Why have you done so much graduate school?
I have done 3–4 times the amount of coursework required for 1 Ph.D.! (You generally need 16-19 classes en route to a Ph.D.—I have done 62 graduate courses.) I love being a student in classes and having my world expanded by experts in various fields. I also value observing what kinds of teaching practices are most effective for different kinds of knowledge. The core reason, though, I have done so much graduate school in 4 different institutions is that the questions I have had about the world—including how it is that we might change all these systems of violence, and how we got here to all this injustice—could not be answered by one field of study. It has been a long, rigorous, and unusual journey to be trained across so many different fields of research. But I believe practicing interdisciplinarity for 14 years has given me some of my best insights for how to collaborate and teach in effective ways across professions, including in how I offer scholarly knowledge in non-scholarly environments.
How do you use your training in counseling psychology in your work?
My work as a critical social theorist (gender studies, ethnic studies, queer studies, etc.) is unique in that I bring a lens from my training as a therapist. I have never practiced as a therapist, but I trained for 2 years as one, and since then have worked extensively in cross-professional capacities with therapists, including training them in social theory and co-teaching together. In my work as a social theorist, I conceptualize the social and historical realms through how these systems are passed down within kinship networks and families, including our unconscious processes of dissociation and repression. My work connects large-scale cultural issues to deep psychological life and how that life is formed. Much of the field of counseling psychology and psychoanalysis is still defined by curriculum that does not thoroughly interrogate the systems of power (like whiteness and patriarchy) that shape our psychological and relational experiences. As a teacher, I invite my students to think deeply about their own identities, inner life, and relationships within larger cultural systems, and I believe these connections are why my classes are so transformative for people.
Do you work with men who want to learn about feminism?
Yes! I do. I will add that the process is different working with men because they have been socialized differently in their gendered experience. But, yes, I do work with men—including 1:1 feminist consulting work—and I have found it to be very meaningful work.
How do you identify in terms of your race? And why are you getting a PhD in Ethnic Studies?
I am white-identified. I am of Danish and Lebanese descent on my dad's side and French and German on my mother's. Ethnic Studies is a rigorous field of thought that is an umbrella term for many areas of scholarship that interrogate the systems of violence we find ourself in today as a consequence of western colonialism and white settler colonialism. Because interdisciplinary thinking is a particular strength of the field, Ethnic Studies as a home academic discipline has allowed me to incorporate my previous work across multiple fields (counseling psychology, feminist studies, and US religious history), which has been a real gift to me, given how much of academia does not nurture the crossing of disciplinary boundaries.
What kind of daily habits support your work teaching about systems of violence?
I am grateful to have a yoga practice, as well as a daily practice with my creative writing. I also do a lot of walking because I find I need to ground to the earth. I experience a lot of secondary trauma with my work, and it's been a long and hard process to learn how to best care for myself, especially as an empath who feels the world quite intensely. I believe in wonder, poetry, and remembering that the earth will outlast us—it helps me immensely to remember how small we really are in the world, and what an amazing thing it is to get to be here, on this planet, working for life, healing, and justice.