Tommy Pham | New University
Tommy Pham | New University

One of the great things about college is the slew of courses that aren’t likely to be offered anywhere else. Politics of Style is a prime example of such a class. Taught by Priya Shah, who received her Ph.D in English at UC Irvine, this women’s studies course focuses on the relationship between fashion and society and how it shapes behavior, identity and cultural practices.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Shah to chat about a range of subjects, from visiting Greece to the restorative powers of Colin Firth.

Shannon Ho: What was your dream career as a child?
Priya Shah: My dream was to be a fashion designer! Even as a little girl I would always be sketching and designing clothes.
SH: What made you want to become an educator?
PS: My other passion was literature and teaching, so I ended up following that path instead. But I’d always wanted to bring [fashion and education] together, so Politics of Style is kind of like my dream class.
SH: What’s a prized possession of yours?
PS: I would have to say my books. Every time I’d move, I’d just carry boxes and boxes of them with me. There’s just something so visceral about holding a book, especially if it’s something that has been important to me in the past.
SH: What’s a book you think everyone should read?
PS: I have a couple! “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks, anything by Audre Lorde and Ann Stoler’s “Race and the Education of Desire.”
SH: Mac or PC?
PS: Oh, PC! I tried to make the change. It was horrible! I couldn’t figure it out.
SH: Dream vacation spot?
PS: My favorite vacation was Italy, but my dream would be Greece.
SH: What’s a movie you watch when you’re feeling down?
PS: “Pride and Prejudice,” the mini-series with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. That’s what I watch when I’m having a really bad day.
SH: What’s a CD you could listen to over and over again?
PS: 10,000 Maniac’s “Blind Man’s Zoo” was my first ever CD and it’s still the one I could probably listen to again and again.
SH: Who inspires you?
PS: Within academia, it’s my advisor Inderpal Grewal. She’s currently a women’s studies professor at Yale and was just a complete inspiration to me. In general? Although I don’t agree with everything she does, Hillary Clinton. She made a place for herself in politics despite everything that was put against her and that’s awesome.
SH: What’s something that makes you feel confident?
PS: Being prepared. Especially when I’m teaching, what really helps me build my confidence is knowing that I spent time getting ready what I want to say to my students.
SH: What is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime?
PS: Traveling. It allows you to gain perspective on your privilege and to understand your position within a much larger scheme.
SH: What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give any student who is reading this right now?
PS: To make sure that you are a part of creating the kind of society you want to be in after you graduate, rather than just following what people tell you. Don’t be afraid to question things that are told to you as common sense. De-naturalize common sense!

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