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.

5 thoughts on “GRAD5114: When I am a Diversity Contributor”

  1. You are so lucky to meet with one of your favorite professors at WUSTL, who encourages and inspires you. Not many professors even advisors notice the difficulty of studying abroad, and sometimes they are too busy to talk with students on feelings and experiences out of the academia world. Because English is not my native language, and it takes me longer than native speakers to speak out my idea, sometimes people do not want to slow down the pace and listen to me. But I am working on improvement and try to be a quicker responser in efficient communication.

  2. Hi Yujun, I was going to say the same thing as Sihui, that you are so lucky to have a teacher who were supportive of you during the difficult adaptation process. I liked the idea of advocating oneself as we do for our clients. The more we accept and appreciate ourselves, the more we can shine as ourselves. Then all these diversity labels will be the tones of our light. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Excellent post! Thank you for sharing your experience. I love what you learned from your social class-“different cultures, social class, sexual orientation, poverty, gender, and other factors essential to social work practice”. This experience is absolutely helpful for being a teachers in the future and to know how to understand students better. It is really a challenge for teachers to considerate all kinds of factors such as culture difference, background, race and gender when evaluating a student. But the more you know, the better you serve your students. Also, I love your idea of “advocate yourself”, especially one is from minority and not be understood well by the others. It is also necessary to transfer this idea to students and help them to build their confidence. It will also be a great way to create “brave space” for students by encouraging them to advocate themselves.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Almost every international student have similar experiences more or less when we first come to study abroad. I remember I left my comments on a blog poster about international teachers that the best international teacher might be those who make the students forget where the teacher come from. However, we need to respect diversity in education no matter what roles we are in.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this! You’ve got terrific comments from others here, so I’ll just add that I’m glad you found such a good mentor at WUSTL. It seems that relationship might have had some things in common with the relationship Claude Steele developed with his advisor.

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