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Prof. C. N. Le

Stephen Margelony-Lajoie
December Spotlight: C.N. Le


This month's spotlighted faculty member is C. N. Le, a Senior Lecturer Professor in the Department of Sociology and the director of the Asian & Asian American Studies Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Professor Le came from humble beginnings, immigrating to the United States from Vietnam in 1975 after the end of the Vietnam War. His parents, who worked for the U.S. military, used their connections to the United States to secure their family's journey to the States. Le and his family settled in Southern California, attending school from his elementary years to college in the Orange County area.

Le ended up attending the University of California Irvine for his undergraduate studies, where he was originally on the pre-med track.

"Like a lot of Asian American parents, they wanted me to be a medical doctor," Le commented about his undergraduate years. It made sense to him, since a younger Le excelled at the sciences in high school, but he was faced with a harder curriculum than he had expected while attending college. Eventually, Le changed to a pre-law track in the hopes that it would appease his parents after deciding not to stick with a pre-med education. However, it wasn't until his junior year at school that he was able to make a connection to a subject that he felt passionate about.

C. N. Le decided to declare a minor in sociology during this time, after taking a class about race and ethnicity that he could really connect with.

"It really opened up my eyes to what is going on in society, but it also showed me how I, as an Asian American and an immigrant, fit into the situation." Le stated. The professor that taught the course later became an unofficial mentor of sorts to Le, encouraging him to pursue graduate studies in sociology. Eventually, Le attended SUNY Albany, which jump started his journey to becoming a college professor.

Fast forward to his successful career at UMass Amherst, Professor Le has a passion for creating connections between what he teaches in his classrooms to the students' community.

"It's one thing to learn about discrimination and inequality, but there's not much value in learning about these issues if you don't take any action. It doesn't matter if you apply what you learn to your own life or whether you're using what you've learned to make a contribution to society." Le said.

Le also tries to keep variety in the classroom instead of just lecturing students every single class for the duration of a semester. Combining lecture and interacting with the students in conversation, he lets students question and discuss classroom materials and current events with him and their classmates, believing that students should take advantage of the learning opportunities that peer discussion presents.

Whether he's analyzing the rise of the recent hit song "Gangnam Style" by South Korean artist PSY or lecturing, C.N. Le always keeps the class from being a standard, tired college environment. He might even be one of the coolest professors on campus.

More information about C.N. Le and the Asian and Asian American Studies Certificate Program can be found at http://people.umass.edu/cnle/.

C. N. Le