A One-on-One Interview with Arizona State University Law Professor, Angela M. Banks.

060c1d94c3de2df60a7cd2d35a389a42.jpgProfessor Banks is an immigration and citizenship expert whose research focuses on membership and belonging in democratic societies at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law faculty.

Q: When did you realize you would rather teach instead of practice at a law firm?
One day I was working on a client matter and there was an aspect of the issue that was really fascinating to me, but it was tangential to the issue the client needed addressed. I realized that I wanted to decide what issues I researched and wrote about and that being a legal academic would provide me with that autonomy.

Q: Can you tell us about some of the topics you’ve written about?
I write about membership and belonging in democratic societies. My articles have addressed immigration topics and international human rights topics. All of my articles are examining the rules that govern who get to participate in society and how, and whether or not those rules conform to democratic principles.

My new book, Civic Education in the Age of Mass Migration: Implications for Theory and Practice, which is coming out this fall, is a great example of my work exploring these themes. A growing number of K-12 students are non-citizens or have parents who are non-citizens, and a significant number of these non-citizens do not have a pathway to citizenship. These students and their family members are and will continue to be long-term residents of this country. Yet civic education, which seeks to prepare students to be responsible participants in a democratic society, frames participation in terms of citizenship. The focus is often on what good citizens do, such as voting, running for office, and volunteering. This approach ignores the numerous and meaningful ways that individuals without citizenship status participate within democratic societies. This book argues for a new approach to civic education that acknowledges the various categories of individuals that participate in democratic societies and recognizes them as members. 

Q: Which courses of law do you teach?
Over the years I have taught Immigration & Citizenship Law, Global Approaches to Immigration & Citizenship, a seminar entitled A More Perfect Union, and Contracts. These classes give me the opportunity to work with 1Ls as they are beginning their law school journey and upper-level students as they explore legal topics that excite them. I really enjoy being a part of students’ law school journey at these very different phases. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about your career as a Law Professor?
Being a law professor is an amazing career because it allows you to do research on the legal issues that are most pressing within our society and the opportunity to engage with students. Teaching is incredibly rewarding and energizing!

Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that when you show up as your authentic self you will increase the likelihood of having a fulfilling career. Every job may not be a good fit for your authentic self, but the sooner you realize that the sooner you can move on to find the job or organization that is a good fit. 

Q: Which woman inspires you and why? 
I cannot pick just one woman because it is the women in my family who preceded me that inspire me. My mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers faced significant societal barriers based on their race and gender. Yet despite those barriers they miraculously made a way out of no way. My great-grandmother Myra Marie used to say that there are multiple ways to the mountain top. Whenever I experience a door being closed or a pathway being blocked, I remember her words.  

Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
I think that it is important to determine the factors that make a workplace one where you will thrive. These will vary for each person, and it may take being in several different work environments before you can fully develop your list. Three factors that I have found to be critical for success are: being a valued member of the organization; being given the benefit of the doubt when questions arise; and being an organization where people extend grace to one another. When the answer is yes to each of these questions, I know that I will soar. 

Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?  
In the eighth grade I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer. I loved that there was a world in which disputes were settled according to an agreed upon set of rules and procedures. So, after high school I knew that I would go to college and then on to law school. At that time, I did not know that I would become a law professor. My parents were education professors and so I grew up on a university campus, occasionally sitting in on their classes and spending afternoons in libraries. I loved all of that, so it is not surprising that I found a way to combine my interest in law and being an academic. 

Five Things About Angela Banks

1. What was the last book you really got into? 
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. While this book of two essays was published in 1963 it continues to provide such important insights about American society.

2. Who is your favorite author? 
James Baldwin because I love his fiction and non-fiction writing equally.

3. What’s your favorite app on your phone? 
Shine, which is a wellness app that makes it easy for me to pause each day and meditate. 

4. What’s your favorite quote or saying? 
“Freedom is not a state … Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” John Lewis

5. What’s your big passion? 
Teaching—I love helping people get from A to B and being a part of their a-ha moments. 


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