Class Reflection

As I reflect on my class experience this semester, it has been nothing but positive. I remember Dr. Grimes asking everyone to share why they took this course on the first day of the class. I also remember my answer as I shared that not only this class was highly recommended by past students (masters and doctoral) from the higher education program, but I wanted to learn more about diversity and inclusion. No amount of knowledge is enough on diversity and inclusion. There is always something new to learn or something to improve.

Prior to enrolling in the master’s of the higher education program at Virginia Tech, I completed a bachelor’s degree at Stockton University which is a small-midsize public institution in southern  New Jersey. At Stockton, I became involved on campus and served in various leadership roles. While training for these roles, I was introduced to diversity and inclusion in depth. Prior to training for various leadership positions, I would say that my knowledge in diversity and inclusion was very surface level that it was almost non-existent.

Since I began the master’s program, the topic of diversity and inclusion has been discussed in all of my classes as well as my graduate assistantship. Because of this, my knowledge in the area of diversity and inclusion has increased tremendously. However, as I mentioned above, the knowledge I gained is never enough. There were things that I learned in this course which I had not learned in the past and/or considered in my work.

Blog posts and class discussions helped me learned about diversity and inclusion in various functional areas which I had no knowledge about and global higher education presentations helped me understand higher education in various parts of the world. This course has helped broaden my knowledge of diversity and inclusion in higher education not only in the U.S. but countries other than U.S. which I am extremely grateful for.

Lower retention rate amongst young professionals in Higher Education

While higher education encompasses both academic and student affairs areas, for this blog post I want to focus on a contemporary issue specific to student affairs area in higher education. One of the biggest problems in student affairs functional areas is the retention of new professionals. Student affairs is known to have one of the highest attrition rates compared to a similar profession.

According to Renn & Hodges (2007), the reasons professionals leave one institution for another institution or one job for another job is connected with having heavy workload impacting their personal life, job dissatisfaction, lack of direct mentoring from a supervisor, inadequate supervision, and lack of professional development opportunities. Based on numerous research studies conducted to understand the reasoning behind lower retention rates amongst young student affairs professionals, lack of quality supervision is one of the biggest factors (Davis and Cooper, 2017). Just like many individuals in the workforce, Student affairs professionals highly value progressing in their functional areas while continue gaining knowledge and experience through participating in diverse practices/opportunities. However, this requires not only participation from new professionals but also supervisors. This practice is known as synergic supervision. Davis and Cooper (2017) describe synergic supervision as a dynamic process that requires participation from both the new professional(s) and the supervisor. Also, synergic supervision ensures that new professionals achieve their professional and personal goals as well as meeting organizational goals.

Unfortunately, most if not all of the professionals do not learn about supervision in their graduate program as well as their graduate assistantships. Thus, professionals try to perfect their supervision style through trial and error. This specific approach comes at a cost because a lack of quality supervision has been linked to young professionals leaving the department or the institution or the student affairs profession as a whole. Losing a professional comes at a very high cost to the department and/or the institution because you lose the diverse experience and the ideas they have but also resources invested after them.

In my experience thus far as a graduate student in the higher education program at Virginia Tech, I have not had as much experience supervising student leaders as I would have like to. Although, I have learned about other people’s supervising style, reflect on my supervision style, and the ways I can work to improve my supervision style through classes, and participating in training sessions and other professional development opportunities. Furthermore, I have had one opportunity in my time as a graduate student to directly supervise student leaders. During the summer of 2019, I served as a NODA intern at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg working in the orientation office. One of my responsibility as a NODA intern was to supervise 15 student leaders. Just as I mentioned above, I had no previous experience directly supervising students. Therefore, I had to follow a trial and error approach as well as the content I learned in classes to supervise students. Through this experience, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on how I can best supervise individuals. Moving forward, I will continue to seek out opportunities to further my knowledge in supervision and incorporate the knowledge I gained through my past experiences into my practice in the future.

Reference:

Davis, T. J. & Cooper, D. L. (2017). “People are Messy”: Complex Narratives of Supervising New Professionals in Student Affairs. Journal of Student Affairs Reseach and Practice, 54(1), 55-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1219267

Renn, K. A., & Hodges, J. P. (2007). The first year on the job: Experiences of new professionals in student affairs. NASPA Journal, 44(2), 367–391. doi:10.2202/0027-6014.1800

Intersectionality

Intersectionality:

Intersectionality is a term that came into light in the 1980s. While it is an important term, it is not widely known. It is, therefore, our obligation to educate ourselves as well as others on this term as we work to expand our knowledge on diversity, inclusion, and equity.

So, what is Intersectionality? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise”. Intersectionality was first used in 1989 by social theorist and law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw in her paper where she focused on different identities of Black women and how each of them informs one another to oppress them.   

In this short clip, Kimberlé Crenshaw explains Intersectionality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViDtnfQ9FHc 

Personal Experience and Moving Forward: 

As an undergraduate student, I was very involved on campus. Between all the training I went through, I learned about Diversity and Inclusion, however, I never learned about intersectionality. If I recall correctly, I first learned about intersectionality during the first semester of the graduate program. Since then, I have been part of various training and attended various presentations where the topic of intersectionality was discussed. As I now know the importance of the term and meaning behind it, I believe educators should focus on teaching intersectionality to students at an early age. 

As a student affairs professional, I will be working with students and their families quite frequently. In order to make an environment inclusive and making sure everyone feels comfortable, I will make sure to be cognizant of the differences amongst people, avoid using generalized language that may be based on experiences of majority of people but not all, ensure that the space I create or work in is welcoming to all, and show up for those who may hold different identities than me and support their cause in fighting systems of oppression.

Reference:

https://www.ywboston.org/2017/03/what-is-intersectionality-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-me/

Contemporary Issue in Higher Education

As I shared in my introductory blog, I am a second-year master’s student in the Higher Education program. I am pursuing the functional area that was essentially not created for me and many of us in the class. The higher education system in the United States has excluded minority groups in some ways since its creation. The education system was built on the idea of educating rich white men. However, over the years that has changed, and more diverse groups have been granted access to higher education.

While access to higher education has improved for minority groups over the years, it is nowhere near being perfect. Many institutions lack in diversity due to issues surrounding access. A 2013 report from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) stated that from their study of 77 major sports programs, they found that only 2.8 percent of the undergraduate male students were Black, however, they represented 57.1% of the football players and 64.3% of the basketball players. These statistics indicated that if you were a black male athlete playing football or basketball, you had much higher chances of attending elite institutions than black males (non-athletes) who solely wanted to attend elite institutions for their academics. “Higher education in this country must see value in young black men beyond the court or playing field.” (Dr. Marcus Bright).

UPenn study only focused on black male athletes, however, this shed a light on the lack of accessibility for underrepresented and underserved minority groups to higher education. There are many barriers created by the dominant group that has limited access to higher education for minority groups. We must work together to remove those barriers as it has a direct impact on our country’s economic future but more importantly, the economic future of predominately minority communities because most of the new jobs and careers require post-secondary education.

Reference:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/issues-of-diversity-and-a_b_8597304

Stereotype Threat

Stereotype and stereotype threats:

Stereotypes are “a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group” (Dictionary,n.d.). Although stereotypes are not as visible in society today, they are still very prominent. People are stereotyped every day intentionally or unintentionally by others.

Stereotype threats are defined as “an individual’s concern with confirming a negative stereotype about his or her group” (Schmader & Hall, 2014). Negative stereotypes of a certain group(s) can have a negative impact on their performance/success.

How stereotypes have impacted my life?

As I shared in my previous blog post, I was born in India and moved to the United States in 2008. Since 2008, I have been fallen victim to stereotypes many times. Two of the statements/comments I have heard people say the most include “You’re Indian/Asian, right? You are very smart and must be good at math and science.” and “You speak English very well. You don’t even have an accent.”

While having people think of you as being very smart may sound very positive, it has had a very negative impact on me. I was always under pressure to perform well academically especially in math and science because that is what everyone expected of me. And, when I didn’t perform so well, I felt like a failure. Furthermore, during the times when I didn’t understand the concept/content, I was too embarrassed to approach the professor or peers to ask for help because of the image that my peers had created of me (being very smart). This certainly impacted my grades negatively.

Another stereotype I often hear from individuals I interact with is that I speak English very well and without an accent. As I reflect back on this stereotype, I don’t believe this has had any negative impact on me. However, this is certainly a negative stereotype as the statement implies that Indian people don’t speak English properly and without an accent.

Future considerations/implications:

As I think of the future, I can’t see our society without stereotypes. Stereotypes are here to stay and will be very hard to eliminate completely.  One way to combat this issue is by recognizing and educating everyone on the issue, and the negative impact it can have on the specific population targeted. However, it starts with us educating ourselves first.

As a professional working in an orientation functional area, I will be working with college students and families quite frequently. Therefore, I will take any opportunity I am presented with to continue to educate myself on this topic to ensure my decisions/actions are not influenced by stereotypes. Additionally, as an Orientation professional, my responsibilities will include training, supervision, and professional development of the student leaders. To educate student leaders on stereotypes and stereotype threats and the impact it has on targeted groups, I will conduct various workshops/trainings as well as collaborate with campus partners who are competent on this topic. Furthermore, I will train student leaders on how to deal with such instances where the student(s) or family member(s) may be affected by stereotypes and what resources to utilize.

References:

  • Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice by Toni Schmader and William M. Hall (Canvas)
  • https://www.dictionary.com/browse/stereotype?s=t

Introductory Blog

Hi everyone. My name is Parth Thakkar. My pronouns are he/him/his.

I am a second-year master’s candidate in the higher education program. I serve as a graduate assistant in the Department of New Student and Family Programs at Virginia Tech.

I was born and raised in India. After moving to the United States, I received high school and undergraduate education in New Jersey. I attended Stockton University in New Jersey where I majored in Applied Physics and minored in Business Studies. As an undergraduate student at Stockton University, I served as an orientation leader, a welcome week leader, and an executive committee member on a student programming board. My passion for helping students derived from my own positive and valuable experiences as a student leader which led me to pursue a career in student affairs. In the future,  I hope to serve as a vice president of a higher education institution.

In my free time, I like to watch football (Go Eagles!!!), play tennis and cricket, watch TV, go to the beach, and spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy traveling, learning about different cultures and meeting new people.

I decided to take this class because two of my friends (alums of the higher education program) highly recommended it to me. Additionally, I believe no amount of knowledge is enough in the area of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Therefore, not only I wanted to learn where I stand in terms of knowledge in these areas but continue to expand my knowledge. I hope this course helps me achieve that.