GRAD5114: When I am a Diversity Contributor

I really like this week’s reading and I appreciate the awareness of diversity by faculty and students in higher education. I feel very lucky that I have had some positive experiences in terms of diversity during my graduate study that have changed my life.

Before I came to U.S. , diversity is not something in my life that I pay any attention to, as I grow up in a middle sized city in China and I spend most of the time in school where the students around me were all similar to me, all Chinese students, similar age, came from similar family background,  and even though I spent four years in Beijing which is a large city with diverse population, during my undergrad study, I still did not aware of the experience of diversity.

When I was in Washington University in St. Louis for my master’s degree, I not only learned a lot about diversity but also experienced myself. As I was studying social work, which emphasizes on social justice and equality, so the first course I took is Social Justice and Human Diversity, In that class, we learned different cultures, social class, sexual orientation, poverty, gender, and other factors essential to social work practice. I learned that it is critical to  have the ability to assess different people’s  values, preferences, and characteristics as a social work student.

However, as a minority in all my classes, I felt the stress myself and sometimes I became anxious. One of my favorite professors in WUSTL really helped me with this issue. I still remembered how he encouraged me to “advocate for yourself”. He told me how he understand the difficulties and challenges of studying abroad, how I made contributions to the classes that I took and finally he said “you know, social workers always advocate for our clients, but we also need to learn how to advocate for yourself!” After talking with that professor, I realized that what he said was true in many ways. As the readings indicates it important to know that diversity has lots of benefits for higher education, but when we are the minority, we can’t assume everyone has taken Diversity courses and appreciate the benefits of it, we need to advocate for ourselves, no matters it’s apply for graduate programs, future jobs or just in our daily life, we need to express our values and opinions, so that people will understand each other better.