IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Student Perspective: Classrooms open doors to topics of diversity
The 14th Annual CU-Boulder Diversity Summit commenced Monday, Feb. 16 at the UMC. The two-day event featured numerous discussions on issues of diversity, including a student panel exploring teaching experiences of multicultural graduate students.
Sponsored by the Graduate Teacher Program, the Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Alliance and the McNair Program, the panel discussion, "Diverse Graduate Students: The Experience of Teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder," was comprised of four graduate students, each from a distinct background. The discussion focused on their teaching experiences as multicultural graduate student instructors and how diversity issues arose in the classroom as a topic or underlying influence.
The overwhelming opinion of the panelists and audience was that diversity can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation amongst students. “No one wants to talk about it,” said Panelist Wilfredo Alvarez, graduate student of communications and part-time instructor.
Because CU-Boulder is foremost a research institution, there can be the perception that diversity is not an academic or community priority. This perception leaves the issue largely untouched by students who think and act according to that premise. “I try to challenge students to recognize the diversity in themselves,” said panelist Tamara Williams, doctoral candidate for sociology. “Everyone is so afraid of being the different one.”
The session opened up to a free discussion amongst the audience and panel members about how to cope with issues that arise. The unanimous opinion was to talk more about diversity in classrooms in order to teach students not to be afraid of the topic. “I use myself as an example when I am teaching,” Alvarez said. “In this way, even though I look and sound different, students can see there are things in common to all of us. Through that, students learn to relate to and appreciate diversity.”
The conclusion reached is that diversity needs to be a comfortable and open topic for discussion, exploration and analysis in the best tradition of higher education. “By talking about diversity, I realized that a lot of what I thought, others were thinking as well,” said Katie Brown, sophomore philosophy and international affairs major. “We need to learn to be okay with diversity.”
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