THI spoke with Dr. Papazoglakis about her transition from academic work to non-academic work, her current role at the City of San José, and the Public Fellowship opportunity she has helped to create there for a UC Santa Cruz graduate student to work in the Broadband, Digital Inclusion, and Privacy team.
Applications for THI Graduate Public Fellowships are due April 1, 2020.
We would love to learn about your PhD in Literature and career path since graduating from UC Santa Cruz. How has your Humanities doctorate guided your interests and shaped your work in different fields?
I started the PhD program in literature at UCSC with a desire to study racial and gender equity gaps in the United States and in the hemisphere as a narrative problem. Since philanthropy has often been promoted as the answer to so many social inequalities, my academic research centered alternative stories of philanthropy by multiethnic writers who inverted popular conceptions of philanthropy as “doing good.” These authors and texts represented different ways that wealth and power either have been or could be redistributed outside of traditional philanthropic frameworks in order to advance equality and freedom.
Because my scholarly interests in philanthropy, human rights, and equity intersected with my social commitments to racial and gender equity, I was interested in pursuing jobs that would allow me to bring an intersectional and historically informed lens to the work. The exact type of work was less important to me than having the freedom to shape and advance projects using historical and cultural approaches proven to produce important, uncommon insights into seemingly intractable problems. I decided to apply for academic and non-academic jobs and focused my efforts on finding a position that would allow me to use these skills rather than pursuing a particular role, an approach to the job search I learned through UCHRI’s Humanists@Work initiative and UCSC’s public humanities programs.
Where did this job search approach lead you—right into the public service position you hold now, or elsewhere?
I heard that Swell Creative Group was looking to hire someone to manage a new project on agriculture, food, and technology. I was excited by the chance to use my research and writing skills to produce a report that was different from common techno-utopian or -dystopian visions of the food system. The project expanded, enabling me to bring together plural, often-divergent perspectives from farmers, nutritionists, and computer scientists by convening and leading a multi-sector working group.
It’s an exciting time to work in technology policy because our laws and cultural norms have not kept up with the pace of innovation.
It sounds like you’ve landed a really interesting position. When did San José become a Smart City, and why is digital privacy work so important? Can you tell us about the City’s approach to digital privacy and community engagement?
In 2016, Mayor Sam Liccardo set out a vision for San José to become a Smart City by leveraging technological innovation and our proximity to Silicon Valley to provide effective, efficient, and equitable services to the community. Becoming a Smart City means adopting new technologies and building digital infrastructure to improve the City’s services to the residents of San José.
One example of a Smart City project is the San José 311 app, which makes it much easier and more convenient for residents to request services, such as trash pickup or pothole repair. Another example is the City’s work to build a comprehensive public and private broadband network that will enable the City to use digital tools and bridge the digital divide.
An effective policy must be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions and it should center those who will ultimately be impacted by new technologies.
You are creating an exciting opportunity for a current UC Santa Cruz Humanities doctoral student to apply for a THI Public Fellowship with the Broadband, Digital Inclusion, and Privacy team at the City of San José. How do you envision a Humanities student contributing to your projects and what skills will they gain from the experience?
Humanists are well situated to navigate this dynamic space.
This is also an opportunity for graduate students to address their research and writing to non-academic audiences made up of City staff, City Councilmembers, and the public. There may be opportunities to produce workplace trainings around digital privacy in which they can further develop and refine their pedagogy by drawing from the classroom experience to educate City staff on digital privacy.
Finally, the public fellow will have the opportunity to help shape the role of technology in the public sector. It’s an exciting time to work in technology policy because our laws and cultural norms have not kept up with the pace of innovation. An effective policy must be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions and it should center those who will ultimately be impacted by new technologies. Humanists are well situated to navigate this dynamic space.
Applications for THI Graduate Public Fellowships, including this placement at the City of San José, are due April 1, 2020. Please contact Saskia Nauenberg Dunkell at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.