*Pawan Dhingra is a professor of American studies. He received his doctorate in sociology from Cornell University and his bachelor’s in psychology from Carleton College. *
Q: How did you first start studying the subject that you went on to pursue, and what made you decide to go into academia? A: I first started studying the subject in college. I wanted to go into academia because I found using research to try to understand social trends and problems enjoyable. A psychology of prejudice class, where I learned how prejudice works cognitively and socially, [was a particular influence].
Q: What is your favorite part of American studies? A: What I enjoy most about American studies is that it allows for a broad perspective on how we think about and study problems within American society.
Q: What type of research are you doing right now, and how did you first become interested? A: Right now I am researching a recent trend, where families with elementary school-aged children arrange for their kids to get supplementary education outside of school when there is no real clear remedial purpose. This extra education is primarily for enrichment and not for any identified deficiencies. I am interested in this area because of what it means for educational inequality, and how this trend might be taking attention away from the public school system. My research process consisted of interviewing families engaged in enrichment education, visiting the sites of enrichment education (e.g. math centers, spelling bees), talking with those who run enrichment education sites and the like.
Q: What kind of classes are you teaching this semester? A: I am teaching the Asian American Experience, and also the Social Construction of American Society. The Asian American Experience studies how Asian Americans can be understood from multiple analytical perspectives and can help shed light on topics of race, immigration and intersectionality. The Social Construction of American Society course analyzes how core inequalities and institutions of our society are socially constructed and how to analyze those social constructions.
Q: What made you decide to come to Amherst? A: I have been a fan of the college and its accomplishments for many years. I like liberal arts colleges. Amherst’s American studies department has a lot of exciting faculty and I am excited about being part of the group. I also thought I would enjoy living in this area.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside the classroom in your spare time? A: I spend a lot of time with my family, my kids, who are in middle and elementary school. I enjoy reading and a little bit of exercise, but not enough exercise. I tend to mostly read non-fiction books that dovetail with my scholarly interests.
Q: What do you hope to contribute to Amherst College while you are here? A: I hope to further Asian-American studies and generally contribute to the overall growth of the Amherst College.