I grew up in Seattle and somehow ended up across the country at Wellesley. I double majored in Chinese Language, where my advisor was Ruby Lam, and in Political Science, where my advisor was Bill Joseph. After Wellesley I got a PhD in Government at Cornell. Since 1997 I've been a professor in the Political Science Department at Tufts University, where I teach about Chinese politics, among other things. Until recently all of my research has been about China. However, at the moment I’m working on an American politics project about paid family leave because for now it's become impossible for me to travel to China for any length of time due to family issues. And I think it's okay, good, and an important reality check to acknowledge that our careers can take twists and turns because of our other commitments in life.
2. Why did you decide to become a Chinese Studies major? How did it shape your experience at Wellesley?
When I started at Wellesley in 1983, I wanted to take a non-European language, and Chinese was the only one offered. The Japanese language program didn’t start till the following year, or I probably would have taken Japanese. Japan was the big thing then, the economic competitor to the US, and China was still really closed off to the world. At that time, there was not a Chinese studies major, only a Chinese Language and Lit major. By the time I finished intensive first and second year Chinese, I decided to major in Chinese, and the only way could do that was to study in China. So I did that for six months. Looking back on it, I can't believe that my parents let me go. I was 18 years old, heading off to a country where it took two weeks to get a letter from home, and where we couldn't talk on the phone, and also the Internet didn't exist yet. The only way they could get in touch with me in case of an emergency was by sending me a telegram. But they let me go, and I'm very grateful for that. My sophomore year, I lived on the Chinese corridor in Stone Hall, which I think was the first year of Chinese corridor. I also lived my senior year on the Chinese corridor in Davis Hall. So being a Chinese major was an important part of my identity at Wellesley, from where I lived to where I studied abroad to who most of my friends were.
3. How did your EALC Major/Minor contribute or influence your future on a professional and/or personal level?
It got me interested in China, which has turned out to be the focus of my professional life as a student of Chinese politics.
4. Are you using your EALC language, literature, cultural studies experiences in the workplace?
Yes, I have done most of my scholarship using Chinese in interviews and archival materials.
5. Were your study abroad and/or internships experiences relevant to your career path?
Yes, studying in the Wellesley/CET program in Beijing widened my interests from Chinese language to Chinese politics, economics, and society. I was there in 1985, which in retrospect was an incredible time to have a first experience in China because the economic reforms were really just starting. The experience made me want to go back to China. I did that after graduation (with my classmate Nicola Morris) as an English teacher in Xiangtan, Hunan at a college run by the Ministry of Coal Mining (!). It was far from any big city, and the experience inspired me to do a PhD in Political Science at Cornell University with a focus on rural China.
6. Looking back, is there an area that the department or your specific program could have better served your needs? For example, course offerings, advising, extra curricular, major/minor interaction or other specific area?
I honestly can't remember after 30 years, but I do remember things I liked. I really liked China Club, which had some great cultural activities. For example, I learned how to make really good jiaozi at a China Club event, and that has served me well my whole life. I also lived on the Chinese Language Corridor for three years and loved that, too. In retrospect, as a professor myself now, I am really grateful for the time outside the classroom that we had with Mrs. Lam, Mr. Crook, Mr. Liu, Mrs. Yao, and of course Mrs. Lin. They invited us into their homes and shared personal experiences with us--for example, what happened to them and their families during the Cultural Revolution--in ways that I am either too tired or too busy to do for my students now. It was the quintessential liberal arts experience, and it was great.