Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient

Deborah Zerad Fallows, Ph.D. 

Writer, Linguist, Distinguished Fellow 

Dr. Deborah Zerad Fallows, writer, linguist and, with journalist-spouse James Fallows, a University of Redlands Distinguished Fellow in 2015, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.  

A native of the Midwest and a Harvard graduate with a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas, she has written extensively on the subject of language as well as on education, families and work, China and travel for The Atlantic, National Geographic and The New York Times among many others.

Her latest book, Dreaming  in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, is based on her three-year experience living and working in China. While learning Mandarin, Fallows realized that both the  struggles and triumphs of studying the language of her adopted home provided clues to deciphering the  behavior and habits of its people as well as its culture's conundrums.

As her skill in Mandarin increased, bits of the language―a word, a phrase, an oddity of grammar ―became windows into understanding the romance, humor, protocol, relationships and the overflowing humanity of modern China’s culture, politics and people.

Making the most of her background to grasp the enormity of Chinese life through language, the book offers a refreshingly different take on the world’s next superpower.  

Her 1985 book A Mother’s Work, which made what she called “the feminist case for motherhood,” was a pioneering look at the questions of work-life balance, questions that are now at the center of family and corporate discussions around the world.

Fallows has also worked in research and polling for the Pew Internet & American Life Project and in data architecture for Oxygen Media. Her current project is partnering with husband James on The Atlantic’s “American Futures” reporting project, visiting America’s smaller towns and cities to see how people are adjusting to the economic, environmental and technological opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

She has focused particularly on innovations in education and public libraries as well as language, including analysis of the words people use most frequently to describe their town. The Fallowses live in Washington, D.C. and have two sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.