Multicultural Diversity and the Educational Experience (2017)


[MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of people will
try to say, oh, we’ll just put a person of
color in something. That’s diversity. I think that’s one of
the main misconceptions. People just think diversity is
everything physical, everything that you can see right off the
bat, but it’s absolutely not. Diversity is more than race. It’s more than sexuality. It has to do a lot with
experiences in life. Diversity for me– it’s
not only that you’re supposed to be different,
but you’re also supposed to do different things. Diversity is recognizing
the different flavors of cultures and people that
are a part of our campus, part of our society. Not going to lie. When I told my
friends and family I was coming to
Kentucky, they were like, Jenna, are there even other
Filipinos in Kentucky? I think sometimes it can be hard
to recruit people to come here just because we are
a state that does not have a lot of ethnic diversity. We just don’t. And I think that the university
is in a really unique position that we can be changing that
just through our own culture. Walking around campus, usually
people assume, oh, yeah, you might be an
international student. I’m like, no, I’m
actually from Chicago. The university is
doing a great job trying to implement
these new programs, trying to implement things
that promote diversity. But our student body
just doesn’t quite have that same attitude yet. If we approach these issues
as looking for ways to make bigoted individuals feel really
uncomfortable, to where they don’t feel like whatever it
is that they’re going to do or they’re doing is
acceptable, would be a step in the right direction. As long as we approach
issues with that in mind, I think that we could
make this a better place. If people don’t
actively work towards it or be proactive with
actually thinking about what other people have
to say, then I don’t think that’s really diversity. In many ways, an
academic institution represents a microcosm
of our society. So we have people from
all over the country from different walks
of life, people with socioeconomic differences. And I think that when
we embrace, recognize, learn from people that
are different from us, we are far better off. And at first, sometimes
it can be scary, sometimes challenging. People don’t eat the
same thing that you do. They are louder. They like spices. Their accent is different. But then, when you
start to know them, you may discover a
different view of life. Well, first of all,
I applaud students that have the
courage and curiosity to explore differences. And I think you’ve got
to search for the deeper truths and the greater wisdom
within yourself and others. For a lot of people, the main
purpose of coming to college is to just really gain a wider
scope of everything that’s going on in the world. So having diverse
students, diverse faculty, diverse staff– it really just adds to just
what you’re gaining out of it. Much of what we teach are social
sciences and the humanities, and people have
different experiences, and they bring those
different experiences to bear on their scholarship
and on their teacher. And it’s important in today’s
world, in today’s America, that students have
an opportunity to hear lots of
different viewpoints. Students have the benefit
of walking journeys that they may not
otherwise walk as a result of the lived experience
of their professors. Allow students to recognize
that I can do this. There are people
where I want to be who look like me, who think
like me, who feel like me and experience the world
in a similar fashion, who are doing all the things
that I want to do. That’s really important to
an 18-year-old kid who’s trying to figure out
what they want to do with the rest of their life. It’s hard to know that
you want to do something that you’ve never seen a
lot of people do, I guess. So I want to apply to medical
school and be a doctor. I did not see a
Latina woman in scrubs until I saw my own reflection in
a mirror while I was shadowing. By having a
multicultural staff, we can have people who can
connect with their students and be those mentors to all
different kinds of people. From a student
perspective, interacting with peers who have different
learned life experiences than you is really,
really important. Doing that really makes you
think a little bit more. It makes you evaluate
what your own beliefs are, and doing that can strengthen
yourself as a person as well. The majority of people value
having a campus community where everyone feels a sense
of engagement and belonging. And it’s maybe a
very small minority that might think otherwise. If students want to
get more involved with diversity on campus, we
do have a lot of organizations that are extremely diverse. Any student– if they’re
motivated enough, they can create their
own organization and get it registered at UK. There is something here,
I think, for everybody. And then if it isn’t, they
can– like we just said, they can always start
the club, and there are services here to help
students to be successful. Our main goal is to retain
you and then to graduate you. We want you to be successful. So student government
specifically offers multiple funding grants. These funding grants are
available for any student organization. A lot of people
don’t really hear about these grants or
these opportunities to make your own organization. And being able to create those
communities is what is going to and does sustain individuals
through their undergraduate career, through their graduate
experience, and even faculty as well. It’s really hard for a
lot of us as students to really find out the resources
that we do need and figure out what we need to do personally
to get where we want to be after we’re done at UK. [MUSIC PLAYING] We are turning things around. We can’t turn on a dime. We’re much too big and robust. But I contend, as one who
has been here 25 years, we definitely are turning
things in the right direction. This is a long,
long battle that is going to be fought beyond
the time that I’m here. The other thing I will
say– it takes all of us. If we actually engage in
conversations with people who have different
viewpoints than us, then both people
are going to have more of an empathy
for the other person, and they’re also going to have
more of an understanding of why they feel the way that they do. We should encourage students of
all races, classes, and creeds to go and support the
multicultural organizations that already exist. We’re trying to offer
a variety of programs. We have built facilities. All of these come together
to build community. We’re a large community, and you
can quickly isolate yourself. But use your opportunity at
the University of Kentucky to meet different people. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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