Semester in Retrospect

Three big takeaways from the semester:

      1. Comfort in conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion

      2. Expansion of ideas around identity

      3. Acceptance of my privileged status

Comfort in conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion

After spending the semester reading about and discussing a variety of issues surrounding diversity and inclusion with a roomful of mostly strangers I can confidently say that my comfort in engaging with such conversations has grown tremendously. At the same time as this class I have started in the Graduate Teaching Scholars program through CALS at VT and have spent the semester alongside this class talking about the challenges of university teaching today. Many times I would connect points from our diversity class discussion to my teaching seminar, and start similar discussions with those classmates. Getting practice doing this all semester has planted a desire to work such discussions into my coursework in the future.

Expansion of ideas around identity

Prior to this class I had not really thought about what makes up an identity. When asked to consider my identity I would list my race, gender, sexuality, maybe age. Dr. Grimes really pushed us to consider other aspects that make up your identity in ways akin to a background story. This really hit me when I started listening to Michigan radio’s new podcast Same Same Different, because at the beginning of the show the host invites all of the guests to take 10 seconds to list all of their different identities. The first couple are usually race and gender but they guests broaden to add things like: son, aunt, artist, dreamer, etc. I have come to realize that identity is more than what is skin deep, it is your history and because your identity is individual to you. This view was reinforced when we talked about intersectionality and stereotypes in class, because we discussed how individuals fit into multiple boxes and as a result have different experiences. I also feel that as result of this that one can always find commonalities with someone as long as they try (more of my thoughts). I appreciate the expansion to my idea of identity because now I can see ways to connect with those trying to divide us.

Acceptance of my privileged status

In addition to expanding my idea of identity, this semester I have leaned into the fact that I come from a very privileged background. In most aspects of my life I have dominant group identities: I am white, grew up in the upper middle class as a practicing Christian, I am well educated and so are my parents, I have no student loan debt, I own my own car, and I have traveled to different countries in the world. Before this class it was uncomfortable for me to accept that I have had a very privileged life. I used to justify my status by saying “I worked really hard for all of this” or “I earned this” which is true but I was also born into a life where I am encourage and supported to succeed. I felt it was degrading to accept the privilege that my identities afforded me but I have come to realize that it is actually enabling. It humbles me and reminds me to stop and reflect on what I am doing and how can I better use my identities to advocate for things that I believe in. As uncomfortable for me as it still is to accept that I am privileged, I appreciate this class for challenging me to embrace that side of my life and I hope to continue learning how to utilize this new identity as privileged.

Good-Bye

This has been a busy semester for me, I have been a bit overextended with my research, teaching, and extracurricular activities. But as busy as it has been I have appreciated coming to the graduate school every Tuesday evening to spend immersed in discussions around identity and inclusion in the setting of higher education. I am not sad to see the semester end ( I really need a break) but I am sad to lose this set time to come and talk about these issues with all of you. I hope to see all of you around campus or run into you somewhere else in the future. Have one last chicken for the road.

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