Futures Initiative Advisory Board member, Michael Orlando Sharpe, is a Professor of Political Science at York College, Professor of Political Science and International Migration Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as Adjunct Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Sharpe was employed as a political analyst for the Consulate General of Japan in New York and earlier in Tokyo, Japan as a project coordinator for the United Nations affiliated non-governmental organization, the International Movement Against All Form of Discrimination and Racism of which he now serves as a member of its board of directors
Dr. Sharpe’s first book, Postcolonial Citizens and Ethnic Migration: The Netherlands and Japan in the Age of Globalization was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2014. Focusing on the political realities of Dutch Antilleans in the Netherlands and Latin American Nikkeijin in Japan, Postcolonial Citzens and Ethnic Migration has been described as “fascinating,” “innovative,” and “powerfully argued” in academic reviews. He is currently completing his second book project, entitled The Politics of Racism and Antiracism in Japan, which is under contract with Cambridge University Press as part of their Essentials Series on East Asian Politics and Society. Dr. Sharpe’s work has appeared in scholarly publications including Ethnopolitics, Japanese Journal of Political Science, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Policy and Society, and has appeared or been cited in journalistic venues such as The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Associated Press, World Politics Review, Mainichi Shimbun, Nishinippon, and Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (Radio Netherlands Worldwide).
Beyond monographs, Dr. Sharpe’s other research projects include: Investigating the politics of remigration (or the paid voluntary return of migrants and their families, also known as “pay to go schemes”); implicit boundary making in liberal democracies; Japan as an “emerging migration state;” and the Japanese government’s role in Japanese diaspora politics. Additionally, Dr. Sharpe is interested in questions of non-sovereignty, freedom of movement, and diaspora in the Dutch Caribbean and European Union and is intrigued by the intersections of the politics of immigration and racism around the world.
Dr. Sharpe has been a Visiting Fellow or Visiting Scholar across the globe, including Sophia University, Keio University, the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) Leiden University, and the University of Amsterdam. He has been a Mansfield Foundation and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program Scholar. Additionally, Dr. Sharpe was a member of the Association of Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council Distinguished Speakers Bureau.
As a first-generation academic from an immigrant family, Dr. Sharpe is happy to contribute to the advancement of FI’s programs and goals as a member of the Faculty Advisory Board. In his responses below to questions posed by FI Graduate Fellow, Rod Hurley, Dr. Sharpe shares how his background, social interests, and academic experience align with FI’s vision for more diversity and accessibility in Higher Education.
How did you first learn about the Futures Initiative and how do you view the work that we do?
I learned about the Futures Initiative last fall when Dr. Oyo contacted me in response to an interview I did as a GC political science alumnus who was recently appointed to the Graduate Center’s Political Science faculty. She remarked about how pleased she was to see my appointment among a small but growing number of black GC faculty. I was intrigued by what Dr. Oyo told me about the Futures Initiative and wanted to know more. I think the work of the Futures initiative is absolutely critical in “supporting multiple sectors of learning, research, mentoring, and research to help facilitate a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive academic institution and society.”
Why did you become an FI advisory board member?
I recently became a member of the FI advisory board with the help of Dr. Oyo and agree that it is vitally important that all CUNY voices are represented, heard, and reflective of the diversity of New York City. Last spring, I helped to coordinate a GC Political Science DEI event, in collaboration with Dr. Oyo and the Futures Initiative, focusing on first generation scholars and the barriers to inclusion they faced. The event focused on ways to overcome these barriers for graduate students and professionals, in and out of academia. It is programming like this that I hope to continue to be a part of as well as serving as a mentor for graduate and undergraduate students.
What perspective do you bring to the board, and what do you hope to contribute to this role?
My first appointment was at York College in Jamaica, Queens which serves an incredibly diverse student body. York was founded in 1966 out of social movement and is located on a 50-acre campus in southeast Queens. Many of our students are immigrants, children of immigrants, and the first in their families to attend college. Sixty-six percent of York students are women and the average age is 24. The largest ethnicity group is Black, followed by Hispanic/Latino, and Asian. York College’s students represent around 50 countries around the world and speak over 37 languages. Although York is one of CUNY’s eleven senior colleges, it rarely gets the attention of other CUNY colleges such as Hunter, Baruch, or CCNY. I hope to help connect more York students to the opportunities that the Futures Initiative offers and expand their horizons in and beyond Southeast Queens. As someone coming from an immigrant family and a first-generation academic myself, I would like to offer my experience, mentorship, and expertise in service to the Futures Initiative and the greater CUNY community.
Other than your (academic) work, what else are you passionate about? What motivates you outside the classroom?
I am very interested in issues of social justice around race and racism around the world. Although I am committed to the “life of the mind” in academia, I am deeply wedded to expanding access to education, as well as promoting intellectual curiosity across the racial spectrum at all level, in and outside of the classroom. I believe that all people benefit from international education and experiences outside of their country of origin. The more people interact and learn about one another, and understand the various personal and institutional barriers others face globally, the better off we all will be. It is critical that we find the means and work together to overcome the obstacles to our collective freedom.