2013-2014 Luce Scholar
Ben Bissell grew up as one of four in a boisterous Jewish household in the small town of Fairfax Station, Virginia. His close-‐knit family taught him an important childhood lesson he has never forgotten: every individual is a product of his/her human relationships. With a keen passion for the role of social structures in constructing individual identities, Ben entered the University of Virginia to research political demography. While at UVa, Ben has pursued a double major in Politics Honors and Russian Language. His academic interests are varied, but have largely focused on the interaction between demographic events, such as aging or urbanization, and the stability of political regimes. Ben has concentrated on the international implications of demography, especially in emerging economies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Faced with a dearth of courses focusing on such topics at UVa, he created and taught his own credited undergraduate class, entitled "An Introduction to Political Demography," and started a demography blog at UVa. He has presented original research on aging and political stability at the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference. He also wrote a thesis on ethnic re-identification and strategic depth in the Former Soviet Union using age cohort regression between the 1989 Soviet Census and later republic censuses. Research for his thesis has led him abroad to Russia, where he translated Soviet Censuses using the Critical Language Scholarship. Ben also works as an intern at the Weldon Cooper Center, a demographic think tank. His current work involves using spatial mapping to help advise the Charlottesville Fire Department where to put future stations. Proficient in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew, Ben is an avid language learner, and has sought to increase language learning at UVa and abroad. Ben has led two international service trips from UVa to Israel and Ukraine. Ben acted as the Teaching Assistant for 2 ESL classes, one geared towards international graduate students, and one to a visiting delegation of Chinese PhDs. He also travels the country as a Language Ambassador for the State Department to encourage Americans to learn critical languages. In his free time, he loves to read, play Dance Central, and eat sushi.
Ben is placed at the Population Research Institute of East China Normal University, a public research university in Shanghai, China. Established in 1951, it is the first national normal university of People's Republic of China. The Population Research Institute was established thirty years ago in 1983, and is now housed within the College of Social Development. Main research areas include migration and geographical distribution, ageing and social security, social demography, demographic economics, and international migration.