Diversity seems to be a very very very SERIOUS issue in US. As an international student and a minority in this country, sometimes I feel I don’t quite understand the key points of this issue due to the lack of knowledge in American history. Also, I’m lucky that I’ve had very good experience with people from different cultures so far! Therefore, when it comes to the question of students wearing a shirt with a confederate flag, I may not even notice what’s the problem with it….
Last week I attended a diversity seminar that discussed about “micro-aggression”. I’ve learned about this topic from the PFP class last semester. So, my attention was not on the presentation. Instead, I was observing the reaction of the audience. Since this is a seminar required by the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, there were probably half of students who are American sitting at the center and front of the classroom, and the other half are international students who are from middle east countries and Asia, sitting at the back side of the classroom. When the speaker asked us to have a small group discussion with our neighbors, unfortunately, there were not so much interaction between the international students and the American students. In my opinion, to achieve the purpose of this seminar, diverse students should be in the same group and listening to the opinions from each other. Furthermore, I understand the importance of the topic of micro-aggression but if it is overemphasized, it will sabotage students’ curiosity on different cultures. I even started to think that this might be one of the reasons why American students seem to have no interest in other cultures although they are living in the big melting pot!
I believe that teaching students how to respect each other starts from understanding each other’s cultures. We need to recognize the differences of individuals, instead of ignoring it or trying to treat everyone “equally”. Prejudice is inevitable at the first place. But as long as we show our curiosity and good intention to ask others’ about their cultures, and being open-minded to listen others’ opinions and learn from each other, I believe students can benefit from the conversation and broaden their horizons.
In my classroom, I would like to provide examples of technology from different countries. For example, I’m living in Taiwan where lots of earthquakes occurs each year and cause a series of engineering problems such as landslides while here in the US students have no such experiences and might not notice the importance of the related technology and research. Similarly, lots of stories can bring to the class by students from different countries or who have lived in other countries. I believe this type of discussion can help students develop their global perspective in engineering and will stimulate their curiosity in other cultures. I also would like to create a group project. Each group will be focusing on one engineering problem from a specific country, and they will need to present and share their works with all students.