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An assistant professor of English who has pursued research on dialects since growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina, and a professor of business management who as a youth had to teach himself as a result of living in Mao's China, are Old Dominion University's latest winners of the Outstanding Faculty Award sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Bridget Anderson and Shaomin Li are among 12 college and university faculty from across the commonwealth who will be honored Feb. 20 in Richmond. They each will receive $5,000. This marks the 10th consecutive year that ODU has had a winner in the highly competitive program, which is funded by the Dominion Foundation. Twenty-two university faculty have been selected for the prestigious award since the program was established in 1991.

Anderson, a sociolinguist who won in the "Rising Star" category, earned her doctorate in 2003 and is in her third year of teaching at ODU. She pushes the boundaries of knowledge through the incorporation of research and scholarship in her classes and encourages her students to think for themselves.

"I want my classroom to be characterized by creative excitement and creative thinking," said Anderson, who teaches undergraduate English language and linguistics, as well as courses on Phonology and Sociolinguistics at the graduate level.

She makes the following promise to her students: "You will never again view language as a passive observer."

Anderson encourages students to participate in her Tidewater Voices Community Language Study, whose goal is to allow the people of the region to tell their own stories, in their own words and language, thus providing a living cultural and linguistic history that captures what makes this area distinctive.

Students are trained to create archival-quality recordings, conduct linguistic analyses and write descriptions of Tidewater dialects, which are unique and deep-rooted among varieties of American English.

Anderson, who talks with a strong rural Appalachian accent, knows firsthand about dialects and accents - and how they can elicit reactions from others. She remembers "well-intentioned, but misguided" teachers advising her to abandon her native speech, because they said it would hurt her chances when interviewing for college scholarships.

She, of course, refused. "Every time I speak, my Appalachian accent marks me as a member of one of the most stereotyped groups in our nation," she said.

A recorder of oral histories and personal narratives of residents from the Great Smoky Mountains, Anderson has also conducted linguistic analyses of Cherokee English, Detroit African American English, Southern English in Roswell, Ga.

She is the author of "Migration, Accommodation, and Language Change: Language at the Intersection of Regional and Ethnic Identity" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), which examines the linguistic consequences of the "Great Southern Migration" by whites and blacks to the urban Midwest. Her second book, "Smoky Mountain English: Appalachian English in the Great Smoky Mountains of the American South" (Dialects of English Series, Edinburgh University Press), is also scheduled to be released this year.

Like Anderson, Shaomin Li didn't let others' opinions and actions get in the way of his educational pursuits. After Mao Tse Tung came to power, Li's family was one of many driven to the countryside. "I was sent to a farm when I was 13 and taught myself," he said.

Against all odds, Li completed his pre-college education through self-learning and ultimately passed a nationwide college entrance exam with the highest score in his region. It's an experience that has since motivated many of his students.

Li teaches international business, a subject that not only integrates a wide range of social and administrative theories, but also requires extensive practical experience. His rich business background enables him to shed light on how international trade and investment are actually conducted. He served as a director at AT&T in charge of developing the East Asian market, founding CEO of an Internet firm in Hong Kong with two subsidiaries in China, and adviser to a number of multinational firms.

His students are familiar with his "look forward, reason back" advice, which asks them to look forward to figure out what they want to do with their life, and reason back to prepare themselves step by step.

In his seminar on international business for all of the college's doctoral students, Li sets the bar high - requiring the first-year Ph.D. students to write a publishable research paper.

Li is a leading scholar in international business studies and has published several articles in the Journal of International Business Studies, the most prestigious publication in the field.

His main contribution to international business research came when he and his co-authors introduced a framework of governance environment, which can classify all the countries in the world based on the political, economic and social institutions that facilitate or constrain how investors govern their business activities in a country.

"For instance, in a country with strong rule of law, people rely on court to resolve disputes," Li explains, "whereas in countries in which judges are corrupt and partial, people settle disputes through private means, such as kidnapping."

Based on this framework, he and his co-authors coined the terms "rule-based" and "relation-based" to describe the two major types of societies in the world.

Recently, Li developed a new theory, using cases and statistical data, to explain why some countries, such as China, thrive despite corruption.

This article was posted on: January 23, 2008

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