Linguistics Program
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Detroit, MI 48202 United States
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Pamela Hobbs: law and language

Date: 12/8/2015

Pamela Hobbs, CLAS B.A ‘82, M.A ‘93, M.A’ 00, attended Wayne State University in her late twenties. Today, she would be considered a non-traditional student; then she also chose a non-traditional path. Hobbs graduated from Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where 97 percent of students continued on to college after graduation. Going to college right after high school however, did not appeal to Hobbs. She wanted to work first and put herself through school.

“I thought that if I graduated from high school and worked on my own for a few years so I could put myself through, that would work better,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs’ original plan worked for a while, but after a marriage and the birth of two sons she had to postpone her studies.

When it came time to choose a university, the mother of two needed something in to fit her lifestyle. Wayne State was the perfect fit. “I was juggling work, and having to get dinner for my two kids” she said. “If they had not had those evening classes I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Hobbs recalled.

To balance her work and family life, Hobbs took one class per semester. By gradually increasing her load, and taking classes year-round, she was able to graduate three years after her enrollment.

She originally aspired to become a teacher, but shifted her focus to another profession; law.

“I knew that I needed to choose something that I could make a decent living in,” she said. “I was going to be primarily responsible for taking care of my two sons”.

She attended the University of Michigan Law School, graduated with her Juris Doctor in 1985 and started her career as a lawyer. Her work provided her and her family with the financial security they needed, but she still sought out ways to explore her love for writing and language.

She returned to Wayne State a second time to complete a Master of Arts in English. She practiced law at the time, and Wayne State was there again, faithfully accommodating her professional schedule and her academic appetite. But a chance happening turned her interest in an unforeseen direction and served as a catalyst for a new area of study.

“I was at an American Bar Association Conference in Chicago. I went inside the University of Chicago bookstore to look around because I can’t resist a bookstore,” she shared. “I saw Steven Pinker’s book, The Language Instinct, and thought, ‘Oh I should read that.’ I read it and immediately knew linguistics was something else I was interested in.”

Hobbs got her master’s in the subject and culminated her expertise at the University of California in Los Angeles where she received her Ph.D. in applied linguistics.

She believes that Wayne State prepared her immensely for every phase in her career path. “I liked everything about Wayne State. It worked for me,” Hobbs stated. “It was close and had schedules I could navigate. “But that wouldn’t have counted if I had not been impressed with the quality of the program. I was never disappointed. The classes that they offered were fabulous.”

Her advice to current students is to believe in themselves. “A lot of people told me this was too hard and maybe I shouldn’t do it.” she said. “Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect other people to believe in you either.”