I view the diversity that students bring to the classroom as a strength and a resource, and consciously work towards celebrating this diversity. I strive to create an inclusive learning environment for students that (a) supports a diversity of perspectives and experiences; (b) respects and honors the identities of all students (including race, ethnicity, class, gender identity and expression, sexuality, religion, ability, age, citizenship status, etc.); and (c) draws upon the diversity present in the classroom as a resource, encouraging students to learn from one another’s differences in order to gain a richer and more nuanced understanding of the material, and, more broadly, to recognize the strength in diversity.
My deep commitment to supporting diversity and creating an inclusive climate that celebrates it grows out of my own life experiences, which have taught me to recognize the value in difference and have equipped me with a unique perspective and approach that I bring to the classroom, my mentoring, and my interactions with colleagues. Being part of the 1.5 immigrant generation, acting as a cultural interpreter on behalf of my working-class first-generation immigrant parents, and being a first generation college student has made me conscious of the unwritten codes and social norms necessary for success in social as well as institutional settings. As a result, I actively support students in navigating college by making explicit these unwritten codes, being very clear about requirements and my expectations, and providing them with guidance on matters ranging from what “office hours” mean to how to address professors in written correspondence and how to network effectively. Living in four countries (Croatia, Canada, Cuba, and now the U.S.) and being introduced to different cultures, customs, beliefs, and ways of being has led me to value and see the beauty in difference, and has equipped me with a global perspective that I incorporate in my teaching and scholarship.
My commitment to supporting diversity and creating an inclusive climate is evidenced by my approach to teaching, which reflects my philosophy and model this type of behavior for students. For example, I assign readings that introduce students to seminal sociological works and highlight the important contributions of women and people of color, who have been historically marginalized from the sociological canon. In class, I show photos of these scholars and provide brief biographical sketches, so that students of color and women can respectively recognize people like them in positions of power and authority. To further normalize marginalized identities, I carefully select examples that not only include people from subordinate groups, but portray them in an “ordinary” way. For example, I show a video that portrays a same-sex, interracial couple during the lecture on housing, not just the lecture on sexuality. On my syllabus and in my e-mail signature line, I declare my gender pronouns, with the triple intention of signaling to non-binary or non-gender conforming students that I am an ally, calling attention to the practice of assuming gender identity, and modeling inclusive behavior to all students.
My commitment to diversity and inclusivity goes beyond the classroom, as evidenced in my service work in my current department, as the Chair of the Culture & Climate Committee, whose purpose is to foster a safe, welcoming, discrimination-free, and collegial culture in the Department of Sociology by promoting equity and inclusivity as well as preventing bias, discrimination, and inequality. Beyond creating a discrimination-free and welcoming culture, the CCC aims to foster a collegial and supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff that supports them in their professional and personal growth.