Q&A with New Editor Katie LaPlant

by Danielle Coty-Fattal on June 30, 2022

Katie LaPlant is the new Associate Editor for English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics at the University of Michigan Press! Katie has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan. She was most recently Lecturer at the University of Tennessee Department of History and is also Associate Editor of The Michigan Journal of Law & Society.

Photo of Katie LaPlant

What excites you the most about working with the University of Michigan Press? 

I am very excited about helping expand discussions in the world of English language learning around advocacy and inclusive teaching. Ensuring that English language teaching experts, researchers, and writers represent the diversity of students and practitioners in this very large, very interdisciplinary field is an important focus of my efforts to recruit new authors to the University of Michigan Press. I also feel very passionate about providing teaching resources and materials to teachers at a variety of institutions who are dealing with cutbacks, negative effects related to the pandemic, and who want to use the lessons learned from teaching in multiple environments to improve the quality of teaching.

You were previously a Lecturer at the University of Tennessee. How does your experience teaching inform your approach to working with textbooks?

Teaching provided me with so many skills as well as insights into the perspectives and needs of both teachers and students. So, when I am looking at new proposals, I’m not just looking at them from the excitement they might occasion from teachers, who are often very passionate about adopting new ideas and methods, but also from the perspective of students, what students find interesting, and what students will reasonably use a textbook or resource for. I also look at ways to help researchers with heavy theoretical expertise ensure their work is adaptable by teachers who may not always have as much time to spend on intensive pedagogical training. My teaching experience helps me better understand what teacher-authors are experiencing as they put practice to paper.

Can you tell us a little bit about your own research?

My own research focuses on working and poor women of 18th century London who engaged in criminal activity. These women suffered from a lack of supportive social networks and people who could help them, and this meant that when these women were arrested, courts treated them with less leniency. Networks of family, friends, neighbors, and other social connections have positive social and economic outcomes for people. Those positive effects are broadly referred to as social capital.

A great modern example of this is in the way the United States Supreme Court has traditionally gained new justices. Throughout our history, almost all justices have come from Harvard or Yale. This is largely because the people coming from those institutions have social networks made up of other people within and connected to those institutions and other networks intimately related to most branches of government. When names get put forward, those names are friends, family, etc. from within these Harvard/Yale networks. For poor and working women of 18th century London, and more broadly, the 18th century Atlantic world, these same kinds of networks functioned to privilege people with access to them. These women had little to no access to these networks and suffered economic marginalization, lack of advocacy in the criminal justice system, and these effects followed their children, compounding generational poverty. This research has significant implications for the ways that current social networks, and the resulting social capital accumulated through those networks, have on economic and political power in modern life.

Is there any advice you would like to share with authors who are working on a book?

Organization is key. This means having a plan for both the larger vision of the textbook or teacher resource and thinking about how each part, chapter, or unit fits into that broader vision. Really great proposals make it clear that the author understands their audience, how the book will be used, the kinds of contributions the book will make to theoretical discussions, and has a well-laid out plan for getting each part of the book finished. I am happy to work with authors to help them realize their vision and to put their best book out into the world.

Is there anything else you would like authors to know about you?

I am a bit of a goofball and I love to joke around and be sociable. I am a pragmatic optimist – so I will give very honest feedback to authors, but I will do everything I can to keep their spirits up as they do the hard work of producing their work and delivering it to readers.

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