June 30, 2020

DAUS Faculty Spotlight: Lisa Samuel

This summer, we’re introducing a new interview series to showcase members of our community who help to make our division so unique. 

We invite you to get to know one of our professors, Lisa Samuel, PhD., who teaches international relations courses in the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies. 

Before joining NYU SPS, what were you doing?

I was a research associate in the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, where I also taught in the Department of Politics and International Relations. I also played a leading role as a member of the faculty team that designed and implemented the International Studies Program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Is there a figure, either living or passed, famous or not well known, who you’d like to have guest lecture in one of your classes or with whom you'd like to joint teach? Why that individual?

Iris Marion Young. She was a brilliant, creative political theorist and activist for social justice. She created intricate and compelling theories of justice, power and oppression, gender and democracy, challenging dominant disciplinary norms in the most humane ways.  Her work on the politics of difference in a domestic social context has inspired my own thinking on structural difference in international trade. As a doctoral student, my dissertation supervisor and I were in the process of planning to invite Young to speak on our campus at Florida International University when we learned of her untimely death in 2006 at the age of 57. I wish that I'd had a chance to meet her and to ask her to guest lecture in one of my classes. I believe that my students would have been as inspired and as moved by her brilliance and her humanity as I continue to be.            

Do you have any collections or things you like to collect?

Necklaces and pendants! I am fascinated by mixed metals, asymmetrical shapes, set with different semi-precious stones.      

If you were not a professor, what avocation would you have?

Dog whisperer.

What is your next book to read?

“Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth,” by Rachel Maddow.

Did you have a mentor? Tell us about him/her.

Howard Mitchell. When I first entered legal practice, he taught me all he knew about the art of negotiation. Over the course of the past 30 years, he has steadfastly encouraged and supported me and every project I have undertaken. He has critically read every manuscript I've ever completed. In particular, he waded through my doctoral dissertation and challenged me to clarify and strengthen my arguments. He has been a sounding board for my hare-brained schemes for as long as I can remember. Whenever I seek his counsel, he readily gives it, and I know it always comes from one who has my very best interests at heart. I am grateful to be able to call him teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend. 

Was there a class or subject you dreaded or really struggled with in college?

I didn't really dread any of my college classes, but till this day, I live in mortal fear of all and any mathematics classes that I had to complete in high school! Were it not for extensive extra lessons, I probably would not have made it to college in the first place.     

Who/what is your inspiration?

My Mum. She is for me an inspiration of what it means to live with great strength while never losing your gentler side. She is a mother who gave her children roots as well as wings, who made ‘wonderful’ out of almost nothing at all, who made sense out of things that were hard for a child to understand, who gave and who gives unconditional love and support, and who quietly reminds her children of the gifts they have to offer the world.

Which historical figure would you invite to dinner?

Lord Kitchener.

Is there a country, present or past, that you would like to visit

The former Yugoslavia.

What’s your favorite word?

I have more than one! To name a few, conviviality, humility, and justice.  

How do you fill your free time?

Liming* with family and friends; baking, especially cakes; spending time at the beach, preferably somewhere in the Caribbean; dancing, usually to soca-calypso.  

*"Liming", or "limin' ", from "lime" - a word used in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean as a synonym for "a gathering" or "to hang out."

Lisa Samuel, PhD, is academic director and a clinical assistant professor at DAUS. She teaches courses in International Law, International Relations, and International Political Economy