May 2019

Zibei Chen is from Henan, China. She grew up in a modest family in a small town of central China and came to the U.S. to pursue the doctoral education seven years ago. She received her PhD in Social Work from Louisiana State University. Life in a foreign country is exciting and filled with challenges. During the first several years of living in Louisiana, she found herself constantly confused by southern accents, meanwhile smitten by the lovely southern hospitality. Zibei is a postdoc at UM School of Social Work Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion. She is currently working on research projects evaluating Children’s Savings Accounts programs in the US.

What was your route and can you expand on your academic journey? What was the motivation to pursue this type of research?
Growing up in a culture with great emphasis on academic success, I pursued college education without much thoughts. It is the time when I was in graduate school, one of the faculty used her research to successfully establish a national policy on orphans protection stroke me the prominent role of research in policy making. From then, my career vision becomes clear: I want to know how to do great research and be a part of large-scale changes on social and economic justice issues.
Over the past few years, I have been studying financial behaviors and decision making and interventions that promote financial inclusion and economic security for low-to-moderate income families. My passion for economic justice and having a community of support sustains my research along the way.

Were there times when you failed at something you felt was critical to your path? If so, how did you regroup and get back on track?
Of course there are plenty of times I didn’t achieve the goals I set for myself. After beating up myself many times with these disappointment, I started looking at failures in a more constructive way. I can always learn about the disappointment or myself (or both) from these disappointing experiences. More recently, recounting failures from a distance allows me to see some of these so-called failures lead me to a different direction and yielded surprising good outcomes. So I think failures are here to learn from and work with. And sometime I just need a nap to regroup and get back on track.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM postdoc?
It is important to remember everyone has a different path to career and success. Benchmarks are good to keep in mind, but at the same time, we are different in our capacities and life stages. Life of a postdoc can be stressful because of the temporary nature of the position. Doing steady, good work, and focusing on your own self development is one way to cope with stress and uncertainty. Of course, surrounding yourself with people who are kind and supportive and fun, especially in winter times!