As a Black scholar who grew up economically disadvantaged, I am quite familiar with challenges faced by underrepresented minorities, particularly women, who have lived in under-resourced and often unstable households. It is the circumstances of these people who I am most committed to addressing through my research.

My initial interest in economics and public policy came to me as a teenager when the school district was allotted a measure to fix up public schools. Schools in the higher-income neighborhoods received priority, and by the time it came to fix the middle school around the corner from my home (which needed major repairs), the district ran out of money. I continually recognized that the lower-income neighborhoods received the shorter end of the stick in education, and wondered why? What can be done about this? My trajectory since has been shaped to use my analytic skills and scholarly talent to improve public policies concerning distressed neighborhoods and disadvantaged populations.

I prioritize a diversity of perspectives in my work, my instruction, and my own experiences. I moved from a predominately minority and predominantly low-income area to a predominately white and predominately well-to-do neighborhood to attend a selective liberal arts college. In college, I had my share of negative dealings because of my color, my class, my familial circumstances, my creed, and hence, the experiences and perspectives that come from that. Instead, I took these dealings as an opportunity to learn about the different viewpoints people hold and how to incorporate these perspectives to my advantage. I solidified this skill when I graduated from my politically very liberal college to attend a politically conservative policy school for my MPP. The most successful public policies are bipartisan and considered multiple perspectives and experiences when they were made.

Then, I transitioned from a professional-oriented policy school with my MPP to an academic-oriented policy school to pursue my PhD. I have noticed that there is a “tension” between theory and application, and between academics and practice. I find this concerning as most people tend to fall into one camp or the other. During my PhD, I have taken advantage of opportunities to learn about policies and programs from practitioners’ perspectives whenever I can. I am now working on how to translate my research from academic papers into issue briefs for policymakers and other stakeholders. My research focuses on whether financial education works for underserved young adults and suggests that we need to examine the full range of financial practices young adults engage in (e.g. payday borrowing and postsecondary education decisions) when evaluating state-mandated, school-based financial education.

Because of my background, I harbor the ability to conduct policy analysis from my academic training and from the dimensions of diversity I possess. Accordingly, I aim to work at a research institution, university, or government entity known for researching issues on underserved populations and marginalized communities. I intend to make a meaningful contribution to society via scholarship. I use my intellect and my insights from my personal experiences toward investigating practical issues and helping to positively shape local communities.

My awareness of diversity and inclusion largely stem from my experiences as an underrepresented minority who grew up economically disadvantaged, but my appreciation for other marginalized groups (e.g. immigrants, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, and religious minorities) is growing. I carry out academic research that concerns disadvantaged populations because I want to foster an environment that encourages such inquiries, and I want future scholars to know that it is feasible and necessary to address questions concerning these groups. I will carefully listen to my colleagues and to my students while setting aside any perceptions I have about relative privilege because all differences are equally important in advancing scholarship.