When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
During my K through 6 years, I really wanted to be a doctor. I enjoyed the one-on-one involved with “diagnosing and treating” each of my family members. I enjoyed analyzing their ailments and instructing them about how to get better. My parents and grandparents supported me in my activities and this gave me inspiration to excel in school and set professional goals for myself—even at a very early age. In 7th grade, however, I realized that I really enjoyed history and because I would often “relive it in my mind” it was an easy subject for me to grasp and do well in. It was around this time that I began to think about a career in law. Those thoughts, however, dwindled away as I grew to understand both the pros (the glory) and cons (the challenges) of being a lawyer. I ended up on economics—primarily because it’s a classic discipline, that’s strongly rooted in mathematics (which I really enjoy) yet also applicable to the study of populations.
Do you think there are things about you that people misunderstand?
I’ve had people tell me that I seem often mad, sad and/or even hmmm … “stuck-up.” I think this is because I am generally a quiet and private person. Occasionally, I’ll open up but I am also perfectly happy when I’m trapped in complete silence—even for long periods of time. As such, I’m not someone who derives any comfort from “background” noise. Perhaps it’s because of this willingness to be “secluded” and/or “excluded” that I’m sometimes stereotyped as mad, sad or stuck-up? I’m not certain.
What is the best way for a professor to make a connection with students?
Be yourself. Find common denominators (in other words, common grounds) with your students and take the discussion from there. Never place yourself on a pedestal in front of students—after all, we are all in class together in order to learn from one another.
If you had the time to learn something new, what would it be and why?
Definitely sewing! I think I am the first woman in my family who never learned to sew. I’ve never given it an honest try—which sits on my conscience.
What else should people know about you?
I’m not sure what I should share. I am a child of immigrants from Poland. Each of my grandparents as well as my father survived horrible experiences during and even after World War II. My father (along with his parents and sister) survived two years in the Russian Gulag. I grew up hearing about these life-testing moments and as a result, I have never discounted or taken for granted any of the opportunities that have come my way.