Faculty Highlight: Professor Cher Weixia Chen Brings Legal Studies to Life

NCC Assistant Professor Cher

For the past four years, New Century College (NCC) Assistant Professor Cher Weixia Chen has shown students that the law touches virtually every aspect of modern life. As a lead faculty member in NCC’s legal studies concentration, Chen encourages students to study the law and the issues surrounding it, and notes that everything from music to marriage to minimum wage has a legal angle through which it can be studied.

Chen said, “I originally studied law because I thought it sounded cool, but I came to realize that the law can touch every aspect of society. It is a platform…a solid foundation to study any subject.”

Chen’s students concentrating in legal studies are passionate and frequently motivated to study law, but sometimes students comment that law is boring. To counteract any such opinions in her course NCLC 300: Law and Justice, Chen adds to the traditional topics and includes units focused on gender, race and other social justice topics that students find compelling and relatable to daily life.

Chen said, “Under the surface, everything is a legal question. The students enjoy learning about these additional topics, and it allows me to include my own research passion in the course.” Chen’s primary research focuses on public law and human rights.

Chen believes that the legal studies concentration helps students create their own pathway to a variety of careers not solely restricted to law school. Graduates have gone on to study other graduate disciplines, worked in environmental justice, human rights and organizations focusing on legal or international issues.

Considering the strengths of NCC’s legal studies concentration, Chen said, “Our students have the option to pursue a three plus three program where they enter law school during what would be their fourth undergraduate year at Mason---a great advantage to them. [Our concentration] also has strong justice and sustainability components, encourages critical thinking and logic and has significant experiential study requirements so that students get a sense of what’s out there.”

Chen said that all legal studies students need a personal belief in the work. She said, “I want them to have passion and compassion…They should have a sense of curiosity and want to do something for society.”

Chen has found that working in NCC’s collaborative, interdisciplinary environment has expanded her own research. Chen is currently partnering with NCC professors Paul Gorski, Pamela Garner and Duhita Mahatmya to use quantitative and qualitative data to study the well-being of social justice and human rights activists. At the project’s end, the team hopes to provide recommendations to cope with burnout among social justice and human rights activists, an area that has been neglected and under-examined.

In addition to this project, Chen is currently writing her second book-length manuscript that is a comparative study of women workers’ rights in China and the United States. This follows her first book entitled Compliance and Compromise: The Jurisprudence of Gender Pay Equity.

This semester, Chen is also teaching two courses: NCLC 303: Introduction to International Studies and NCLC 362: Social Justice and Human Rights.