‘Delicate Handling of Intellectual Diversity’

My sixteen months teaching experience in Bangladesh helped me in thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion in a classroom. I did not think about racial diversity as most of us looked the same in the classroom. However, I thought about religious diversity. Being grown up as a part of the dominant religion in Bangladesh, I never saw any prejudice in the classroom based on religion. Like the other places of the world, women are underrepresented in the STEM in my country. As a part of my commitment to the students, I always tried to choose two class representatives, one from the male student group and another from female students. Apart from that, there were students of different merit in every classroom. I made my lectures to make it understandable to everyone, which was the most challenging part. Test making was focused on all the groups of students with different merits.

At Virginia Tech, I have been working in a lab run by my Chinese professor. The majority of my labmates are Chinese, yet I never felt isolated from the team. We have American, Indian, European students in our lab, yet we thrived without any conflict. At one point, we had ten Ph.D. students in our lab. As it could be predicted, the quality and productivity differed from student to student. If you define it as “Intellectual Diversity”, I would say it requires delicate care and handling. My advisor expects different output from students with different productivity and never compares one with another. The division of workload in our lab depends on individual’s ability. I think this is something very valuable that I learned from my advisor.

5 Replies to “‘Delicate Handling of Intellectual Diversity’”

  1. Interesting post Syeed. It is definitely a great example of handling intellectual diversity delicately. It must be a great environment to work in for all of you.

  2. Your advisor “never compares one with another,” that sounds great! I think comparison with others creates stress and takes away passion for work. You are lucky to meet such a great advisor!

  3. I’m glad you mentioned that the way diversity was present in your class was through religion. There can be so many types of diversity in our classes, workplaces and the world that go beyond the ones we automatically think about, like race, gender, sex, age, nationality, ect. One of the ways I have diversity in my agriculture classes, the ones I teach and as a student, is that there are students from agricultural and rural backgrounds and students from urban or suburban backgrounds studying agriculture as their major or as part of an environmental science degree. I have had to change the way I teach because I recognize that not everyone know what a tile drain is.

  4. I like your diversity statement rooted in your personal experience. Having a diversified classroom or lab setting is always a challenging task, but if you manage it well, it can become a very exciting and rewarding experience since all classmates or labmates and even the instructor/supervisor can actively learn from each other. Achieving this balance takes some special techniques, and some examples listed in your post are quite refreshing. It’s really good to see you already have some thoughts and even practice some techniques on diversity during your graduate study!

  5. Great post Syeed. We must indeed create a place for intellectual diversity in our classrooms. In research labs, this is a little more tricky. Would this not give rise to concerns about unfairness and unequal treatment among grad students?

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