The projects below exemplify PSU's vision of an "equitable and sustainable future through academic excellence, urban engagement, and expanding opportunity for all."

To get involved with a project, contact the faculty leaders directly.

Literacy, Language, & Technology Research Group (LLTR) 

The Literacy, Language, and Technology Research Group (LLTR) is a community of faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students working together. The Research Group conducts a wide range of research and service projects centered on the acquisition of literacy, digital literacy and second languages among adults, especially members of economically vulnerable and socially excluded populations. Work ranges over basic, applied and action research and service projects in diverse educational, workplace, and community settings, often involving the development or use of state-of-the-art educational technologies and content. To learn more contact Kathy Harris

Learner Web

Learner Web is a learning support system developed by the Literacy, Language, and Technology Research Group based on research of adult learning. It is for adults who want to accomplish specific learning objects such as improving their basic skills, increasing digital literacy, or preparing for a job. Learner Web offers self-paced instruction and is typically implemented as a combination of online learning and face-to-face interaction with a tutor or teacher. Contact Kathy Harris.

503 Design Collective

The 503 Design Collective is a group of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and community members that are interested in social interaction around mobile digital technology to study language and mobility and language learning in the wild. For more information about how to get involved, contact Steven Thorne or John Hellermann.

21st Century Learning Ecosystem Opportunities Project (21 CLEO)

21 CLEO is a national research project that seeks to identify the factors that support frontline service workers to engage and persist in workplace-sponsored learning activities and build the development of 21st century skills, including specific workplace skills, digital literacy, English language and literacy, problem solving, and adult basic skills. Central to this study is elevating the voice of the working learner through interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Contact Kathy Harris ( for more information. Follow 21 CLEO's blog:

Civil Engineering Writing Project

The Civil Engineering Writing Project is a collaboration between applied linguists and civil engineers to study the writing of engineering practitioners and students, and to help students become better prepared for workplace writing. Students in our department work on the project doing grammatical and rhetorical analyses, writing computer programs for linguistic analysis, and developing teaching materials. Susan Conrad is the head of the project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and has included five universities. For more information, contact Susan Conrad


$PEAK OUT is a collaborative public engagement art project, initiated by Portland artist Diane Jacobs, that collects individual messages of diverse histories, languages, and experiences, and presents them in a powerful, unified message to stop injustice. Participants consider how money talks and silences voices and then create messages they want amplified. Applied linguistics students and faculty member Janet Cowal are partnering with Jacobs through social media, laser cutting bills, and collaborating with communities in events wihere participants can create their messages. Follow the project on Instagram: @voicesspeakout and Facebook: @SpeakOutAgainstViolence.  To get involved, email:

Oregon State Bar website accessibility

The Oregon State Bar (OSB) is committed to increasing access to justice for all people in Oregon. The OSB website has a section "For the Public"; it includes information about legal resources, rights, etc. OSB members acknowledge that this section was written for attorneys and may not be comprehensible to non-attorneys. Applied Linguistics students are partnering with OSB to make this section accessible to non-attorneys including adults with low literacy or for whom English is an additional language. Contact Janet Cowal.

Language Around Metropolitan Portland (LAMP)

LAMP is a group that is focused on getting undergraduates involved in sociolinguistic research in the greater Portland area, helping to formulate a more nuanced understanding of which languages and varieties are used, where, and by whom. Long-term goals include a publicly accessible web archive of data with associated maps and an interactive museum-style exhibit. Project members are currently working with city and county Bureaus of Emergency Management to improve access to emergency information for language minority communities in Portland. Contact John Hellermann, Janet Cowal, Steve Thorne, or Jenny Mittelstaedt if you would like to get involved (

Oregon Water Stories

The state of Oregon is currently in the process of creating policy and plans that deal with the state's water supply in the face of social/environmental shifts such as climate change and growing populations. Changes in Oregon's water infrastructure will require widespread public support. However, little data exists to determine how Oregonians prioritize water issues or the value systems they implement when thinking about water issues. Melissa Haeffner, environmental scientist, and Janet Cowal, applied linguist, along with their students are collaborating to study what the priorities and values regarding water are in different geographical regions throughout Oregon. Visit: or contact Janet Cowal.

Past Project Examples

Community Engagement and Outreach

Linguistically diverse Atkinson Elementary (a Portland Public School District, K-5 school) was a practice setting for LING 409/509 PRAC: Community Activism in Multilingual/ Multicultural Contexts. Diversity Teaching Gardens, The RHYTHM Project, and a Multi-Lingual Art Installation were just some of Janet Cowal's multi-generational family ESL projects. 

Documenting the Sherbro Language and Culture

Documenting the Sherbro Language and Culture project was a collaborative effort documenting the language and culture of the Sherbro people. Collaboration involved the Sherbro people but also host-country linguists and linguistics students from the national university. The emphasis was on training, developing local capacities, and continuing support for the language after the project's completion. The goals depended on local support, of course, and all revolved around the central goal of language documentation. 

Carter Foundation Award

The Community ESL Project was initiated in 1995 to help non-English speaking adults in the community. Since then, our department's MA TESOL and TESL Certificate students have earned academic credit teaching ESL classes to adults around Portland. In Spring 2009, The Community ESL Project received a Carter Foundation Award for university and community based partnerships. Funds from the award were used to purchase picture dictionaries and other materials for classes. 

Click here for the Community ESL Project video