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Student Spotlight: Chinbo Chong

Chinbo ChongChinbo Chong, Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science, Rackham Merit Fellowship, Clark & Robin Chandler Graduate Award, Rackham Conference Travel Grant

Originally from Seattle, political science Ph.D. candidate Chinbo Chong didn’t always think a career in academia was for her, but that all changed when she met someone with a potentially shared experience in the field. During her undergraduate career, she took her first political science course and was pleasantly surprised on the first day of class when her professor, an Asian American man, walked into the room.

“I knew I wanted to study political science. I was involved in Asian American civic engagement organizations and met a variety of politicians, but being taught by someone who looks like me, who I can identify with, inspired me and made me believe that my history was actually part of the bigger picture.”

As Chinbo continued to interact with this professor, her interest in the political science field grew. As her knowledge increased, so did her desire to be the representation that another student might need in the classroom. That idea is what determined her next step: graduate school. Her advisor, a University of Michigan alum, pointed her in the direction of Ann Arbor, and it wasn’t long before the rigor and training within her department showed her she had made the right decision.

There are so many funding options through Rackham. They allowed me to go to conferences where people in my field could look at my work. I was able to talk to people about my research and learn how to present myself and my research in front of a professional crowd. These resources have been phenomenal. Chinbo Chong

Chinbo’s dissertation combines her field of study with her appreciation for her own identity and those of other minority populations. Her research currently focuses on how politicians appeal to Asian and Latino electorates using identity strategies. This includes understanding what strategies are effective, how constituents are mobilized in support of a political candidate, and what types of rhetorical appeals politicians use. More specifically, she wants to understand how the ways in which politicians refer to cultural identities mobilize minority voters. So far, Chinbo’s data shows that Latino populations in Spanish-speaking countries outside the United States are more effectively mobilized by appeals that specifically reference constituents’ country of origin. Currently, the disconnect lies in the fact that many politicians tend to group minority populations into broader categories, rather than appealing to their national origin identities at which they identify voters.

Now in her candidacy with an eye on a 2019 graduation date, Chinbo is quick to describe her graduate experience as anything but linear. “I thought I would do everything in a specific time frame. It’s been a journey of internal dialogue to readjust to realistic expectations of my timeline and myself. I’ve had to make adjustments along the way, but there is still some method to the madness.” She explains that she leans on her advisors, Dr. Vincent Hutchings and Dr. Ted Brader, for guidance in her most challenging times and describes them as extremely giving of their time and personalized, holistic advice.

“I couldn’t have narrowed down my research interest with my advisors. They helped me start with what I had and were able to draw it out of me.”

Chinbo has also been a recipient of a variety of donor-funded awards. As a Rackham Merit Fellow, she received funds that relieved the pressure of having to scramble for money while enrolled in her graduate program. She was able to spend more time writing chapters of her dissertation and growing as a scholar. With the help of summer funding, specifically the Clark & Robin Chandler Graduate Award, she was able to focus on data collection, the analysis of which will be a major empirical component of her dissertation. She has also received conference travel grants.

“There are so many funding options through Rackham. They allowed me to go to conferences where people in my field could look at my work. I was able to talk to people about my research and learn how to present myself and my research in front of a professional crowd. These resources have been phenomenal.”

Chinbo hopes to use a career in academia as an opportunity to train and advise students while continuing her research and hopefully seeing its future implications on better integrating newcomers into the American political fold.