Throughout my life, I have had the privilege and burden of moving around a lot. In doing so, I have had the opportunity to spend time in a wide variety of environments, living with and among individuals of all kinds of backgrounds, and work and study with people who shared my values, and those who didn’t. While I was fortunate enough to never experience significant hardship myself, these invaluable experiences created in me a keen awareness of diversity in backgrounds, and an understanding of what it feels like to be an outsider in an environment that, on the surface, may feel unwelcoming at first.
At any point in my career, whether as a lawyer-prosecutor or a teacher-scholar, I have experienced great benefit from that commitment to diversity. It has informed how I have approached these positions, instilling in me the sincere conviction that—no matter if they were suspected of committing a crime, a victim, or one of my many students—everyone deserves my respect, my dedication, and my undivided attention to ensure their fair treatment and a legitimate chance at, respectively, rehabilitation, recompense, or reaching their educational goals.
In my classrooms at UMass Amherst, I have encountered students facing significant barriers to their education, varying from language issues, to financial struggles, and mental health-related problems. For students experiencing these and other kinds of problems, I provide individualized solutions such as one-on-one instruction or small extensions on assignments, or direct them to appropriate campus resources when the need arises. Through my participation as an instructor in UMass’s Residential Academic Program—which offers first-year students small courses in a residential setting to ensure a smooth transition between high school and college—I have become especially attuned to a variety of student populations, with diverse relationships to formal education, varied experiences with politics and the legal system, and mixed socioeconomic backgrounds. For those students who needed assistance as they transitioned to college life, I developed successful mentoring relationships to help them meet the expectations the college experience imposes on them.
As a teacher, I present the materials I teach from a variety of perspectives, so as to make my courses relatable to as many students as possible. Having grown up overseas provides for a natural way to do so. For instance, my introductory class in constitutional law has a strong comparative component and encourages students to think of alternative solutions to the ways in which the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court address fundamental issues of liberty, equality, and civil rights. In class, my students often work together on assignments and peer review activities, and while the cross-cultural exposure may be subtle, I’ve found that by working together, students can learn about each other while developing their proficiency in political science.
My research agenda addresses diversity as well, as I focus on developing institutional analyses of representation in municipal politics and confronting implicit, intuitive assumptions about the value of grass-roots, participatory democracy. By conducting empirical analyses of the effects of local-level participatory political structures on representation of underrepresented and minority voices, I challenge the popular assumption that offering more opportunities to participate or the inclusion of more voices automatically results in a more equitable and fair political environment.
I work continuously to keep developing my awareness and appreciation of cross-cultural understanding. Being foreign-born myself, I am keenly aware of the fact that a proficiency in English, or an understanding of American political science topics does not come natural and shouldn’t be assumed or taken for granted. As a teacher, and a mentor to students, I take care to listen to my students carefully, and as a scholar, I make sure to confront the uncomfortable questions that arise when studying political institutions from up close. By adopting diversity as a perspective as well as a methodology, studying political institutions in their broader, international context and relating them to students and their lived experiences, I embrace the inherent malleability of political structures and empower students to become active participants in an increasingly more complicated world.