Here is my classic elevator speech that in a few seconds attempts to capture who I am and what I do:
I am interested in the way that people connect across differences. More specifically, I explore the how and the why of these connections.
Like any elevator speech, it is meant to be a conversation starter for people to pick the parts that mean the most to them and ask for more specifics. On its own, the statement above just really doesn't mean much of anything at all. But, in follow-up you learn about who I am as a scholar/researcher, teacher, and clinician.
What do you mean you are interested in the way?
As a researcher, I follow people (mainly college students at this point) over time. I ask them questions at the early stage of college and then bug them again and again year after year. Why? Because, I want to know more about how people grow and change. I am curious about the way that people think and feel about culturally-different "others" and how that changes over time.
Relatedly, I explore the ways people conceptualize their own identity and how this evolves and shifts, too.
What about the phrase 'connect across differences'?
Have you been on Facebook lately? Watched people debate pro-choice v. pro-life, co-sleeping v. non-bed sharing, Black Lives Matter v. All Lives Matter? I am fascinated by how people navigate differences in thoughts, experiences, and feelings, particularly when these differences are culturally-informed. I think it is important to discuss -- now maybe more than ever!
So what is the how?
Most of my work focuses on global and intercultural competence development. Broadly, I try to understand how people navigate differences. I look at how a person's traits (like being conscientious, neurotic, or open to new experiences) and experiences (like having friends from different countries and travelling around the world) shapes how they think, act, and feel.
And the why part of it?
Why should anybody even care about connecting with those who are different? Isn't it better, less anxiety-provoking, and safer to remain in a bubble with people who value and believe the same things that you do? My research says no. I explore the concrete benefits that come along with more inclusivity for everyone. I work to debunk the myth that building skills for cross-cultural efficacy is something you do just because it sounds nice or because you don't want to be attacked by the "PC Police". I examine if people who connect with culturally-different others have different outcomes like being happier and more successful. I also look at the wider impact of these interactions.
Welp, this is my floor. I hope that you have a good day. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to talk more about this!