Minority Faculty and Minority Graduate Students: Lesson learned
Yesterday I attended a seminar held by the graduate school regarding minority faculty and minority graduate students in higher education. Not surprised, most of the attendants were minority, and I realized that when talking about minority most of the Americans will think of black people. Of course, this does not say that Asian or Hispanic students (and others) are not part of the minority groups, but from the discussions I can tell American society pays more attention on African Americans. This observation, in one sense, supports my rationale to study cultural issues of Chinese international students in the United States. Because there is a lack of awareness on this issue.
During the seminar (which is a panel format including five faculties),the panelists shared several challenges they heard and experienced concerning their racial and ethnic identify. That was a very good experience to hear different perspectives regarding the minority issues. For example, one Asian female graduate students addressed that when she first went into the classroom to teach ,two black students left immediately. She, of course, felt very frustrated and didn't know what wrong with that.One thing very important as pointed out by the presenters was to change your attitude, and see things positively. For me, it's like "smile to the world, and the world will smile to you." We can't change other people, but we can change ourselves.
In the end of the seminar, the panelists as well as some attendants shared some points they thought are important for minority groups. I summarize these points below:
1. Try to greet people. For example, say "hi" to people. (Although the majority of the attendants thought the younger generation doesn't do this, we still think this is important).
2. Dual identities: don't think you are minority, but also think you are a PhD student like other white Americans.
3. Networks: Try to seek out other people in the same situation and get support.
4. Mentors: Find a mentor, and be a mentor.
5. Preparation: prepare yourself for future job. Market yourself in the community.
6. Student organization: this might be a good resource to get support.
7. Environment: Try to build a culturally inclusive learning and working environment.
8. Educate faculty: Faculty members need to be educated about how to deal with minority groups.
9. Cooperation and collaboration with other people.