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Mother and Daughter Defend Theses Together

Double the celebration: Maren and Sonja Mecham bond through their shared graduate experience.

Photo by Maren Mecham

Mother and daughter Maren (SLaT MA ’23) and Sonja (TESOL MA ’23) Mecham never intended on completing their master’s programs together—and certainly not on the same day. Although it was a coincidence that they finished the same semester, their shared experience allowed them to help each other throughout the process and grow closer together as mother and daughter.

Sonja graduated with her linguistics BA in 2021. Her master’s thesis in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) featured a discourse analysis on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) guidelines, evaluating how these guidelines most efficiently measure language proficiency.

Maren’s master’s project was inspired by her job as a Norwegian teacher at BYU, where she teaches Norwegian 101 through 321. The Second Language Teaching (SLaT) master’s program through the Center for Language Studies allows for either a thesis or a project. Maren chose to do a project that compared student language proficiency and the learning outcomes of Norwegian 321 courses. Her project provided data for a reevaluation of Norwegian 321 learning outcomes.

Both women enjoyed going through the program together, even though it certainly was a different graduate experience than most. Maren says, “I think it might be a little weird for your mom to be doing the same kind of thing that you’re doing. But for me, it’s been really fun just to have a shared experience and go through the seasons of graduate school at the same time.”

Luckily, the two were able to discuss shared topics, even though they never took classes together. For Maren’s project, Sonja helped rate some of the coding in the project and evaluate its accuracy, providing valuable expertise. The coding allowed Maren to categorize in a semiquantitative way what the learning outcomes were asking students to do. Sonja says, “We like to talk about how the speaking test for Norwegian didn’t work in a certain way because the region believes in having a lot of different dialects of language. Realizing stuff like that together was really fun.”

The two loved the master’s program for many reasons, with one of the biggest being that it helped them relate to one another. “We had a lot of conversations about being a graduate student,” Maren says, “the fun parts of it and the difficulty of going through graduate school.”

Visit the Center for Language Studies and the Linguistics Department to learn more about the SLaT and TESOL master’s programs offered at BYU.