New faculty highlighted in Duke Today stories
Growing up in a small city near Karlsruhe, Germany, Daniel Stegmueller rarely witnessed inequality – it is much less visible than in the United States, he says.
The son of a construction worker, he was “a working-class kid” and “never felt disadvantaged.”
But while studying political science and economic history as an undergraduate at the University of Mannheim and at Johns Hopkins University, he began to see the role of inequality in a larger context. “I took sociology classes on the side and people described how inequality looked,” he says. “I became interested in it.”
That experience put a human face on the data-centric subjects he had been studying, creating in him a desire to find scientific answers on the role of inequality in modern societies and how it influences a person’s decision-making.
Thanks to a college professor painting a bleak picture for future researchers of China, Melanie Manion is now an internationally known scholar. On China.
“The simple answer is it was a mistake,” she says. “I was studying France and Europe as an undergraduate at Universite d’Ottawa. I envisioned my future as a scholar of French history.”
It was the 1970s. Her professor predicted China would become the place for fascinating research in years to come. The country was experiencing major changes, including the end of its communist “cultural revolution” and, in September 1976, the death of communist leader Mao Zedong.
But he didn’t encourage Manion to change course and study China. Quite the opposite.
“He said China is tough to study, poor, plus it’s difficult to be there and a closed country,” she recalls.
That was all Manion needed to hear.
“I then went to China on a two-year fellowship because he made it sound like a challenge,” she says, laughing.
Manion has been fascinated by the country ever since.