Case Study One: Race and Respect

In this case study, two students enrolled at an institution in South Africa engaged in conflict with one another. One of the students, Mark, is a younger, White student and the other, Maria, is an older, Black student. Maria overheard Mark making a derogatory comment about her and outwardly confronted him in the middle of class. The professor noticed and took both students outside to attempt to resolve the situation. Once the professor was done with the students, it is stated that Mark’s father, an administrator at the institution, heard of the incident and was furious. He went to the dean, also a White male, and filed a complaint against Maria. Maria had to attend a disciplinary meeting where the dean ended up firing her. A year later, it is stated that the dean felt remorseful for his letting Maria go over the incident.

From this case, there is clear conflict between the White South African students and the Black South African students. This conflict is likely an outcome of societal influences as well as historical events. In South Africa, due to the apartheid, White men were at the top of their racial hierarchy, typically in the higher paying jobs, while the marginalized Black population were forced into unskilled labor roles because they were placed at the bottom of the hierarchy by society (Hannum et al., 2010). Although the institution Mark and Maria attend claims to value equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion, the impact of society under the apartheid still can heavily influence the environment at the institution. The societal context creates the perfect environment for Tajfel’s in-group/out-group concept to blossom (Hannum et al., 2010). For example, because of the racial hierarchy created in South Africa and the racial climate of the institution to already be predominantly White, the White students may think their racial group is “better” and therefore cause them to express bias through “prejudice, discrimination, ethnocentrisms, and negative stereotyping” (Hannum et al., 2010, p.77). Based on these principles, Mark’s derogatory comment was likely a result of him feeling pride and motivation within his social group and expressing his bias by negatively stereotyping and discriminating against Maria in the classroom.

Moving forward, as I continue to pursue roles as a student organization advisor, I will take this information to implement with my students. Currently, the organization I advise is predominantly White and I think a first step to avoid social conflicts is to have students reflect upon their social identities and identify which are more salient to them in the context of the organization. From there, a facilitated discussion amongst each other could help each student better understand themselves, their peers, and how each shows up in the space. Knowing who is in the space and how they feel seen in the space can be important information to help myself, as the advisor or leader, to implement more inclusive practices to make the space one where everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging. I also believe that as a leader, it is my responsibility to notice, understand, and acknowledge when there may be any type of bias in the space and hold people accountable for them (including myself). Lastly, I try to foster an atmosphere where students know they can come to me with anything. The hope is that if there ever is a bias incident or someone feels excluded, they would come to me to help resolve the issue. In doing the above, I think the space and the organization could become more united across differences rather than separated because of them.


Hannum, K., McFeeters, B., & Booysen, L. (Eds.) (2010). Leading across differences: Casebook. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

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Mission Statements from Politecnico di Milano and MIT

Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy, Public Scientific-technological University)
“Politecnico di Milano is committed to achieving excellence in research.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston, USA, Private Land-grant Research University)
“The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”

The two universities I chose are the top polytechnics in their country. It can be seen from the mission statement that these two top polytechnics are concerned with scientific and technological research and less about the talent development of the students themselves.

I had a master’s degree at the Politecnico di Milano, and I could feel it was a diverse university, but it had a limited field of study. Politecnico di Milano is a public scientific-technological university which trains engineers, architects and industrial designers. This has a lot to do with the size of the academy, because Politecnico di Milano is not a comprehensive university, because the discipline setting affects tasks and goals big reason. The University has always focused on the quality and innovation of its teaching and research, developing a fruitful relationship with business and productive world by means of experimental research and technological transfer.

My understanding of MIT is that it is a top engineering college but a larger comprehensive university. In contrast, the private and public nature of the two schools does not seem to affect their mission for scientific research. But what puzzles me is why MIT came up with a 21st century period. What was it like before the 21st century? After the 21st century? Perhaps its mission has changed with the times.

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Case Study 1: Race and Respect


sample college classroom
Photo by Sam Balye- obtained via Unsplash



Diversity is a common topic being discussed in settings ranging from the corporate companies to educational institutions. While diversity incorporates multiple dimensions, including but not limited to gender, race, and ability, there are a number of nonvisible dimensions that are often overlooked (Hickman, 2016). These dimensions may also be considered social identities which refers to “the nature or content of a particular identity” and are often used to categorize oneself or others (Ellemers et al., 2002, p. 164). This essay will use the case study “Race and Respect” to discuss the role of social identities in the context of this case study, social identity theory, and offer suggestions for managing classroom conflict (Hanum et al., 2010).

So What

This case study presents a scenario in which two participants with different social identities confront each other in a university classroom. Social identity theory is a useful way to analyze the case study because it refers to “how people think about themselves as members of social groups as well as how they behave in intergroup contexts” (Hannum et al., 2010, p. 75). Mark’s comments indicate that he strongly identifies with identities of class and most likely race and gender. The same can be said for Maria in her interpretations of Mark’s statements. The case study also explores issues of ingroup identities through the description of the remaining Black student’s behavior and their uncertainty as to how to react to the classroom conflict. Hannum et al. (2010) states that these “identities are laden with culturally construed meanings that confer on their members degrees of status and access to power and influence” (p. 148). Mark’s social status and proximity to power resulted in no consequences for his comments whereas Maria’s distance from power resulted in her being fired.  The remaining students in the class were left to deal with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions on their own.

Now What

Conflict in the classroom can be difficult no matter the topic, but it is especially difficult when social identities are central to the conflict. In the case study, the events quickly became the focal point of discussion among the remaining students. Addressing highly emotional topics in a classroom setting can be uncomfortable. In this case, the instructor tried to divert the conversations back to the course topic but was unsuccessful. While it is my belief that classroom leaders should create safe spaces for students to discuss topics that are relevant to their lives, I also believe that those who do not know how to facilitate such discussion may do more harm than good. Teachers need tools and strategies to address sensitive topics that may come up in the classroom. Specific to this case study, one suggestion would have been to acknowledge that the situation left a lot to unpack and ask students to take a moment to participate in a free write for a specified amount of time. This approach gives students an opportunity to process their initial feelings without doing further emotional damage. The writings could be anonymous but should be turned in to the teacher for review. It also gives the instructors insight into their students’ mindset regarding certain issues. It also allows for time for the instructor to consult with trained staff who could provide suggestions for how to handle the situation. Beyond the classroom, this university would benefit from third party facilitated support to navigate the existing tensions between faculty and staff which may be resulting in the lack of empathy among the students.


Ellemers, N., Spears, R., & Doosje, B. (2002). Self and social identity. Annual review of psychology53(1), 161-186.

Hannum, K., McFeeters, B. B., & Booysen, L. (2010). Leading across differences: Casebook (Vol. 1). John Wiley & Sons.

Hickman, G. R. (Ed.) (2016). Leading organizations: Perspectives for a new era (2rd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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The Role of Faculty in Centers Institutes in Higher Ed

I happened upon a conversation on Twitter about institutes where the original poster was asking whether people had been involved in starting or leading any centers or institutes on campus. I was surprised at how involved and committed people were to the conversation. Many had strong opinions about it, some were negative, such as, they had been involved in one but they would never do that again because the administrative tasks, especially at start-up, made it exceedingly difficult to make progress on anything other than that aspect of university work.

However, there were folks on the comment thread who said that despite being very demanding, the ability to lead projects and create new missions, particularly for special communities, was an important and meaningful contribution for them. Someone recommended that people only consider it if they were senior faculty and did not have to worry about their research loads as much as others. Another person said they tended to have staff who were paid higher than faculty for fewer qualifications, and it seemed that sometimes they weren’t very efficient or effective, just good at getting grant funds and moving money around to look good, and likened them to some big non-profit organizations.

I did a bit of looking around and found an explanation from the University of Arkansas that said that they allow for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work and can “traverse the boundaries of colleges and departments… “Centers have the potential for strengthening disciplinary programs by providing interdisciplinary course work, offering service learning opportunities, facilitating certificate programs, supporting degree programs, enabling high levels of research productivity and providing external visibility for the university.”

I think that there are centers at universities that provide valuable service to the university community and the community at large, and some of them do great work to help marginalized communities at the university if they are run with a faithful intention to advocate for equality and justice. I don’t believe that those types of centers should be funded through student fees, as they are at Virginia Tech, since that’s asking the marginalized people to pay some of the money to correct wrongs done against their communities. I do see how some of the above comments can be valid, I think it depends on accountability, efficiency, and oversight. I agree faculty should not have to do the additional work of administrative oversight and research responsibilities (seems we’re always asking faculty, especially women and marginalized faculty) for more and more work.  In short, it’s a mixed bag and depends on the accountability and fidelity of the institution and those responsible.

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College Professors Reactions to MOOC’s

I’ve had email subscriptions to EdX, Coursera, and Udemy and even taken a “free” course through the massive online open course format, more commonly known as MOOC nowadays. I think it’s quite neat, and judging by the many students all over the world, people who might not usually have the opportunity to matriculate at the institutions that pioneered the format, it seems to be a clever idea. Tertiary education is free, or nominally fee-based in many countries around the world; but there is a common perception that an education derived from one of the global north “greats” – UK, US, Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and France – your degree or certificate may not cut it in the modern world. This prophecy is fulfilled when would-be students from the global south, due to forces often manipulated by the very same nations – visa barriers, unequal exchange rates, lack of access to the qualifying secondary education, language barriers. MOOCs using the free and open format, often offering a certificate for a fee, earn double or triple benefit from these course offerings. They get to signal their virtue in offering free education to the global community, they promote and advertise their traditional formats, the certificate fees and loyalty that may garner future traditional matriculation give them earning potential (not that they need it given how much these institutions, and the nations in which they reside) have stolen from the rest of the world. For the institutions, they’re a boon. For professors on the other hand, perhaps not so much.
Online learning and MOOCs are a more accessible route to micro credentialling, celebrated by some, cautioned by others. Some professors see no problem with the format, particularly because it offers them new modes of teaching that are flexible. Those who are tech-savvy and already maximize functionality on their learning management systems, such as Canvas and Moodle, are better prepared and able to adapt to the new format. Some believe they take resources and attention away from traditional learning and they do not lend themselves to success in every area (I would imagine MOOCs are less convincing for the performing and visual arts, for anything where instruction in a hands-on setting is valuable). Some professors see hope in the format and identify being able to offer free education – altruism – as one form of value they place in the option. Others see MOOCs as a way to test out new innovations, which begs the question, is the experimental element beneficial to learners?
Overall it seems that the main concern for most professors is the learning curve and time commitment. As we have seen with the switch to online platforms during the pandemic, college professors and secondary school teachers faced high stress, and impossible hurdles having to fulfill their traditional teaching obligations and effectively learn new formats, modify materials, and manage more stimuli in the classroom. Whatever option is used for learning whether traditional classroom, online courses, traditional correspondence or MOOCs, two things are important: that the quality of education remains, and that those teaching are able to carry a fair burden of the workload.

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Writing Sample

Excerpt from Syncretism, Picong, and Mas: A Two-Faced Resistance an essay examining the dichotomous energies of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

Syncretism and Picong
Many practices and artifacts of carnival in Trinidad & Tobago and the rest of the so-called West Indies connect to African ancestral practices. Europeans were extremely suspicious of Africans’ religious and healing practices. They carried to the “West Indies” all of the offensive stereotypes of the dark continent they would subsequently ravage or claim for mineral, and agricultural wealth after kidnapping more than a million of its people. To survive and maintain a sense of groundedness, and to simply live, Africans engaged in the calculated practice of syncretism. Most of us commonly hear of this practice in the context of African traditional religions such as Santeria and orisha where Roman Catholic saints would be merged with the orishas as a means of continuing to worship in ways that The Church would sanction. Syncretism also existed for the arts. For instance, Africans martial arts such as kalenda, similar to the capoeira of Brazil in ways that emphasized the celebratory aspects, the drumming, dancing and singing, rather than the lethal art of stick fighting. Similarly Africans employed lyricism through the use of musical forms like carisos – songs with erotic themes typically sung by women, and later, when kalenda songs were banned, by men – for enjoyment, acts of bravado, or to critique and warn of brutal overseers and slave masters. These musical forms, along with the employment of whatever tone and percussive instruments could be fashioned from available materials would eventually give us the calypsos and soca of contemporary carnival. In movement, the throwing of powder in sailor mas conjures up images of the disbursal of efun in traditional African spiritual ceremonies. The dances of the fancy sailor, as with the bele dances, no longer integrated specifically into carnival, but the broader Black culture of Trinidad and Tobago, echo the complex ancestral dances to honor the orishas of the Yoruba, Mokos, Kongos, Asantes, Coromantes and other West African groups that were forcibly brought to Trinidad. The Masking traditions both ceremonial and the quotidian, were integral to West African culture e.g. egungun, and the practice of adorning in mud, molasses, oil, or paint, gelede to honor women’s role in society. The songs they used were celebratory, but also applied a language of resistance, through the use of picong – a humorous, sarcastic rhetorical device to insult or ridicule their opponent or abuser in ways that might only be understood by an in-group.
Revelry served as remembrance; but also as a form of resistance. There is a belief that Trinidad carnival was simply Africans appropriating European culture as it culminates the two days before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian Lenten season, and many colonizers held masquerade balls in the Catholic tradition of feasting before lent. The retention of African traditions occurred in spite of suppression, and Carnival was one such tradition – a combination of cultural and religious festivals common in their ancestral homelands. When in 1868 drumming was outlawed, Africans used various shapes, eventually finding that a systematic method of denting tins gave a distinctive sound. By the 1940s this practice evolved from paint tins and biscuit tins into the use of oil drums supplied by the American and British oil companies present in the colony. Today we have large steel orchestras with at least seven different modes of scale and the only instrument known to be invented in the twentieth century.

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Blog Post #3 Brain Drain

Today I am going to talk about the impact of brain drain. According to a paper written in 2005, brain drain can be defined as “the migration of [educated or skilled] personnel in search of the better standard of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide.”(1) The question is why? Additionally, why do I care about brain drain as a citizen of the USA? While we all are here at Virginia Tech, we live in and around rural Appalachia, which is heavily affected by brain drain (2). Furthermore, black brain drain applies this definition of brain drain to the many talented black individuals who are raised in the inner city and acquire some type of education and leave their home towns (3).

This brain drain is problematic because it doesn’t allow for smaller and less economically stable communities to grow. The loss of talented and educated individuals from small towns or the inner city also has implications for state funding. Furthermore, the movement of educated individuals out of these communities also creates social segregation. The diversification of thought is now concentrated in and around major cities, not throughout the state or country(4). These issues continue to persist and are an ongoing problem for states losing residents.

Furthermore, the issue of brain drain is also a global problem. That means that the poor unrepresented communities continue to be unsupported and underrepresented cause the social divide to continue to worsen. Although I brought this topic up and programs are working to prevent the brain drain out of certain areas, the idea of fixing these problems seems impossible.



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Recommendations for Increasing Faculty Diversity

Over the last decade, and more specifically the last few years, institutions have begun focusing their mission statements, efforts, and commitments on diversifying their faculty and student body. However, the best practices and methods of hiring more diverse faculty and staff has not been working. Many say that we need new best hiring practices, but practices alone will not the problem. The author was able to achieve quick results with three recommendations. The three recommendations are:

  1. Lead With Purpose and Data
    • Understanding that what is currently the status quo is unacceptable, this dissatisfaction is what drives change and innovation and processes. You should present data that breaks down by race, ethnicity, gender, rank, and discipline. Truly showing each data point highlights the necessity for change.
  2. Realign Resources with Values
    • Diversification of staff is often seen as a commitment outside of necessity. When we have this attitude, we are saying diversity is not critical to our mission and values. We should be making our hiring practices a priority by reallocating funds and resources to put this at the forefront.
  3. Co-Create, Then Iterate
    • “Diversity can trigger people’s fear of losing control or status.” You need to create buy-in and develop a plan that will work for your institution. You must co-create with faculty and administrators working closely together and generate new ways of thinking. You then must adapt what you have by revising old mechanisms and processes. Then adapt and iterate over and over again.

What do you think of these tactics? Do you think it could help diversify staff and faculty?


Source: 3 Steps for Increasing Faculty Diversity

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White Privilege in Navigating Admissions Processes

The article I read for this post explored the advantages white students have within the admissions process. The information provided comes from a study conducted by Art & Science Group which helps to advise colleges on their admissions strategies. Here are some of the the big things they found:

  • More than two-thirds of white students (68 percent) say they can rely on family and friends for information about the college admissions process. Only 38 percent of Black students agree.
  • Those who are not first-generation college students also lead first-generation college students in this category, but by a smaller margin: 63 percent to 52 percent.
  • White and Asian students plan to apply to more colleges (four) than other students.
  • White students were more likely than others to have gone on campus tours.

The article goes on to state that admissions processes at institution struggle to level the playing field for students in the higher education context, which is a system that was inherently built for and by white individuals. The above statistics highlight the impacts of identities on students such as financial status, education status of family, the impact of race and ethnicity, and more.

Acknowledging that education is a system that grants privilege to certain identity groups, what are ways that admissions processes can level the playing field? What ways can colleges bridge the gap for potential students?

Source: Study Shows Ways White Students Have Advantages in Admissions

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