Meet The Scholars: Mirvais “Mir” Aminy

Mirvais “Mir” Aminy is a PhD student in education at Chapman University. He is a member of Health Policy Research Scholars Cohort 2023.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What’s the story behind your research interests and why you’re doing the work you’re doing?

I was born in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. My family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City where I grew up. My childhood was magical and I absolutely loved growing up in such a rich mosaic of culture, language and diversity. When I was in high school, my family relocated and Southern California became our new home. As a first generation American and teenager, I found it difficult to find my place and soon got involved with the wrong crowd. This eventually led to my incarceration as a teenager. My early involvement with criminal justice sparked a passion to change what I saw wrong with society. I quickly realized that I was living in a retributive society where we were more concerned with meting out punishment rather than addressing the issues at the core of social justice issues such as the mass incarceration of men of color, over-incarcerating juveniles, and mandatory sentencing laws that disproportionately effect communities of color. I sought higher education as my transformative tool to change they system from within. I am now an academic counselor for Project Rebound, a statewide support program for formerly incarcerated college students, who like myself, found it difficult to navigate higher education. My research seeks to improve college counseling techniques for student affairs practitioners through trauma-informed counseling techniques, asset-based approaches to serving justice-impacted students and understanding the unique experiences of formerly incarcerated students. I am extremely passionate about my research and my role as a counselor to formerly incarcerated individuals because I see myself in each and every scholar that walks through my door.

For people who may be unfamiliar with your research area, what’s a piece of information that’s important for them to understand?

Humans are not born criminals. One does not inherently break the law but does so out of environmental factors, societal injustices, survival. This by no means excuses those who do break the law. But there is a reason the United States incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners but only accounts for 5% of the global population. Our nation over-incarcerates, hyper-inflates prison sentences, and has turned BIPOC into a commodity that fuels the school to prison pipeline. This prison industrial complex generates billions of dollars at the expense of marginalized communities. By challenging the status quo through the education of formerly incarcerated individuals, we can convert the school to prison pipeline into a prison to school pipeline. With a historical recidivism rate of nearly 60%, California needs to divest funding from the department of corrections and invest in social justice-oriented programs that reinvest in underserved communities, reintegration of people returning to their communities from incarceration and providing educational opportunities for under-represented populations.

How do you envision your research contributing towards a Culture of Health? What specific areas or communities are you most passionate about in this regard?

My research will contribute significantly towards a Culture of Health through the education of historically marginalized populations. A large majority of those incarcerated have undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disabilities. Understanding how we can improve counseling techniques for those with disabilities who may have criminal justice involvement can better inform policies in the K-12 system and those unfairly segregated in the special education system. I envision my research informing policy at the state and national level as well as providing an impetus to advocate for more inclusivity in the classrooms. Children of color are more likely to be placed in special education needlessly. This disproportionality contributes to a large number of these students getting involved in the criminal justice system. I want to shed light on how exclusionary policies can have detrimental consequences on communities of color.

Beyond your current research, do you have any long-term goals within your field that you’d like to pursue?

I would like to see programs like Project Rebound (California State University system), Underground Scholars Initiative (University of California system), and the Rising Scholars Network (California Community College system) be replicated in other states. California has been a pioneer in providing higher education support for students involved in the criminal justice system. I want to be able to promote these program nation-wide and eventually, globally.

How do you see HPRS complementing your doctoral training?

It allows me opportunities to meet other doctoral students who are doing some amazing work in other fields. Despite the belief that our research is siloed, we are all interconnected in a web that complements one another. Whether it be in the field of STEM, public health, nursing, psychology; promoting a Culture of Health brings all of our passions together. I am honored to be a part of a cohort that genuinely supports one another and HPRS has provided me with this rich network.

What about HPRS excites you the most? What are you looking forward to as a scholar?

HPRS has given me the opportunity to explore what is happening at other universities and how it can relate to my own research. I find it exciting to know that there are like-minded individuals in all corners of our nation. I’m looking forward to collaborating with my fellow scholars in conducting research that promotes the well-being of our society as a whole.

What advice would you offer to aspiring researchers looking to embark on a similar path to yours?

Believe in yourself. We’ve all heard the ubiquitous phrase “imposter syndrome.” As a formerly incarcerated, first-gen, Muslim-American, disabled, Afghan refugee, I often struggle to feel that sense of belonging. Take a big step forward, know that you belong just as much as anybody else and value your contribution to academia. This will help you in blossoming into the scholar you know yourself to be.

Let’s wrap up with a fun question: If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

An Afghan dish called manthu. These are dumplings filled with ground beef, vegetables and spices. They are doused in Afghan yogurt, and topped with dried mint. My mother makes the best manthu in the world and I would be content eating this for every meal for the rest of my life.

Read Mirvais’ bio.


[contact-form-7 id=”1684″ title=”Share This Opportunity”]