Experiences from Academia Around the World
Edited by Saija Katila, Susan Meriläinen and Janne Tienari
Chapter 5: Teaching Diversity in a ‘Conservative’ State: Using Who I Am and Empirical Evidence to Contradict Erroneous Perceptions
Myrtle P. Bell I am an African-American, female, Christian, heterosexual professor who teaches diversity at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT-Arlington), a large public school in the state of Texas, USA. Most of the students at UT-Arlington are from working class backgrounds and many are the first in their families to attend college. The student body is diverse in race and ethnicity, with 48 per cent White, 14 per cent Latino, 14 per cent Black, 11 per cent international students, 10 per cent Asian and 1 per cent Native American students.1,2 Because of the university’s very successful wheelchair basketball team, the ‘Movin’ Mavs’, and strong support programs for students with disabilities, there is a significant portion of students with disabilities on campus. There are support systems, networks and social groups for students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual minorities, students with disabilities, and many other groups. Overall, the diversity in the student body creates a wonderful and rich environment for learning about diversity first hand and creates a unique norm of diversity rather than homogeneity, at least among the students. It is in the context of diversity as the norm that I have been formally teaching diversity at UT-Arlington since 1997. However, I have taught diversity informally nearly all my life, having grown up in the southern portion of the USA, in the heart of the Civil Rights movement, and having attended very segregated (White) schools throughout high school and college (see Bell 2009). For my first...
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