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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Bringing the world to Aggieland’s classrooms

Assistant+professor+Alain+Lawo-Sukam+teaches+both+Hispanic+and+African+studies+at+A%26amp%3BM%2C+combining+his+home+of+Cameroon+with+the+language+he+choose+to+study+from+a+young+age.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Dalia Muayad

Assistant professor Alain Lawo-Sukam teaches both Hispanic and African studies at A&M, combining his home of Cameroon with the language he choose to study from a young age. 

From Cameroon to China, Texas A&M professors come to College Station from around the globe, bringing with them unique experiences and different perspectives.
The number of international faculty mem- bers has been increasing since 2012, accord- ing to a faculty demographics report done by A&M. A&M currently employs close to 1,000 people from countries other than the U.S., the majority of whom are graduate assistants.
Alain Lawo-Sukam, an assistant professor in the Hispanic and African Studies departments, was born in the French-speaking part of Cameroon. Despite this, he decided to study Spanish when he began his undergraduate studies. After graduation, he went on to receive a Ph.D. in Spanish in the U.S.. Much of his research now relates to black Hispanics, fusing his African background with his academic studies.
Lawo-Sukam said teaching both Hispanic and Africana studies at A&M and also the demographic makeup of his department suit his African and Spanish speaking background.
“My environment here is geared toward myself because we are from the get-go an in-
ternational space,” said Lawo-Sukam. “People here come from Mexico, Spaniards … Ameri- cans are the minority. At the end of the day it is a very global space here [within the depart- ments]. For me, it is better than for my other colleagues, who are in other departments.”
While he said his experience on campus has been ideal, even more so than that of other international or minority faculty members, he knows. Lawo-Sukam also pointed out that experience on and off campus are two different things.
“Out of campus is a different thing … when I go out people notice my accent and they sin- gle me out,” Lawo-Sukam said. “Some people, kind of look down at me, ‘Oh this foreigner,’ you know what I mean … it doesn’t feel good, to be singled out, out there as a foreigner.”
Jun Lei is an assistant professor in the in- ternational studies department and a native to China. Lei, who received her Ph.D. in Com- parative and Chinese literature, teaches both courses related to film and gender and also Chinese language courses.
Lei said although most international professors completed their graduate studies in the U.S., making the jump to professorship can be difficult.
“We have less understanding of how the system works, so you need a little more time to kind of navigate,” Lei said. “Also to relate to students, to relate to colleagues, because it’s a very different road than you were when you were a grad student.”
Lei said she feels the challenge of teaching and relating to students has not been as greatly affected by her nationality as by her other characteristics.
“For me it’s not international or not interna- tional, I think it’s seniority and also … gender, as a junior female faculty, an Asian woman,” Lei said, discussing the factors that affect her experience as a professor.
Economics professor Rodrigo Velez, orig- inally from Columbia, initially received his Ph.D. in Economics from University of Roch- ester in New York before coming to work as a professor at A&M.
Lawo-Sukam said that learning to under- stand what you are not accustomed to is a critical part of the university experience.
“I told my students at the beginning, you guys are going to warm up to my accent, and then after a while you are going to under- stand,” Lawo-Sukam said. “And then second- ly, when you come to university, you come to a global world, then you have to also emerge into this global world.”
Lawo-Sukam said he believes the best way to live is to accept those different than yourself, a lesson he impresses on his students.
“Whether we like it or not, we are affected by it,” Lawo-Sukam said. “And then, the best way to handle those things is to try to get out of ourselves, and then embrace, or accept, or understand the other.”

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