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The Milkatu Garba Memorial Award for Field Linguistics

Milkatu Garba portrait.
The Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics established an annual award in memory of Milkatu Garba, a graduate of the master’s program in linguistic studies, who passed away in 2022.

The Milkatu Garba Memorial Award for Field Linguistics honors the life of Milkatu Garba, a talented MA graduate of the linguistic studies program, who passed away in December 2022.

Milkatu Garba, who was fondly called Milka by her colleagues and peers, joined the master’s program in linguistic studies in August of 2018, being the first female student from Nigeria to do so. Due to her accomplishments before entry, she was awarded a highly competitive teaching assistantship to support her studies, which involved working with the department's largest undergraduate linguistics class, independently teaching a large group of 75 students each semester. She pursued a concentration in language teaching in her master’s degree, earning that degree in May 2020, as well as a separate certificate of advanced studies in language teaching, which she earned in December 2019. During her time at Syracuse, she generously shared her language, Mbat, serving as the language consultant for a course in Linguistic Field Methods. This ignited a passion for the linguistic documentation of that language for the field of linguistics and for her community.

Upon her passing, with tremendous sadness, Syracuse University faculty in linguistic studies remember Milka as a wonderful and committed student, teacher, and colleague, so “amicable” and “enthusiastic,” a “pleasure to interact with,” “full of determination, optimism, and vitality, with incredible energy in the classroom,” and with her community language work, “an inspiration to students and faculty.”

Her close collaborator, Professor Christopher Green, shared that, “Milka was a talented teacher, and her passion was the preservation of her mother tongue, Mbat. We began working together on describing and documenting the language during her time at Syracuse University and continued to do so after she graduated. Milka last traveled home in winter 2019 to collect narratives and songs in Mbat, which have formed the basis for nearly everything we yet know about the language.”

Milka was not only a valued member of Syracuse University but also of Erwin First of United Methodist Ministries in Syracuse. This award is made possible through generous donations from the Erwin First Church community. BJ Norrix, Pastor at Erwin First UMC and Brown Memorial UMC, Heila Martin-Person, Chrish David Douglas and Nancy Larson attended the inaugural award recipient ceremony to establish the award and honor Milka’s legacy.

The Milkatu Garba Memorial Award is presented annually to an MA student in linguistic studies who conducts work in field linguistics. Nominations are submitted by faculty.

Milkatu Garba Memorial Award Winners

2023 Haley Muth

2024 Ben Yamsuan