Share / Discuss

Power Couple

Briana Mohan ’95 was the first person Mohan Ambikaipaker ’95, fresh from Malaysia, met on campus.

“I had this huge suitcase that I had hauled up Magill Walk,” he remembers. “I’m pouring sweat and struggling with the big doors to Parrish when I hear this voice ask, ‘Hey, you need some help?’”

Though the pair didn’t start dating until junior year, they became fast friends. Both English majors with a passion for social justice, they were active in the Swarthmore Coalition Against Xenophobia, which formed to protest California’s Proposition 187 ballot initiative to deny undocumented immigrants access to public benefits.

Married since 2002, the two now work at Tulane University and continue their commitment to social justice. Briana is a career adviser helping grad students and postdocs explore and pursue diverse career paths.

“I get to engage with whole, mature people who have very complex lives and high aspirations,” she says. “I’ve been given a lot of leeway to respond to the needs of the students.”

This includes working with the Undocumented Student Support Group, which aids those who are undocumented or “DACA-mented” or whose families or communities are dealing with immigration challenges.

This is work that the couple can relate to personally. After a brief stint as an assistant dean of admissions at Swarthmore, Mohan decided to move back to Malaysia and invited Briana to join him. They spent five years there, starting a teachers’ union and volunteering with a socially conscious theater arts group before returning to the U.S., where Mohan entered grad school in Texas.

“In our life together, we’ve always had to deal with immigration issues—for Briana in Malaysia, and for me in the U.S.,” says Mohan. “We know firsthand how stress around immigration and documentation supersedes everything else.”

An associate professor, social anthropologist, and cultural studies scholar at Tulane who recently received tenure, Mohan also had his first book published, Political Blackness in Multiracial Britain.

“I’m struck by how the stories Mohan tells in the book, and the conclusions he draws from his research, connect back to our history,” says Briana. “All of it finds its way into the book in a really beautiful and powerful way.”