Q&A with Environmental Humanities Alum Cheng Li

November 3, 2022

Cheng Li graduated from Yale in 2022 with a doctorate in East Asian Languages and Literatures. He is presently an assistant professor of Chinese Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. We caught up with him briefly to reflect on his time with the program:

What was your main area of study/research at Yale? 

I focused on the representations of trees in modern Chinese literature and visual culture. My research engages with the intersection between environmental humanities and modern Chinese literature, history, and culture.

How did environmental humanities influence your studies and trajectory?

Yale Environmental Humanities truly offered me a chance to engage with scholars from different disciplines. In particular, I learned a lot from my cohorts in history and the history of science. While doing research on China, I always keep in mind that Chinese environmental issues are also a global story. I also learned to embrace unpredictability and fear in both my own research and life. Yale’s solid support from all the fantastic faculty and staff–and of course the amazing Environmental Humanities faculty–gave me the expertise I need to grapple with similar and even more challenging events in the future. 


What’s something new that you’re doing now that you are done?

While teaching at Carnegie Mellon, I am exploring how virtual reality can be integrated with environmental education. I am also interested in cultural perceptions of Chinese infrastructure–I am currently writing an article on it!


Did you have any hobbies while studying at Yale?

I learned how to swim while studying at Yale.  It gave me a great chance to refresh and recharge myself, and I hope to continue this sport!