Inclusive Institution Building
As the son of a Vietnamese refugee, I learned early on the value of creating an environment in which everyone feels welcome and supported. To this end, I have focused on building inclusive institutions, such as the Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab and the U.S.-Asia Grand Strategy Pre-doctoral Fellows Program, which have enabled me to improve the quality and impact of my own research, while also providing public goods that serve my university, discipline, and society. These institutions are designed to solve the “pipeline problem”: the fundamental problem that too many of the most talented individuals either never make it into the pipeline into academia or “leak out” before they are able to gain the skills they need to innovate and professionally succeed. I have worked to solve this problem by building two sets of inclusive institutions and networks that intervene at two critical nodes in the pipeline: 1) undergraduate training and placement, 2) graduate training and placement.
First, I am the Co-PI of the Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab, which serves students from underrepresented groups, recruiting them early in their education, ideally as freshmen for undergraduates and first years for graduate students. Many of these students have used their rigorous training in research design, data collection, coding, and qualitative and quantitative data analysis to land jobs at some of the most prestigious federal government agencies and firms in tech, finance and data analytics. This not only helps students, but also society, as it enhances the representation and inclusivity at some of the county’s most elite organizations, many of which have historically struggled to recruit a diverse workforce.
Second, in 2018, I co-founded the U.S.-Asia Grand Strategy Pre-doctoral Fellows Program with my Co-PI David Kang. This program aims at intervening in the second critical node in the pipeline: graduate training and, specifically, the dissertation writing and research community integration phase. Too many scholars from underrepresented or underprivileged groups “leak out” of the pipeline during this period, as they struggle to produce impactful research and integrate themselves within a supportive scholarly community. We work to solve this problem by recruiting, mentoring, and integrating a group of young scholars that focus on research related to international security and conflict in Asia. Last year, we successfully hosted our second class of seven pre-doctoral fellows, over half of whom were women and/or students from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups. In addition to providing valuable support for these students, the fellows program will impact the field by bringing the diversity and fresh ideas needed to challenge the status quo and produce policy-relevant research in this increasingly important area.