Bandana Purkayastha’s UConn roots run deep.
It’s where she earned her Ph.D.
It’s where she has taught sociology and Asian American studies since 1999.
And now, it’s where she’ll serve as the newest associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“I’ve had the opportunities to grow as a scholar, a teacher, and as a human being,” says Purkayastha, who assumed her role as Associate Dean for Social Sciences, Regional Campuses, and Community Engagement on August 24. “There is so much being done within CLAS.”
Purkayastha’s research centers on human rights, intersectionality, transnationalism, migrants, violence, and peace. Her books, peer-reviewed articles, and chapters have been published worldwide, including in translation. She currently serves on the executive committee for the International Sociological Association, an organization with members from 126 countries.
“Bandana has the experience, institutional knowledge, and creativity to understand and build on the College’s strengths in social sciences research and teaching,” says Juli Wade, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “She is well positioned to advance the work we do with UConn’s regional campuses, and build connections with communities across Connecticut, helping to fulfill our mission as a land-grant university. I am excited to have her join our office.”
Purkayastha has held several leadership positions, including head of the Department of Sociology from 2011 to 2016 and president of the Sociologists for Women in Society in 2013. She has also been recognized with two career awards from the American Sociological Association: the Contribution to the Field Award for her work on Asian and Asian Americans and the Jessie Bernard Award, which recognizes significant contributions to improving the lives of women.
“In this position, I’ll get to work across departments with colleagues whom I may have collaborated on small things, but this will be at the policy level,” Purkayastha says. “It’s important to make sure that both the policies and practices are lining up with what we are hoping to achieve.”
Some of her initial goals include promoting interdisciplinarity and diversity across the social sciences and showcasing the College’s important accomplishments in Connecticut — and beyond.
“When I first started at UConn, I had a half-time appointment at the regional campuses,” she explains. “I knew all the exciting things that happened there. I’m really looking forward to making those consistently visible.”
That includes highlighting student projects and the tangible impact they’re having in their communities.
“There are multiple students in departments who are working all across the state,” says Purkayastha, who has served as an advisor or associate advisor to more than 60 Ph.D. and MA graduates. “One colleague and her students set up a food pantry in Stamford. Initiatives like that are important.”
She looks forward to building new resources, getting people together, and discussing the big ideas that set CLAS apart.
“Being in conversation with people who are interested in broadly similar things, but are studying in different ways, [provides] a lot of freedom and opportunity.”