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Brett Hashimoto Receives Interdisciplinary Research Origination Award

The linguistics professor and his team receive $20,000 in discretionary funds for research on sustainability.

It isn’t just a buzzword—everyone says sustainability should be at the forefront of our societal goals. But what does it really mean to be sustainable? Recycling? Swapping your gas-powered car for an electric one? Maybe something with economics? Depending on who you ask, the answer varies.

Dr. Brett Hashimoto

Assistant Professor Brett Hashimoto (Corpus Linguistics) conducts interdisciplinary research investigating not only what sustainability means across disciplinary lines but how to build a more sustainable society. Hashimoto, part of a team of cross-disciplinary collaborators, recently received an Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Origination Award of $20,000 from the Research Development Office to further develop his sustainability research.

Hashimoto remarks that sustainability is a multifaceted problem, so it requires an interdisciplinary approach. He says, “How do the humanities relate to sustainability? Maybe we could investigate on a human level: What sorts of things are people doing or not doing, and why? How do those reasons relate to culture? How do those reasons relate to our belief systems? How we talk about sustainability reveals what we think, feel, and believe about it, so linguistic analysis has much to offer here.”

In addition to Hashimoto, the team includes Associate Professor Clifton B. Farnsworth (Civil and Construction Engineering), Professor Robert K. Christensen (Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics), and Assistant Professor Andrew South (Civil and Construction Engineering). The team’s project, consisting of several different phases, will result in papers on sustainability in the researchers’ respective disciplines, course curricula, real-life experiments, and community-facing initiatives like policy publications and workshops.

Hashimoto spearheaded the first phase of the project, a corpus linguistics study investigating how the term is used in different spheres from academia to popular media. Based on this understanding, Hashimoto and his collaborators hope to understand and contribute to discourse about sustainability in a variety of genres and contexts.

The funding from the IDR Origination Award will help Hashimoto and his team continue to investigate these questions and devise practical solutions. Going forward, the team will use the IDR funding to recruit undergraduate and graduate research assistants in a variety of disciplines to further develop the project. The researchers will also apply for additional grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

You can read more about Hashimoto’s research and, for interested faculty, find resources to apply for funding at