New faculty Genevieve Bates is ready to defy expectations at the political science department

Genevieve Bates describes herself as a bit of a workaholic.

This comes as no surprise — Bates has an impressive resume. The UBC political science department announced on February 3 that the University of Chicago PhD student will be joining the department as an assistant professor of international relations. Her research focuses on transitional justice and the politics of accountability for human rights violations around the world.

While finishing her PhD, Bates is also a member of the Transitional Justice and Democratic Stability Lab at UChicago, a research team that focuses on regime transitions, human rights and democratic quality. She is the recipient of several fellowships and awards at institutions like the Center for International Social Science Research and the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.

She’ll be coming to campus in July to join a unit with a notorious lack of diversity — the department’s faculty page shows that UBC political science is overwhelmingly white.

As a Black woman in academia, Bates said that she has definitely encountered some challenges.

“When I walk into a room, everyone thinks I must be a race scholar. That must be the only thing that I am capable of speaking on,” she said. “[There is this] assumption that diversifying political science and academia means hiring the brown people that study other brown people.”

Bates has a BIPOC community that she can rely on and that cares about her “holistically, not just as a scholar.” She believes strongly in the importance of representation and having a diverse faculty.

Bates said she is excited to move to Vancouver and start working, but hopes not to have to teach online for her first term.

“That would really stink,” Bates said. However, she has learned a few things from teaching online and hopes to spark engagement in accessible ways for all her students.

Not only is Bates accomplished in the classroom, but she also has hands-on experience in her field. She spent a couple years working for the US Department of Justice as an international affairs specialist as well as a year working as a paralegal.

“The single biggest factor that has helped me get to where I am is a healthy dose of luck,” Bates said.

She also pointed to her support system at home as helping her get to this point in her career. “I can’t even begin to explain how immensely helpful and great everybody has been.”

When asked about how she stays focused and motivated, especially in a pandemic that has serious consequences for mental health, Bates was candid about the importance of seeking professional help.

“Honestly I see a therapist. I’m perfectly happy to disclose that … Nobody is okay right now. This is a pandemic. Life is kind of awful. And I think ... the benefits of having a therapist or someone you talk to is just really really valuable for mental health,” Bates said.

But anyone can tell Bates is also passionate about her work. “I fundamentally care about human rights and addressing the worst atrocities that get committed.”

The self-described “politics junkie” had one simple piece of advice for UBC students.

“Be kind to yourself. This is always true, but it’s especially true right now. This is not the moment to expect perfection of yourself … I cannot stress enough how important that is.”