I’ve always enjoyed academic awards nights. Between the eccentric humour of university professors, the seemingly endless list of prizes, and the generous spread of post-ceremony refreshments, it’s hard not to have a good time.
For Appen, however, there’s a little more to the Sydney University School of Literature, Art and Media prizes ceremony than the awkward jokes and free samosas.
Since 2011, Appen has awarded the Appen Prize for Excellence in Linguistics to a Sydney University linguistics student who has achieved outstanding academic results across a range of linguistics subjects. Each year in April, to mark the occasion, a small delegation of Appen representatives makes the journey from Chatswood to Camperdown to attend the ceremony and deliver the award in person.
This year, the Appen contingent consisted of Joy Howard, Alan de Zwaan and myself. After sitting through no fewer than 65 other awards, we were delighted to hear from Alan, who spoke eloquently and enthusiastically about the strong ties between Appen and Sydney University, before presenting the Appen Prize to this year’s winner, William Peralta.
William, who was praised for his remarkably high results across all subjects, will be completing his PhD in linguistics at Sydney University, starting this year. I’m also pleased to say that he has already done some work for Appen, on a small prosodic markup project for the Linguistic Services team. Congratulations, William, and we hope to see you in the office again soon!
After the ceremony, as I eagerly awaited the arrival of the spinach and cheese triangles, I took some time to reflect on the importance of the Appen Prize for Excellence in strengthening the ongoing relationship between Appen and Sydney University, which has seen more than a dozen graduates from the university employed at Appen.
Indeed, the award does more than recognise the recipient’s outstanding academic achievement and encourage further linguistics studies.
Firstly, it gives university students an idea of the opportunities that exist in linguistics outside of academia, especially considering the current growth of the language technology industry. As Appen’s own Jason Johnston once said, while presenting the award in 2016: “To paraphrase our Prime Minister, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a linguistics graduate.” Hear, hear!
Additionally, it ensures that we maintain a presence at one of Australia’s top universities. With the multitude of digital recruitment platforms available today, it’s easy to forget that simply being in a room with potential future employees is a great way to let them know you’re there, and that if they’re good, you want to hear from them. In fact, three of the five winners of the Appen Prize have gone on to work at Appen, and there’s no reason to stop now.
Appen’s involvement with universities extends beyond the Sydney University Appen Prize for Excellence, and indeed beyond Sydney University. Whether it’s speaking at a careers night, setting up a stall during orientation week or running internship programs with current students, there are myriad ways in which we engage with the academic community, stay in touch with our roots, and ensure talented students see Appen as a concrete option once they graduate.
(Once they’ve finished their spinach and cheese triangle, that is.)