From diversity to inclusivity

LAN LE ‘19

Special to The Denisonian

Theoretically, we all hear and believe that “diversity enhances learning experience.” There are explanations to this statement.

According to a U.S News article, a diverse learning environment “enables students to interact with a bigger circle of people to whom they associate or develop relationships with which expands their capacity for viewing issues or problems from multiple perspectives, angles, and vantage points.” However, I find diversity is more of a resource rather than a factor that catalyzes learning experience at Denison.

Diversity does not enhance learning experience by itself. It needs some transformation to become meaningful in the learning community. “Embrace” is a good active verb for diversity. When one “embraces diversity”, they take into account the diverse learning resource and engage themselves in it. If diversity is embraced in that sense, it brings about inclusivity, which is a great platform where the boundaries between “us vs. them” are blurred and all groups of students can come together and learn from each other.

There has been a good effort within Denison community to embrace diversity or, in other words, strengthen inclusivity: might it be just wishful thinking or events and opportunity put together. I have been in different spaces on campus from classrooms to leadership events to DCGA and C3 meetings and realize a pattern.

When I ask how to make Denison a better place, a frequent answer is “more conversations.” In my opinion, this is totally the right way to embrace diversity. You learn from your fellow Denisonians by talking to them, which helps you get to know them better. However, there are two aspects of a conversation: speaking and listening.

When it comes to conversation, people are more focused on the “speaking” or “talking” part. I believe “listening” is an equal half that goes hand in hand with talking. Listening is the process that makes you aware of the differences between you and others and possibly inspires action to embrace those differences.

To learn from your fellow Denisonians, it is good to talk to them but it is also good to listen, to HEAR THEM OUT! The “hear them out” moment that I had is when I listened to auditions for TEDxDenisonU. Each speakers had 10 minutes to share their ideas, listening and engaging. The speakers brought me their life experiences, which were very different from mine, making me imagine as if they were my own. “Tell me what it is like to be Black in America?” A speaker started her story with this question asked by her teacher.

I was shocked to find how stereotype is an ongoing problem perpetuated in everyday language. Listening to the story, I started to empathize with their day-to-day struggle. That is when my learning experience was really enhanced because if asked what racial segregation is, I am not repeating a textbook definition but telling a life story that I heard about.

In other words, my learning experience is enhanced because I embrace others experiences, which motivate me in activism and problem-solving. To keep the momentum of building inclusive learning community from our “diverse” student body resource, I would like to initiate that “HEAR THEM OUT” practice on Denison campus.

In this way, you learn from fellow Denisonians that you might not have chances to get to know. As Denisonians, get more vocal about sharing their thoughts and fighting for their rights, there should be more supportive listening from the rest of the community.

Lan Le ‘19 is a computer scince and communication major from Vietnam.