In what ways do you strengthen your community through the above role/position?

As a university professor, my two primary roles are to do research and to teach. Through research, and publishing my research, I hope to contribute to our understanding of political and international affairs. Through teaching, I hope to introduce my students to current debates in social sciences but also to encourage them to ask new questions, question their preexisting assumptions, and to be more critical and reflexive in general.

Are there any obstacles you struggle(d) to overcome? Consider obstacles specific (but not limited) to being a woman in your role?

There are challenges that many of us in social sciences face, from limited funding opportunities to problems with academic publishing. There are also challenges more specific to being a woman in academia, such as finding the right work/life balance, under representation of women in many disciplines and even uneven promotion and compensation practices. 
But when I look back at my personal history in the academia so far, I think the biggest challenges I have faced were cultural. From being more proactive in relations with professors and colleagues to questioning the intellectual authority of even seasoned scholars to participating in class discussions and speaking in public, many of the traits and behaviors that are essential in our profession and seemed to come naturally to my classmates and colleagues took me a long time to learn and even longer to feel comfortable with. That is why I think it is essential to create educational settings where students of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can feel included, be heard and flourish.

What is the best (most rewarding, empowering, FUN) part of what you do?

When I was a Ph.D. student, I never really thought much about the teaching aspect of my future profession. I always thought of myself more as a researcher, a future social scientist. The first time I ever taught a class, I was terrified. Now, more than twelve years into teaching, it is definitely the part of my job that I enjoy the most. It is so rewarding to see that spark in students when they encounter a new idea or a question they have not thought of before, and to see them open and wanting to learn.

Do you have any advice for women and girls who may look to follow in your footsteps or pursue a course in a similar field? 

I discovered my passion for politics and international relations at a relatively early age and knew that this was the path I wanted to follow. Sure, that discovery was just the beginning of a much longer journey of hard work, perseverance, feeling burnt out, getting lost and finding my way back. But without that discovery, it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible to continue the journey. My one advice to young people would be to take time to discover their passions, to explore and try new things until then. Not to jump into life-long carrier paths just because of the promise of financial security, family pressure or convenience. Find that which feels meaningful to you. Because no matter what profession you choose, it is a long journey where you face many challenges and have to make sacrifices, and feeling passionate about what you do makes those moments more bearable and the whole journey much more fulfilling.


Asli Peker, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor of International Relations, New York University