My experiences growing up as the daughter of an internment camp survivor have grounded how and why I continue to learn from uncertainty and ask questions.
While an Anthropology major at Davidson College (’15), I learned to look closely, listen intently, and explore reflectively in the hopes of better understanding the humanity in a community. Since graduating in 2015, I worked at Communities In Schools in Charlotte, taught for two years at Jiaying University in China, and researched international education policies affecting girls at the Population Council’s GIRL Center.
After getting my master’s at Harvard Graduate School of Education and receiving a Khayrallah Fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill’s MEITE program, I now work in education technology to support the learning engineering field and middle school math education.
My day-to-day work involves program management, monitoring and evaluation, and technical translation. I continue freelancing as a research assistant in education policy around access and equity.
More about my recent work
In 2021-22, I was a graduate student studying at UNC Chapel Hill’s MEITE program as a Khayrallah Fellow. On the Learning Engineer track, I explored personalized and adaptive learning, self-regulated learning, learning technologies and learning analytics.
Having assisted with policy-related research, I edged toward expanding my research in education technology because of its potential to respond to learners' needs in real-time and to adapt quickly to changing contexts. Through the MEITE program, I started to consider how learning technologies and instructional design could be synchronized to position learners as their own constructors and facilitators of learning.
Growing up in small-town North Carolina as the daughter of two immigrant Hakka restaurant-owners, I am motivated by curiosity. My pastime as a child involved hovering by customers' tables and asking them questions about their lives, what they did every day, where they came from and where they had been.
It seems fitting that I majored in Anthropology and minored in East Asian Studies at Davidson College, where I attended as a Belk Scholar. Anthropology trained me to collect data, and I studied methodologies in Visual Anthropology, Geographic Information Systems and Ethnographic Writing. More than anything though, I treasured the intricacies of stories.
Stories are survival. I learned this while writing The Deoli Diaries, a collection of narratives from former internees of Deoli Internment Camp. My father being one of them, former internees included anyone of Chinese descent, bearing a Chinese surname or married to a Chinese spouse in northeastern India during the Sino-Indian border conflict. This was one of many protectionist policies inherited from colonialism that served to leave deep fractures in local communities.
I began documenting stories in 2012 in Toronto and spent the summer interviewing and writing down the memories of survivors. Fear of retaliation and pain of remembering were indeed two factors that had kept the Chinese-Indian community silent for nearly 50 years. I was confronted with questions around healing and the roles of forgetting and remembering--questions that diasporic communities face time and again.
Later, I became involved in the Association of India Deoli Camp Internees (AIDCI) 1962 as the co-secretary, helping with correspondence between ex-internees and news agencies (including , writers and documentary makers to help them share their stories. During this time, I learned to appreciate the multiple ways that advocacy shows up. Some people protest, some teach, some heal, some care-give, some write. I learned to start from listening.
The Deoliwallahs (my dad and I are Chapteres 8 and 9, respectively) by Dilip D'Souza and Joy Ma
In 2015, I was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. The Watson is a one-year grant awarded to students of "unusual promise" to complete a project of a global nature, under the condition of not returning to the US or countries previously visited. I titled my project “Unbound,” with the intention to study arranged marriage in Hakka communities.
I ended up in Austria, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius with a deeper understanding of women’s roles in maintaining notions of home, while trying to create new homes in Diaspora. The fellowship also enabled me to focus on the personal growth that makes such projects meaningful--building confidence, adapting to language barriers and vastly different contexts, balancing self-care with fostering ambitions, and putting my endurance to the test by sticking to a project I believed in.
Among many things I will always remember was learning Hakka, living in a storage room for 3 months, residing in a red light district, embracing creative writing again, and traveling alone as a woman.
I left my non-profit job in Charlotte to take a job teaching English at Jiaying University in August 2018. Jiaying is a government university in Meizhou of Guangdong province in China. Meizhou has a special place in my heart. It’s where my great-grandparents are from, and it’s also where I started my research. I first visited Meizhou while on a trip to present research at a conference at Jiaying University. I fell in love with the city and spent the following summer in a rural village studying local Hakka feminism.
My students often asked why I returned to Meizhou, and as they got to know me, I told them a little more. Professionally, I’d wanted to gain more classroom experience. I worked on the advancement team for Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. During that time, I gained invaluable experience understanding the development side of non-profits, though my favorite part of the job was any chance to actually see students and be a part of their worlds.
On my first day of teaching, I had to deliver a 90-minute oral English lesson to about 50 first-year students who had a broad array of exposure to English. I taught basic speaking skills to Biology, Chemistry, Chinese, Math and Engineering majors. I also led a course to prepare about 20 faculty members in oral English skills that would prepare them for gaining academic training and experience abroad. Later shifting to the Department of Foreign Languages, I taught oral English and writing courses to first-year and second-year English majors.