If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?
Previously I worked in the energy industry. I worked in the private sector before for oil and gas exploration companies. I worked in Houston, Texas, Pittsburgh and in this region, so I’d go wherever the job would be. I’d probably be back in Texas, honestly, if I weren’t at WVU.
Moment you knew what you wanted to study?
I had always been very interested in philosophy and just different ways of thinking and how people view and examine the world. I was probably 14 or 15 when I really thought I’d like to study philosophy. Then, getting my Juris Doctorate, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I made that decision kind of later in life. I took a couple years break and went back to school. I was thinking about a career and what was the best career for me and what I was most interested in.
Moment you knew what your current role was right for you?
When I studied philosophy, I had wanted to be a college professor because I had such influential professors in my life. I loved the idea of teaching at the college level because it seemed like such a great opportunity to learn from students. I saw this way of communication between students and professors I just thought was amazing. I had given up on the dream, though, because I spent so much time in the private sector. I just thought I’d never have the opportunity. Then, when WVU started their energy land management program and had an open position, I was so excited. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me.
When did you get involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
At the first company I worked for, I was presented with the opportunity to get involved with diversity and recruiting as well as employee resource groups to help employees in the company feel more connected and included.
As time went on, I got more and more involved in each company I worked for trying to make a difference. The last company I worked for I spent a lot of time helping develop programs for employees. We did things like lunchtime Spanish lessons. I helped get the company to sponsor the pride parade. Diversity recruiting is something I’ve worked on consistently. Making suggestions to company policy changes to help people feel more included.
At the university, it was a great opportunity to continue that work. I sit on the faculty senate inclusion and diversity committee. I am a committee member and founder of the Women in Natural Resources group. I was also one of the faculty member’s on President Gee’s working group this summer.
Where does your passion for it come from?
I’m biracial; my grandparents immigrated here from China during World War II. Growing up in West Virginia, I had a very unique experience growing up. My mom had always been sort of an activist, so I had been exposed to that.
My reasoning behind all these different things is that I truly believe that it’s the space that is so crucial and important. It’s very meaningful to me to help create that space. It’s so crucial to the world that we not only have a diverse population and a diverse community but an inclusive community.
Describe helping organize the Social Justice Summit in October.
With the help of the support of the dean, we put on the first ever social justice summit during Diversity Week, which was like a grass roots faculty senate led event that helped us reach out to WVU faculty, students and community members to assess how people were feeling about inclusion and diversity at WVU from their perspective.
There were a lot of takeaways from it, but one thing we learned is that people have a need to feel included. That’s probably one of the biggest messages is that inclusion is so key. We talk so much about diversity, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t feel included in the community.
We are going to continue to hold these summits. The next one will probably be in January and it will be about people getting to tell their stories and their lived experiences. If we can help bring awareness, I’m excited to participate in doing that.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’d probably live in Disney World, to be honest. It’s my favorite place. I like it more than my kids - they like it, but I really like it. Epcot is my favorite. Everyone thinks it’s so boring but they’re wrong because there is all this amazing food and fun things to do. If you can’t eat your way around the world, what can you do? So either there or the beach.
Favorite part of social distancing?
I think that social distancing has provided a really unique opportunity for me to be home with my family. I’ve spent most of my kids’ lives traveling or working or being very busy. So I get to spend time with them and we haven’t had that kind of quality time. My twins just turned 10 and my oldest is almost 12. For the first time in their lives, I’ve been able to be home. Plus, taking time to enjoy each day now that the hustle and bustle is taken away. There’s not an urgent need to constantly do things.
I’m definitely a glass half full person, so while there are definitely negatives to it, there have been so many positives.
Least favorite part of social distancing?
I really miss my students. One of my things I think that makes me a good educator is that I spend a lot of time outside of class with the kids. I really enjoy that time whether it’s helping write resumes or talking to them and getting to know them. I miss that part and I miss teaching in person. I just miss that quality time.
Just for Fun
Favorite Book: Jane Eyre
Favorite movie/tv show: Big Trouble in Little China, The Life Aquatic; Penny Dreadful
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Opeth
Favorite local restaurant: Stefano’s
Favorite local activity: Swimming holes