Teaching Tuesday with Ruodan Zhang

Welcome to the Department of Public Policy’s (DPP) third edition of Teaching Tuesday! Throughout this semester we will be featuring faculty on Tuesdays and teaching you a bit about their lives outside of the classroom. Each faculty featured will be asked a few questions and we will post their responses without a filter. We look forward to sharing our faculty with you and hope you enjoy learning some fun facts that you may not have previously known. Our latest feature is Professor Ruodan Zhang!

Question 1: Why did you decide to become a professor?

Ruodan Zhang
Professor Ruodan Zhang

The short answer is that this is such a challenging and tremendously rewarding career, through which I am challenged/empowered to evolve into a better self, and ultimately rewarded with the hope to understand and perhaps to leave the world a better place. I am a cat person, an INFJ (found it out when I was in college, anxious about my career path), a dreamer but highly risk-averse. As it turns out—being a professor fits my personality very well. But I had little idea about what an academic career would mean until I started graduate school at Indiana University (IU). I went down this specific path because I found my role models, Professor Wai-Fung Lam and Professor Helen Liu, during my undergraduate study and really wanted to grow into a person just like them. Lucky for me, both of them studied public/nonprofit management at IU.

Question 2: What are your teaching interests?

I have taught Management Science (at IU), Nonprofit Fund Development and Sustainability, and Quantitative Methods for Public Policy. I am interested in teaching topics including nonprofit management and applied ethics, volunteerism, and nonprofit advocacy.

Question 3: Why did you decide to come to UConn?

Oysters! (Just kidding. But I really miss being so close to the sea.) I enjoyed my campus visit so much and genuinely loved everyone I talked to—faculty, staff, and students. I went back and thought, “That will be my best fit!” and “Please! They have to give me an offer.” I am grateful that it worked out.

Question 4: If you weren’t a professor, what would you be instead and why?

My answer to this is highly time-variant. But right now, if I were not a professor, I would probably want to be a professional dancer. When I was on the job market, I would half-jokingly tell people, “I’m a single-engine plane with no go-around option. If I don’t land, I will immediately start auditioning for dance companies (while continuing my research, of course).” Over the years, I have trained in ballet and Chinese folk dances and learned Latin and West African dances. I am now part of a new virtual dance company (Black Sheep Ballet), which aims to bring dancers of all genders, sexual orientations, body types, skin colors, and disabilities to diverse audiences.

Question 5: What is your favorite thing about Hartford?

With my still-limited knowledge about Hartford, I would say the “Stegosaurus” sculpture by Alexander Calder. It is on my way to work. I have seen three seasons change around it. It also reminds me of IU’s Calder sculpture.

Question 6: If you could travel to any location right now where would you like to go and why?

My home in Ningbo, China. I have not been back for over two years now. My list of “food I miss” grows longer every day. Plus, in my humble opinion, we have the best seafood.