Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Lakshmi Premysler, 2022

Lakshmi Premysler

Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):

The purpose of the thesis was to understand Asian Indian women adoptees’ life history, primarily focusing on what it means to be adopted into White families in America. This research examined their biological and adopted cultures and the effect of those cultures on their identity formation. Through a qualitative study, nine women participated in in-depth interviews and surveys. Their narratives reflected: their sense of identity, whether Indian and American or one identity exclusively; racism; assimilation; and racial and cultural belonging. A major finding of this study was the different types of racism that the participants experienced as children within their communities even though they felt accepted as South Asian. Another finding was that adoptive parent(s) avoided discussing the topics of race and racism during the participants’ childhoods.

How did you choose your specific area of study?

My specific area of study did not come to me until I was well into the second year of my Master’s, during the Spring of 2021. At that time, I was in Dr. Manuel-Scott’s class, taking a course titled Social Justice Education. The topic of transcultural adoption was sparked by a young adult fiction #DistruptTexts visual project assignment for her class. For this project I read: The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Dorthy, The Great Call of China by Cynthea Lui, First Daughter: Extreme America Makeover by Mitali Perkins, and Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber. The main characters of the novels were girls of Tanzanian, Chinese, and Pakistani origin who were adopted by white parents and their issues of self-discovery and reliance. My interest in exploring the topic of cross-cultural adoption was sparked. Next, I undertook research to determine whether or not other scholars had written on South Asian adoptees, South Asian women adoptees, or Asian Indian adoptees. To my surprise, I found little to no research on this group of people, although some research was done on the topic in Europe. The majority of research on the topic of cross-cultural adoption has addressed the East Asian experience. I was committed to writing about South Asian women adoptees’ experiences.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

I graduated from Guilford College with a Bachelor of Science in Community and Justice Studies, with a minor in a program coined Every Campus a Refuge, an offshoot of a program founded by Guilford dedicated to the resettlement of refugees on college campuses. Inspired by my academic studies and community work, I sought out a graduate program where I could continue studies in the field of social justice. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights has allowed me that opportunity, but, as importantly, it has made me a better academic, allowing me to hone my critical thinking and research skills. The program also gave me the privilege to explore a research topic that was my own. I have really enjoyed being in classrooms with great professors and bright students.

Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?

I came to Mason in the Fall 2019 after graduating from Guilford College in North Carolina, a very small liberal arts college. When I came to Mason, I was extremely overwhelmed because I was coming from a small tight-knit campus where everybody knew everybody. Mason was a city and I was a commuter. By my second week, my class assignment was on a topic that felt way over my head. I made an appointment with my professor, shared my concerns, and her reassurance was encouraging. I did not give up. But, I remember the MAIS 797 presentations given by students who were further along; I was amazed by how the presenters came to find their passion for their project or thesis, but at the same time I was anxious that the program required me to produce similar research. For two years, I fully immersed myself in my classes until the point when I had to form an idea of what I wanted my independent research to be. It was my coursework at Mason that inspired my topic, original research, that has also given me the opportunity to build a community with the women that I interviewed for my research based on our shared experiences. I hope that I have represented the Asian Indian women [I interviewed] accurately. I have research that I can call my own and for others to read. I am proud that I chose to further my education, for meeting the academic challenges that I first faced, for staying at Mason, and for completing my degree. It has been a long journey but one that I would not trade for anything.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?

At Mason, I have taken the majority of my classes with Dr. Manuel-Scott, who also served as my advisor for my internships. She was kind enough to take me under her wing, throughout, and for my thesis. After all, it was the material that she taught in those classes and a project that she required in one that sparked my interest in the topic of my thesis. When I shared the topic with Dr. Manuel-Scott, she was immediately on board and told me she would be happy to be the Chair of my thesis committee. Dr. Manuel-Scott supported my ideas and listened to my concerns. She helped walk me through the thesis process and was always available to talk. I could not have asked for a better professor or a better chair.

What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?

Throughout my Master’s, I was always hard on myself, second-guessing myself and my work to the point where I drove myself crazy. So, my advice to the incoming cohort of graduate students is to be kind to yourself, celebrate your hard work, be proud of the work that you produce, and believe in yourself.

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

I have an interest in continuing my education. My long-term goal is to pursue a Ph.D. and become a professor. For now, I plan to take graduate courses in the field of sociology, which may be the academic field I pursue. In the meantime, I plan to stay in the area and work. But, we will see where life takes me.