Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sunita Parikh

Dr. Sunita Parikh, Associate Professor of Political Science

Where did you grow up?
Hah, tough question! I was born in Lafayette, IN where my parents met at Purdue. When my father finished his Ph.D. we moved back to live with his family in India. Then we returned to the US when I was 10 years old and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
University of Chicago

Where did you receive your Ph.D. from?
University of Chicago

When did you come to WashU?

What is your concentration?
Comparative, although I also teach courses that count for American Politics.

Why did you pursue Political Science?
I started as an economics major but I realized the aspects that interested me were the ones most affected by political incentives and decisions.

What are you currently working on?
Courts in India; political protest; collective action and violence.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
Understanding Political Protest and Violence, because it connects theories of collective action with real-world events we care a lot about. The theories give you frameworks to make sense of all kinds of protests.

What is the most challenging class you have taken?
It’s a toss-up between game theory and Plato.

What is one piece of advice you would give a student interested in becoming a professor?
Be willing to defer gratification but always strive to achieve it.

If you were not a political science professor, what would you be doing?
Probably a Program Officer in a foundation. That’s what I did when I was finishing grad school and I almost got a job in a big foundation, but then my first academic offer came through.

What is the best way to spend a summer day in St. Louis?
This is cheating because it’s in Illinois, but cross the Alton bridge, take the Great River Road to Pere Marquette Park, and go for a hike up the cliffs and look across the rivers. Then come down and have lunch or dinner in the Lodge restaurant. If it’s June-August, wear bug spray!

Favorite place to eat in St. Louis?
For casual: O’Connell’s at Shaw and Kingshighway (eat at the bar) and Corner 17 on Delmar.

What motivates you to work hard?
I feel better mentally and physically when I’ve worked hard, despite being a naturally slothful person.

Favorite travel destination and why?
Wales, for the walking/hiking and the natural beauty. And the pubs. I can’t wait to go back.

What is the last book you read for pleasure?
Silverview by John le Carre. It’s his last novel, published posthumously. It’s not quite as good as his best work (start with The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and move on to the Karla trilogy), but still well worth reading.

Who is someone who inspired you?
Theda Skocpol. She showed me how to do research that spanned disciplinary boundaries and she modeled how to be a first-rate scholar and teacher despite the challenges that women have faced in academics. And she was incredibly generous to me and all her students. I’ll always be grateful to her for what I learned and received.