Professor and Associate Dean
School of Social Work
As the youngest of six, I've never been without mentors and models. First my siblings and then my professors showed me so many different ways I could make a life for myself. I try to emulate them now as I serve as a mentor, helping people make a career that reflects their values, talents, and priorities.
I am queer, biracial, and was born the year after my family left China. My most beloved family (of origin and in-law) are permutations of Chinese, Black, Latinx, White, straight, lesbian/gay, trans...and far more than any category can contain. I was raised to draw strength from my difference and this often feels liberating and invigorating. But if I'm honest, it's also sometimes isolating and frustrating. To this day, I deal with people who expect me to explain myself when I'm not what they assumed (i.e., stereotyped). As a student, I constantly scanned for people who wouldn’t ask me to be more or less to fit others’ molds. I found this in a community of critically-minded mentors and colleagues who push—and thrive—at the margins.
Regardless of whether you contact me or another NEAR mentor, I hope you find this, too: people who support/push you to think and work smarter, sharper, more meaningfully, and far beyond the boundaries that others draw for you.
Laina adds: My partner and I became parents when I was dissertating and she was in year one of a tenure track job. Our second child joined us two years later. We didn't have tenure or money...but we had so much fun. I'm happy to share our strategies (and missteps!) and to be a sounding board.