Kila Moore | Senior Staff Photographer
Beneath the humble, fatherly appearance of Mohan Ambikaipaker lies a passionate educator. As an Associate Professor in the Tulane University Department of Communications, he is fervent about empowering students to ignite change in the world.
This year Ambikaipaker earned tenure. He allocates his time between researching, teaching and servicing his department. He believes one of the most rewarding aspects of his career is getting to meet new and interesting people.
“I was on a panel at a roundtable with all these people exchanging ideas… and I met so many new people through that engagement that it just enriched my life to meet artists and performers who do incredible work around race and anti-racism,” Ambikaipaker said.
Ambikaipaker feels grateful to work with Tulane students, particularly students of color. By working with students who might feel lost at a predominately white institution, he hopes to play the role his professors once played during his undergraduate experience.
“When students come with questions and problems and dilemmas, there is something that I can do to be in conversation and relation with them,” Ambikaipaker said. “I do really enjoy that. It gives me a sense of mission. It gives me a sense of purpose.”
Ambikaipaker has not only been a professor, however. After attending school in the United States, he returned to his hometown in Malaysia, participated in labor organizing and wrote his own weekly newspaper column.
Additionally, during his time at Swarthmore College as an Assistant Dean of Admissions, he worked alongside a team of assistant deans who increased the diversity component of the college from 22 percent to 44 percent in just one year. This work fulfilled a promise made by the administration to black students 30 years prior.
Ambikaipaker feels it is important that private institutions like Tulane recognize the racial undertones in their own history.
“The diversity paradigm is very tricky and can oftentimes marginalize the question of black representation and the historical specificity of that,” Ambikaipaker said. “…I think [Tulane] needs to understand that black student admissions has its own historical character and its own historical urgency and I think we need to have dedicated attention on that.”
Ambikaipaker’s main aspirations continue to be engaging with students. Though his classes might seem challenging, he hopes to help his students find their own way to understand and confront today’s problems.
“For the problems that I’m thinking about and working on as an academic, the hope I get is working with young people,” Ambikaipaker said. “I don’t know where else to draw the hope from.”