Susan Ervin-Tripp has shown us the possibility of redefining the life of the intellectual. Rather than allowing her problem domains to be shaped by traditional task definitions, she has -- again and again -- gone to "the world" to find problems worthy of study, and has repeatedly returned to the world to share her gained insights. That is, hers is truly "a mind in the world" -- in two senses: a mind that takes inspiration from real-world, consequential human situations and that directs its intellectual activity towards changing those situations. In this brief introduction, we wish to illuminate the striking personal characteristics that reflect this theme.
Although born and raised far from both coasts -- in Minneapolis -- it is hard to think of Sue's life and work without thinking of such places as France, Japan, the Indian reservations of the American Southwest, and, of course, the two coasts of this country. She has enthusiastically explored and studied diverse peoples, languages, social, and cultural settings. In her research methods, too, one thinks of a diversity of approaches: experiments, naturalistic and controlled observations, interviews -- using audio recordings of speech, written texts, video recordings of interaction patterns, and a range of stimulus materials over the years. Similarly, looking at the populations Sue has studied, one finds children and adults, natives and immigrants, monolinguals and bilinguals, individuals and groups.
In the academic setting, she has held positions in departments of psychology, rhetoric, and women's studies. Within her home department of psychology she is rare in being an active member of three divisions -- developmental, cognitive, and social. And at Berkeley she has placed her research projects in the Institute of Cognitive Studies (formerly the Institute of Human Learning), the Institute of Human Development, and the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory of the Institute of International Studies. This diversity is also reflected in the range of disciplines that Sue has been affiliated with, as committee member and colleague: psychology, linguistics, anthropology, education, sociology, rhetoric, and women's studies.