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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students Share Tales of Education, Diversity

A remarkable group of students gathered in the Ryan lounge this past weekend to discuss diversity and classroom communication in higher education, telling tales of their experiences. On Saturday, October 18, NECIT (New England Center for Inclusive Teaching) presented an all-day conference to talk over subjects like “How to address pedagogical issues, given a highly diverse student population,” and “How to change campus dialogue on faculty development.”

A student panel composed of students from all over the world presented “Obstacles and Incentives to Learning: A Panel of Diverse Students Reports on How Diversity-in Curriculum Content, Pedagogy, and Classroom Demographics-Affects Academic Success.”

UMB’s Esther Kingston-Mann from the American Studies Program, an expert in pedagogy, or teaching, gave a welcome and opening remarks for the conference. Kingston-Mann recalls feelings expressed to her by a first year UMB student, “High school was like a penance imposed for some unknown sin. Everything I ever learned was learned outside of school. So I never thought to associate schools with learning.” Kingston-Mann further comments, “We [as educators] cannot replicate what we learned in college to the students.”

According to moderator Caroline Brown, assistant professor in the English Department, student voices are often obscured and forgotten.

Panelist Elizabeth Bucha has not forgotten her experiences. Bucha, from Massasoit Community College, grew up in Liberia. Bucha described the struggle for her while living in Africa. She comments, “For every answer wrong on a test, we would get three lashes.” Sometimes, Bucha would not want to attend school because she would fear getting even one answer wrong. Next on the panel, a thirty-four-year-old single parent, Marina Pickett, from Massasoit Community College, was home-schooled for much of her childhood. “I never associated schools with learning,” she says. Additionally, Pickett would like to see “teachers and students learning from each other and have students deviate from the classroom structure to find individuality.”

Keyona Chalwell described the hardship many face trying to pay for an education. Chalwell comments, “We [as students] have gone from learning to earning.” This is due to the financial struggle many students face while attending colleges and universities. “Many students stumble and fall,” Chalwell adds.

Other students spoke about diversity in their education and in their lives. Michael LeBlanc is a first-year graduate student at UMass Boston. LeBlanc remarks, “I never even thought of diversity as a concept until I came to UMass Boston.” LeBlanc describes his experience at UMB as being greeted “with a sea of diversity; some students are as old as my godchildren and some are older than me.”

Learning from students growing up in a different era is an aspect of UMB LeBlanc values. However, LeBlanc was disappointed with the lack of diversity in one particular grad school class for English where novels such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin are being read and “not one person of color is present in the classroom.” Furthermore, LeBlanc was disappointed by lack of diversity in his classroom because of the missing perspectives.

Students from UMass Boston, a very diverse school, also felt out of place. UMB student Miwa Tanabe describes her experience as an Asian American student, “I was always sitting in the corner, afraid of learning.” Tanabe reflects on UMB’s Asian American Studies program as connecting classroom material to outside experiences. Tanabe’s research team interviewed 27 Asian-American students in regard to their classroom experience. Some common themes found were “isolation and lack of community.”

Other students spoke of positive experiences, and discussed their successes. Khalil Paul, a former undergraduate student from Rhode Island College with a master’s degree in Africana Studies, described his endless search to study this subject. “People wondered what a white boy from the suburbs would do with a degree in Africana Studies,” Paul comments. Paul says his experience at Rhode Island College impacted his existence as a human being because of an inclusive method of teaching. Paul had the opportunity to study overlooked minority scholars because he was not studying more traditional, widely taught Western scholars.

Freshman graduate student from Rhode Island College Lumumba Shabaka always felt out of place in the classroom, but education taught him to be open-minded. Shabaka comments, “Students are striving for grades instead of learning. It’s all about challenging yourself and challenging the teachers. Everything is open for discussion; nothing is prohibited.”

The NECIT conference proceeded with a faculty discussion with representatives across the four campuses. A keynote address was given by Paula Rothenburg, author of Invisible Privilege: A Memoir of Race, Class and Gender in the United States.