Interview with Mei Li Inouye

"I loved my time at Stanford. I made an abundance of friends and contacts who continue to bless my life and shape my scholarship. I was able to ease into teaching with opportunities to TA, co-teach, and design my own courses. I had excellent guidance and a long leash to develop a project that often felt neither here nor there but that came together in unexpected, interdisciplinary ways. In my dissertation years, the excellent research support, conversations and lunches at the Stanford Humanities Center, and contemplative spaces of the arcades and sculpture gardens taught me to trust my training and intuition. I’m indebted to the wonderful faculty, staff, and students in EALC and its adjacent programs."

- Mei Li Inouye, Ph.D. in Chinese '20
Assistant Professor of Chinese at Centre College

Dissertation/thesis topic: Performing Jiang Qing (1915-1919): Gender, Performance, and Power in Modern China

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Chinese, Centre College

How did you end up pursuing your career? Do you have any advice for students contemplating similar career paths?: 

In my last year at Stanford, I applied for post-docs and positions at research and teaching institutions. I wanted a post-doc because it seemed to me that a good post-doc was critical to developing my research agenda and securing a job at a research institution. I instead landed a tenure-track position at a top 50 liberal arts college. My past experiences of developing a high school language program and designing student travel experiences abroad played a part in the hiring process. Thanks to the collegial atmosphere and opportunities to participate in organizing a conference at Stanford, I feel that the learning curves of teaching and service at my current institution have been relatively low. I also feel that my temperament and abilities are well-suited to working at a liberal arts colleges where teaching, interdisciplinary collaborations, and the wearing of many hats are valued.

For Ph.D. candidates approaching the job market, I would encourage them to use the application process as an opportunity for self-reflection. In addition to making yourself the person you think prospective employers are looking for, celebrate the strengths and approaches that emerge from your unique confluence of experiences. As you tell your story, your materials will emanate your energy, and you might be surprised by the match(es) you will make.

Some details about an ongoing project, recent publication, a notable accomplishment: 

On the research front, I recently had a publication, “Marketing Jiang Qing: Revolutionary, Modern Girl, and Dangerous Woman in Left-wing Cinema,” accepted into the Journal of Chinese Cinemas and I am finishing a book manuscript on Jiang Qing.

In terms of teaching, I built a Chinese program with a major and minor in my first two years of teaching. I was successful in getting the university to approve an additional tenure track faculty for the program. I also brought five performance and film-related scholars and practitioners to campus, organized fifteen-plus guest speakers to speak about their China-related careers, and designed a study away course in Malaysia for students who were unable to travel to China. This year, my advisee received a Fulbright Student ETA, a Critical Language Scholarship, second place in the National Chinese Language Speech Contest, and a full-ride scholarship to Zhejiang University. Her application materials featured her research on Caffeine Cosmopolitanism—a project that I advised from its inception in a lower-level Chinese language course.