I went directly into graduate school after undergraduate years spent in creative writing; microbiology; activism in antiracist, Asian American, feminist, and queer causes; and ultimately, women's studies. Frankly, I came to Berkeley more for its geography than the department seeking distance from an awkward immigrant youth in an elite, conservative part of Tennessee. Ironically, I found an institutional experience in which I increasingly chose to prioritize graduate school over political participation.
My Berkeley experiences socialized me to do sociology through a peculiar tension between 'liberation' and 'profession' with its messy mixture of principle and convenience. I helped create Berkeley's Asian American graduate association but also started with an exceptionally diverse cohort. We led a memorable revolt in our first year against faculty who later taught me critical lessons about theorizing 'politics' and designing research. Troy Duster, Michael Omi, and the ISSC gave us incredible opportunities to study race & ethnicity - at a time when the department seemed to devalue the field. My dissertation group provided the essential community to pursue an otherwise isolating project. And at graduation, the department permitted me to make an amusing speech about passion, rejection, and chaos.
I am now an assistant professor at the University of Oregon where I explore the relationship between demography and historical racial formations through (1) research on diversity policy and transracial adoption, (2) teaching classes on race, politics, and education, and (3) serving on diversity-related committees. At this early point in my career, I still have not found a satisfying resolution to the conflicting demands of politics and profession, but perhaps this is a good thing.