My Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

 

Growing up in rural Indiana, my exposure to diversity, either in thought or background, was very limited, and it is something I regret not understanding more when I was younger. I was originally born in Scotland, and moved with my family to the United States when I was just five years old. I knew several other students who hailed from different countries, but they were often treated with disdain by our peers. It was only at the end of my high school career did I fully understand why: while I hailed from a different country, I was still Caucasian, and therefore exempt from racial prejudice. I found this to be ridiculous. We were all in school to pursue the same goal: obtain an education.

 

As I began attending Ball State University as a freshman, I interacted with other students from a variety of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who believed in different religious faiths, with different gender and sexual identities. My best friend of 10 years also came out to me, a humbling experience for us both that further cemented our friendship. At Ball State University I truly began to understand diversity, and saw it as something to be celebrated, not shunned or ignored. Diversity and inclusivity became passions of mine, and have strongly influenced my collegiate activities. I served as a Resident Assistant at Ball State University for three years, during which period I won three consecutive annual awards for programs I organized and hosted to raise students’ awareness of diversity. During my final year as an undergraduate Resident Assistant I was assigned to Shively Hall, the international residence hall, which further exposed me to and educated me about different viewpoints and cultures. Later, when pursuing my doctorate at Bowling Green State University, I continued to demonstrate commitment to these ideals through my service. I attended Safe Zone Training for Faculty to promote further inclusion of LGBTQ+ students on campus, and constructed the website for the university’s Deconstructing Islamophobia Conference.

 

After I realized that my career path lay in academia, diversity and inclusivity remained strong passions of mine, and informed my research interests and goals. My scholarship specifically advances diversity by highlighting the visual representation of gender and racial identities in popular narrative texts such as film and television, and how they reflect contemporary sociopolitical American complexities. I recognize that women, racial minorities, and other historically underrepresented groups encounter numerous barriers across society in the form of white hegemonic masculinity, and that such barriers disprove the notion of true equality. My hope is that my scholarship can contribute in some small part to advancing equality in popular narrative media.

 

To aid these research goals, my advisor at Bowling Green State University, Dr. Ellen Gorsevski, encouraged me to pursue a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, under the supervision of Drs. Sandra Faulkner and Becca Cragin. Beforehand, I had always identified as a feminist, assuming that feminism was simply about promoting equality between women and men instead of the former’s superiority. However, I underestimated just how much attending graduate courses towards the certificate would teach me about the complexities of feminism, which can encompass numerous ideologies, some of which are in direct opposition with each other. I ultimately obtained the certificate in December 2017, which further demonstrates my commitment to issues of feminism, gender studies, intersectionality, and inclusivity, both as a researcher and an instructor. My capstone project for this Certificate was a syllabus for a Feminism in Film course I hope to one day teach.

As a white man, I am aware of my privilege and location in society, and consider myself an ally to communities who do not share this privilege, including women, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community. Looking forward, I plan to use my faculty position to educate students on issues of diversity, feminism, and inclusivity in my class lectures. In the media courses I have taught at Bowling Green State University and Young Harris College, I have made a concentrated effort to discuss and view a variety of media texts with my students, particularly texts that focus on marginalized communities and reflect their experiences. My ultimate goal in doing so is to enrich my students’ education by exposing them to new viewpoints and simultaneously help cultivate further allyship. Ultimately, educators have a civic duty to help their students, as well as their colleagues, understand and form positive bridges with individuals from different communities, both inside and outside a classroom setting.