Mehrsa Baradaran, a J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law, has received national recognition for her research, which explores issues of poverty as they relate to the financial system.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I got my Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University and my J.D. from New York University School of Law. I am currently a J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law at the UGA School of Law and teach “Contracts Law,” “Banking Law” and “Bankruptcy Law.”
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I didn’t know a single person in the state of Georgia when I arrived, but right when I got here, I fell in love with the campus, the town and especially the faculty and students at the law school. I knew I wanted to be at a public university with a focus on students and faculty research. I could feel that the faculty and the students here were happy to be here and committed to their work.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I love teaching “Banking Law.” I teach a course that is rooted in the history and politics of banking policy. It’s a field that is constantly changing, and we can talk about current events as well as ancient history and it’s never boring—at least to me. My students present their own research and we discuss a variety of issues, including the financial crisis, poverty, the history of the Federal Reserve, bitcoin, payday lending, white collar crime and monetary policy.
What interests you about your field?
I am very interested in issues of poverty as they relate to the financial system. The way we design our banking system has implications for wealth and income equality. So banking law is as much about having a robust democracy as it is about having a safe banking system. My work explores the structure of the U.S. financial system to determine whether it is alleviating or perpetuating inequality. And if the latter, how it can be fixed.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I love when a student tells me that that they had no idea contracts or finance could be interesting. I also have been able to speak on TV, radio and to the press about my work and present my research around the country to policymakers in D.C. and to groups of bankers, activists and interested people. I really enjoy sharing my work with people who are actively engaged in trying to make real changes.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
They are one and the same. I bring my research into the classroom and my students become my research assistants. We work together to build ideas, and I draw a lot of inspiration from my students.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
A desire to use their law degree to help the underprivileged and marginalized or to challenge unfair laws.
Describe your ideal student.
Someone who isn’t afraid to work and who laughs at my jokes.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
Honestly, I love to be alone in my office reading and writing. That’s when I am most happy. I also love walking through the law library. I’ve always loved libraries, and we have such a beautiful one.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
My favorite thing to do in Athens is to run in the woods. I go almost every day, all year round.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I read everything and anything—mostly nonfiction and history. Three that I’ve loved recently are “Sapiens,” “Scarcity” and “Homegoing.” The first two changed the way I think, and the last one was a beautiful and moving story. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I have been obsessed with the “Hamilton” musical, which I was lucky enough to see on Broadway. I love hip-hop as much as I love the first Treasury secretary, so this show spoke to my soul.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Finally understanding the rules of football!
(Originally published Nov. 13, 2016)