Linguistics major Ryan Peters has devoted much of his time to cultivating the LGBTQIA2S+ community at Michigan State University in his pivotal role as the Residence Halls Association (RHA) Representative for People Respecting the Individuality of Students at MSU (PRISM), which is the South Neighborhood LGBTQIA2S+ Caucus.
He was first elected as the RHA Representative for PRISM during his first semester on campus.
“I knew immediately that I wanted to join some sort of support group at the university because I was passionate about a cause,” Peters said. “I want to provide a space where other people in my situation can build a supportive network and develop the courage and skills necessary to discuss our own existence.”
As one of only two members of PRISM upon his election in Fall 2021, Peters took on an instrumental role in rebuilding an active community and eBoard by volunteering 10 hours a week to organize weekly meetings, promote the organization across social media, and more.
“I want to provide a space where other people in my situation can build a supportive network and develop the courage and skills necessary to discuss our own existence.”
“Running a student organization is competitive because people typically find one or two groups that they go to for the whole year and don’t regularly attend others,” he said. “My biggest takeaway is that we need more people who are willing to work to maintain this student community and make this school a better place.”
As the RHA Representative, Peters speaks on behalf of PRISM as well as advocates for the rights of students and shares important news from the association and its faculty.
“It is the unfortunate reality of our culture that so many LGBTQIA2S+ people are raised to have adverse reactions to themselves, and it can take years to unlearn this,” he said. “Fortunately, most young people who come to this university have their preconceptions challenged in some way.”
Peters also is a Student Research Assistant at the Phonology and Phonetics Experimental Lab for the MSU Phonology and Phonetics Group, a graduate student research club led by faculty Yen-Hwei Lin and Karthik Durvasula from the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures and Silvina Bongiovanni from the Department of Romance and Classical Studies.
“My interactions with faculty and graduate students in the Phonetics Lab have helped me learn to conduct myself in a more professional manner,” Peters said. “I can’t help but think this has influenced my conduct with PRISM so as to provide an example for new students. I am also thankful to have met so many wonderful individuals from many different backgrounds.”
Currently in his third year as a Linguistics major, he also is dual enrolled in the BA+MA Degree Program, which allows him to take graduate-level classes during the last two years of his undergraduate degree. In addition, he has dual minors in Agribusiness Management and Japanese.
“I consider my time in the Linguistics department to be a great honor. As I started attending more Linguistics-related things outside of class, I was shocked at how easy it was to get involved in the department and meet the faculty.”
“I consider my time in the Linguistics department to be a great honor,” he said. “As I started attending more Linguistics-related things outside of class, I was shocked at how easy it was to get involved in the department and meet the faculty. I just had to go out and ask, and they were there to guide me.”
Peters says the “most useful class” he has taken during his entire college career is Data Analysis for Linguists with Associate Professor Karthik Durvasula.
“Everything I learned in that class I use regularly for my work in the Phonetics Lab,” he said. “Some of my other Linguistics classes have helped me in learning Japanese, especially Introduction to Syntax and Morphology.”
What initially started as an interest in foreign languages, later grew into a passion for language science. Peters plans to study abroad in Japan next summer before graduating. He then would like to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Linguistics.
“My experiences at MSU have been instrumental in shaping who I am now and my attitude to any challenges that come my way,” he said. “Through my studies and work with PRISM, I have learned the importance of leadership in one’s own life and how to take charge.”
Written by Kseniya Lukiy