Growing up listening to the insightful ideas of Fred Rogers, his belief that “we all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are,” comes to mind when discussing diversity. Indeed, accepting our uniqueness is the surest way to create oneness. This is how I embrace the ideal of inclusion as a cornerstone concept upon which I have built my personal identity and professional achievements.
Embracing and celebrating our dimensions of diversity sustain our society. Visible or invisible, diversity includes anything that differentiates individuals from one another. Importantly, whereas diversity acknowledges uniqueness, tolerance recognizes that everyone requires the same respect and rights. When teaching undergraduates, graduates, and adults from different backgrounds and foregrounds, this is an ideology I actively integrate whether in person, via blended learning, or online.
Experienced in cross-cultural educational environments, I diversify my delivery for different perspectives and preferences across an array of learning levels. As an expat in the United Arab Emirates, I have taught Sheikhs alongside students on scholarships. Regardless of their role in society, I see students for their potential, not their pedigree. In class, I combine learning with laughter to create a community based on equality that also acknowledges the importance of equity. Embracing Søren Kierkegaard’s idea that “to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner,” I leverage teachable moments for the benefit of my students and myself.
Trained in design thinking, and with empathy as my anchor, I create inclusive educational environments through which my students evolve in their own rhyme and time. To quote American businessman and writer, Max de Pree, “we need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” This mindset is fundamental to the flourishing of ideas and individuality.
Having been born and raised in the United States, I embrace my individual identity, but after six years living overseas as an expat, I make sure to interact with colleagues from different colleges and countries. Whether a casual conversation or deeper discussion, I need to know the person behind the profession. I possess the professional skills, experience, and willingness to engage in activities that enhance equity efforts on campus and within the larger community of which it is a part.
One lasting lesson of diversity is that, when you create in-groups, you naturally create out-groups. A quote that places the proper perspective on such incidences of inclusion or exclusion is from Octavius Black, CEO of MindGym, in his 2016 TEDxSquareMile talk: “I’m not different from you, I’m different like you.”