Faculty Spotlight: Jack Hardy

Daniel Christian •

Jack Hardy at Oxford CSCE 2022
Photo by David Cannon

Associate Professor Jack Hardy gives students the tools to express themselves through the study of linguistics.

For Oxford Associate Professor of Linguistics Jack Hardy, language is power.

“My goal is to help my students harness that power,” he said. “For me, linguistics is about giving people autonomy over their questions and ideas, and while most of my students don’t end up majoring in linguistics, they all use language in whatever they study.”

Jack Hardy headshot
Originally from Nevada, Hardy received an undergraduate degree in linguistics at the University of Arizona before attending graduate school in Mexico at Universidad de las Américas, Puebla. At both stops, he saw how the subject that would drive his academic career—applied linguistics, the interdisciplinary study of how language is used in real life—resonated with his own experiences.

“When I was in Mexico, I realized I wanted to be able to connect with people using their own language,” he said. “And the better I knew Spanish and understood the surrounding culture, the less I had to assume what someone meant. I was able to express my own thoughts in ways that were specific and had more precise meaning—and that was important to me, especially when communicating across cultures.”

He went on to earn a PhD from Georgia State in 2014, and while doing so came to Oxford as a visiting lecturer to help connect with the growing number of international students. In 2017, he joined Oxford as full-time faculty and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2023. 

Now, Hardy encourages his students to think about how people communicate—and how an understanding of how language works can be useful no matter your major. Language, he says, is crucial to everything from computer science to poetry to medicine.

Jack Hardy delivers 2023 Orientation Coke Toast

Jack Hardy delivered the Coke Toast at Oxford's 2023 Move-In Day.

Paul Beezley

His ability to relate to students is a key factor of his success in the classroom. “Jack is Oxford’s resident dynamo of fun, energy, intelligence, empathy, and creativity,” said Sarah Higinbotham, Assistant Professor of English. “He is quick to laugh, but also deeply invested in matters of equity on both campus and global scales. His students emerge from his classes thrilled about and empowered by linguistics.”

One of his favorite aspects of teaching is seeing how students bring their own areas of interest and cultures to his courses. Hardy has not only included students in his research but has also helped many pursue their own projects—as did Janelle Cai and Matthew Lin, who together with Hardy worked on an analysis of language on Twitter and the Chinese social media app Weibo during the #MeToo movement.

“I often pair with students who have some kind of expertise that I don’t,” Hardy said. “With that project, I don’t speak Chinese, but I bring a methodological and theoretical knowledge that helps them use what they already know. Students are integral to the research process here.”

Cai and Lin are two of many students to present their research with Hardy at academic conferences across the country and globe—including those who traveled with him to a linguistics conference in Arizona and Savannah Brown, a Tarbutton Award Winner whose collaboration took her to the International Corpus Linguistics Conference in Lancaster, England.

Hardy supported Brown with her project—on neurodivergent community building on Twitter—and encouraged her to submit it to the conference. Soon after, she was sharing her work overseas and receiving “commendation from the most respected scholars in the field.”

Savannah Brown stands beside her presentation

Savannah Brown, one of Hardy's students, presented her research at a conference in Lancaster, England.

Photo courtesy of Savannah Brown

“Dr. Hardy is a peerless advisor and mentor, and has provided unwavering support during my tenure at Oxford,” Brown said. “He has a way of pushing students to ask their own questions and find their own answers that captivates everyone he teaches, regardless of their preexisting interest in linguistics.

In his own recent scholarly work, Hardy co-edited The Routledge Handbook of Corpus Approaches to Discourse Analysis (2021) with Eric Friginal and has started a project focused on collecting data from obituaries across several different cultures to see how topics of gender, age, health, and other topics are framed. He is also involved in and supports many projects across campus, including participating in Emory’s Indigenous Language Path Working Group that responded to recommendations from the Task Force on Untold Stories and Disenfranchised Populations.

In addition to his collaborative approach with students, Hardy is known around campus for his gregarious personality. He led the Coke Toast at new student orientation in the fall and again in the spring. Encouraging and colorful stickers with his face can be found on laptops and desks across campus.

“I’m extremely extroverted,” Hardy said. “Oxford fits that really well. I know almost all the faculty and staff. To me, it’s important for a tightknit community like ours to come together in person, working with shared purpose towards shared goals. I love being a part of that system.”