Bridging the Gap team is thrilled to announce the addition of a new member of our leadership team: Fabiana Perera, our new BtG Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow. We recently sat down with her to ask about her work, hobbies, and plans for the fellowship. Welcome to the team, Fabiana!
BTG Tell us a bit about yourself. What drives your scholarship?
FP I’m a 14th Amendment American who grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and began learning how to be American in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (people always have questions about that.) I am a political scientist and a public servant. Currently, I work in a little bit of a unique role: I teach people (men and women, civilian and military) serving in the defense and security sectors of countries in Latin America. In this role my scholarship is intellectually driven by two things: trying to find answers to questions they’re struggling with, and trying to find answers to things I observe when I am with them that are troubling me. In all cases, my work is driven by my belief in the region’s potential and especially in its people’s potential.
BTG What’s your favorite part about teaching?
FP My favorite part is the look on a student’s face when a new concept clicks for them.
BTG What about your interests and activities — how do you spend your time outside of work?
FP I’m a runner. I’m slow like a turtle on peanut butter, but I run. I also spend a lot of time on the phone with people I love (my sister, my mom, my dad, all of whom live far away). Since the pandemic I am also a baker. My specialty is challah.
BTG Why did you want to get involved with Bridging the Gap?
FP Participating in Bridging the Gap opened a lot of doors for me. It encouraged me to not give up on the way to my PhD and it also gave me skills and frames that I have referenced in interviews and continue to use in my work. I want to be involved in Bridging the Gap because I want more people to have the opportunities that I have. I strongly believe that when a door is opened to me, I have the responsibility to hold the door open for others. So that’s what I hope to do. I hope to hold the door open for a while.
BTG Why is it important for scholars to share their work with policymakers and the public?
FP Policymakers don’t have the time or the training to go find the answers to issues that they’re having to decide on. Sharing scholarship with policymakers (and producing this type of scholarship) helps policymakers make decisions with the best available information. It’s cool to know something (as you do when you’re a reader), even cooler to know how it is you know it (as you do when you’re a scholar), but the coolest is to know how you know something and to have that knowledge be what’s helping drive a decision that affects the lives of others.
BTG What do you see as some of the challenges confronting underrepresented groups in writing and disseminating policy-relevant scholarship?
FP The first two that come to mind are representation and the free labor that is added on to underrepresented groups. Regarding representation, I firmly believe that you cannot be what you cannot see. As scholars from underrepresented groups we might not be seeing numerous examples of people that look like us and sounds like us producing this type of scholarship. Personally, one of the things that I think about all the time (even writing this) is whether my Latina voice, the fast-paced English-mixed-with-bits-of-Spanish that is authentic to me sounds professional, sounds like a scholar. Greater representation in the field would give scholars more examples of how cultural expressions can be present without sacrificing authority and professionalism. Second, and not unrelated, the single most important input into scholarship is time. Researching and writing takes time. Underrepresented scholars are often asked to perform work–committee work, advising work–that is often unpaid and even when it is compensated takes time away from producing and disseminating scholarship. These two are the biggest challenges, in my opinion.
BTG What are some of the things you hope to do with BTG this year?
FP I hope to work to hold the doors open for others. My main interest is in helping BTG reach students and faculty in institutions that have had lower rates of participation in BTG, particularly minority-serving institutions and smaller public colleges and universities. In addition to helping with outreach I hope to create more spaces for scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to learn about what it means to produce and disseminate policy-relevant scholarship and to create opportunities for them to do so. I am fortunate to be following Emmanuel’s own year-long efforts on this topic and extra fortunate that he’ll be in my same city (Washington, DC) for the whole year of my fellowship.