Student Spotlight: Ekarina Winarto

Ekarina Winarto

April 8, 2019

Ekarina Winarto is a doctoral candidate in linguistics originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, who has also lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, and the U.S. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga. and a master’s at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., she chose to attend Cornell due to encouragement from alumni paired with the ranking of the linguistics program.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I work mainly within the theory of generative grammar that assumes that all humans have an innate language faculty they are born with, and that there are universal principles of human language contained within that faculty that govern the possibilities and limitations in human language. The heart of my research program is finding these possibilities and limitations, and in doing so shedding light on the universal principles that all human languages share. Specifically, my dissertation looks at the universal principles underlying word orders and their variations; I do this by comparing many different unrelated languages like Japanese, Korean, German, Indonesian, Tagalog, and many more.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I have always had a lot of interest in foreign languages. Personally, I’m fluent in three different languages, conversational in two, and have taken beginner classes for four other languages. Since linguistics is not a widely known field, though, I began, like a lot of other people, on the literature side. However, as I got exposed more to theoretical linguistics, I realized that linguistics fits my interests better.

How has your involvement with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) shaped your graduate school experience?

I think that most people who know me at Cornell can’t really imagine a Rina Winarto without the GPSA. It has been one of the most life-transforming experiences I’ve ever had, and through the GPSA I have also been able to widen my horizon beyond just my department.

What has your role as GPSA president allowed you to do?

It has enabled me to have a lot of conversations with students from different backgrounds and disciplines, so that I’m able to better understand the hardships that graduate students face. On the other side, I’ve also had the chance to build relationships with many different administrators, such that I’m able to understand how the system works. In this way, I’ve been able to build bridges and connect people to facilitate many productive conversations and positive changes around campus.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

My engagement with the GPSA is probably my biggest activity outside of my research, but whenever I can get away from both, I just enjoy hanging out with friends. I’m also a big fan of Korean dramas and kpop, and this year, I also took up some additional responsibilities as the President of the Society for Asian American Graduate Affairs (SAAGA).

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I had a lot of professors in my committee back in my M.A. program who are Cornell alumni and they encouraged me to apply to Cornell; and among all the programs I was accepted into, Cornell is the highest ranked and the one that offered me the best stipend package. Now almost at the end of my Ph.D., I can only say that coming to Cornell to do my graduate degree has been the best decision I’ve made.