created the TOEFL Test Center at Universidad de Cienfuegos and the International Workshop of Strategic Alliance for the Internationalization of Higher Education (TIES conference) in 2015. There, she met Dr. Chris Sapp and Mrs. Tracy Koslowski, faculty members of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Mississippi who informed her about the doctoral program in Second Language Studies. She considers that the program possesses a level of global stewardship that can only develop under the auspices of mutual collaboration. She experiences that it teaches students the importance of having shared values and common goals, no matter the context, or the policies. Through her years and her time working in the Department of Modern Languages and its doctoral program, she has learned that new hope for a very promising future is possible. She received the “Outstanding Student in Ph.D. level Spanish 2020” award.

Dayni was recently interviewed by the StudyUSA magazine


“I was, I am, and I will always be interested in English. My passion for English is what keeps me learning new things about this language even now, as a doctoral student at an American university.”

Timur Akishev is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Second Language Studies program with a concentration in applied linguistics. He serves the Department of Modern Languages as a research and teaching assistant, Editor of the Graduate Student Colloquium in Applied Linguistics and TESOL (GSCALT), Editor of the Ph.D. in SLS official graduate student website, and a graduate student managing member of the Editorial Board of the University of Mississippi Working Papers in Linguistics (UMWPL) journal.

Prior to joining the SLS program at UM in Fall 2018, Akishev worked as an EFL teacher, linguistics instructor, and interpreter and translator in his native Kazakhstan. While pursuing his Master’s degree in Foreign Languages from North Kazakhstan University, he worked as a teacher of English at a local school. Upon graduation, he joined his alma mater’s Department of Germanic and Romance Philology as an instructor of EFL (basic foreign language, academic writing, literature) and English linguistics (morphology, syntax, stylistics, text analysis).

In addition to teaching English and linguistics classes, Timur often served as a simultaneous and consecutive Russian-to-English and English-to-Russian interpreter for local government, university administration, and international delegations from Poland, Finland, China, Australia, the UK, the U.S., and other countries. His written translation work focused on a wide range of texts related to education, economics, politics, literature, philosophy, and science and technology. Timur devoted his free time to volunteering, teaching English with American Corners Kazakhstan, a project developed by the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan.

“I was, I am, and I will always be interested in English!” shares Timur. His passion for English is what keeps him learning new things about this language even now, as a doctoral student at an American university. In fact, it was precisely this immeasurable level of enthusiasm to learn the language that motivated Timur to continue his studies beyond a master’s degree. His determination to grow as a learner and a teacher grew stronger when he met Dr. Daniel O’Sullivan, Chair of Modern Languages at UM, who was invited to Kazakhstan to deliver a series of lectures on language learning in 2016.

In 2021, three years after Timur successfully entered the University of Mississippi, he is a hard-working Ph.D. candidate conducting dissertation research. Surprisingly, his almost-completed dissertation is not devoted solely to English as his main language of interest. Having amassed an enormous amount of knowledge due to his professors’ selfless and meticulous supervision, Timur decided to apply his research skills to the solution of language problems in his native North Kazakhstan, rediscovering his sense of identity along the way. Akishev is now working to unveil the complex nature of Anglicisms in Russian and Kazakh. He is infinitely grateful to his professors and colleagues at UM for sharing world-class expertise and knowledge and constantly inspiring him to grow as a professional.

Timur’s doctoral studies at UM have always been eventful. He has worked as a research assistant to multiple professors, improving his research skills and learning the ropes of applied linguistics. Akishev’s performance as a teaching assistant in a Modern English Grammar course was highly praised by Dr. Michael Raines, who thankfully granted his assistant the status of a co-teacher. As an emerging scholar, Timur has participated in numerous conferences, including Language. Text. Society., MFLA, GOSECA, CARTA, and SECOL, and has authored three peer-reviewed journal publications in Language. Text. Society., Language, Culture, Environment, and International Journal of Russian Studies. He has also given invited talks at North Kazakhstan University and Samara University of Public Administration “International Market Institute.” As an international student in the U.S., Timur is still a frequently invited volunteer speaker for the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan’s American Corners initiative. He also continues working as an interpreter and translator. His recent interpreting project was in May 2021, when he interpreted for university officials of the University of Arizona and North Kazakhstan University working on a cooperation agreement.

Currently, Timur is completing his dissertation research and is preparing to graduate in 2022. He enjoys working with his colleagues in the program on various projects, including the Colloquium, the UMWPL journal, and the Ph.D. in SLS official graduate student website. Upon graduation, Akishev would like to pursue an academic career in the U.S.


Neema Loy from Tanzania is currently a PhD student and a graduate instructor of Swahili at the University of Mississippi. She is grateful that she got the opportunity to study and work at this university. It was her dream when she was in Tanzania that one day she would come to a popular country like the United States to connect with different people, learn about different cultures, and simply see what the other side of the world looks like, along with finding opportunities for self-improvement.

Neema enjoys teaching Swahili, her native language, and learning about languages. She feels privileged that the University of Mississippi has granted her the opportunity to pursue the highest levels of education, MA and PhD, as well as the opportunity to teach Swahili. She first came to the United States in 2014 as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant and went to the University of Iowa. She enjoyed her studies and her experience teaching Swahili there, which is why she decided to further her education in teaching foreign languages, Swahili and English.

Neema wanted to pursue a MA at a school that would provide her with an opportunity to teach Swahili. Her happiness knew no bounds when she was accepted by the Department of Modern Languages at The University of Mississippi to pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and teach Swahili.

Neema remembers promising the former Chair of Modern Languages, Dr. Donald Dyer, that she would do her best to promote the program. Dr. Donald Dyer and Neema’s former supervisor, Dr. Chris Sapp, supported her ideas for promoting the program and gave her inspiration: “I was so happy that I got to work with a very supportive administration, which supported my growth, and made my life here in the US easier and fun.”

Neema received funding from the department to attend different workshops and conferences. She admits that she wouldn’t have gained the knowledge, skills, and experience in the field that she has now without attending those workshops. Neema is also confident to say that she is a better teacher now, equipped with the best teaching techniques that she has learned by studying and teaching at UM.

Neema is proud of the progress that the Swahili program has made. The program now provides multiple opportunities for students who are interested in learning Swahili and the culture of the Swahili-speaking communities. Students can now minor in Swahili. They can also travel to Tanzania through several study abroad programs. So far, several students have won popular awards as learners of critical languages, such as Boren and Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), and they have plenty of stories to share with other students here at UM.

They have also been good ambassadors for our Swahili program here in the US and in Tanzania through achieving native-like proficiency in Swahili. A Swahili club was created for students to be able to connect with the Swahili-speaking community and practice their Swahili outside of the classroom. Neema has also been able to lead several cultural events on and off-campus, e.g., at the Oxford Public Library. In addition, the program is now welcoming Fulbright scholars from Tanzania/Kenya who provide support in teaching Swahili.

Neema concludes by saying that she hopes the University of Mississippi remains a popular destination for African students and becomes one of the larger centers for African languages in the US.


Asmaa Taha knew from the first day she joined UM that earning her M.A. and Ph.D. would not be an easy feat. However, she decided to pursue her ambition of becoming a Ph.D. holder in order to achieve her dream and to honor her parents’ last wish. Taha has fully dedicated herself to work and learning, and her commitment has paid off.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Taha received Master’s degrees in language teaching from the University of Mississippi (2015) and Middlebury College (2017). At UM, Taha was a pioneering graduate instructor and doctoral student in the Department of Modern Languages. There she became the first Ph.D. student to graduate from the Second Language Studies program, having passed her oral defense exam and recently submitted her dissertation to the Graduate School. Majoring in Applied Linguistics, Taha conducted a corpus-based discourse analysis study that focused on how Egyptian speakers use the marker bita:ʕ and its feminine and plural forms (possessive, vagueness, or discourse markers) in everyday conversations.

A member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, Taha has long maintained excellent academic performance. Taha is also an accomplished teacher. In 2018, she was nominated for the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, demonstrating her dedication to teaching and to her students.

In addition to her commitment to teaching, she has worked on several publications. Recently, she has published an article in the Journal of Nubian Studies, and she currently has one book review in press. She has also participated in several workshops and conferences. Her most recent presentation was at the Sociolinguistics Symposium at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in February 2020.

Having accomplished her degree goals, she will continue teaching and working on publishing her research. Taha genuinely appreciates the love and support of her family and friends who made her doctoral journey enriching and enjoyable.


Jimoh Braimoh

Jimoh came to UM for a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics in the fall of 2017. He is one of the pioneer students in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Modern Languages. His coming to UM has allowed him not only to study and teach beginner and intermediate level French but also to serve the UM and the Oxford community. Jimoh’s commitment to his studies, teaching, leadership, and community service has made him the recipient of numerous awards from the UM authorities. He represented the Department of Modern Languages as a Senate member of the Graduate Student Council, in which he served as Member of the Student Affairs Committee and the Professional Development Committee in 2018/19. He also served as the President of the African Caribbean Student Association at the university from 2019 to 2020. Now he is serving as a pioneer Student Ambassador for the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) at the University of Mississippi since 2019.
Despite his commitment to service, he has maintained an excellent academic standing, attending numerous international conferences and publishing articles in various reputable academic journals. Jimoh is also one of the student honorees in the 2019-2020 class of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, a respected honor program for college students in the U.S. who excel academically and demonstrate leadership and community service on and off-campus. In recognition for his work, Jimoh was also awarded the honorary title The Most Outstanding Student Organization President of the Year by the Associated Student Body (ASB) and the University of Mississippi Student Union Leadership and Engagement Awards.
Professor Salau, Staff Advisor of the African Caribbean Student Association spoke of him:
“Jimoh has been an outstanding student leader. He exudes confidence, and he always presents himself in a positive and friendly manner. He keeps a bright smile to light up the mood of anyone he comes across, which has been instrumental in motivating fellow students to join the association. It is a well-deserved award, and I wish him all the best.”
All the awards have been a complete surprise to Jimoh. He insists that he is only doing his part to make the community better. Jimoh thinks that the awards are only a sign that he should do more.


When Iuliia first came to the University of Mississippi as a Fulbright teaching assistant of Russian, she had no idea she would complete her Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and TESOL here and even join the 2020 doctoral student cohort in Second Language Studies. “My Master’s experience really made my decision to continue into my doctorate here. I never hesitated; this was the best place for me.”


Not only did her arrival at Ole Miss provide her with great research opportunities, but also opened a new page in her teaching career. After four years of teaching English and French as a foreign language, she tried her hand at teaching Russian to American students and she absolutely loved it. “Teaching my native language to foreigners has been the most challenging yet exciting thing I’ve ever done.” As a graduate instructor, she teaches beginners and intermediate-level students, runs cooking workshops in the target language, leads the Russian club and the Russian table, and shares her language and culture in-person and online.

As an experienced Ole Miss graduate student, Iuliia is looking forward to starting the fall semester in a new role and meeting her fellow students from class 2024. Feel free to contact her if you need any help