Appalachia is a land of immense physical and cultural beauty juxtaposed against economic destitution and educational malaise. Those mountains are where I spent my first eighteen years of life and the place I still consider my home. Out of the mountains, I emerged into my academic journey with a profound sense of purpose to overcome the systemic barriers erected before me. But this was coupled with a sense of estrangement from my peers - I spoke with a thick "Southern" (but actually Appalachian) accent, I had emerged from a background where success was superficially defined, and I had succeeded despite a substandard primary education by virtue of a handful of dedicated teachers and my own determination to overcome. My journey in self-awareness has allowed me to reflect on these factors and have provided me an empathetic view toward all students striving to succeed despite the challenges they have faced.
Although my upbringing was in a strictly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant environment, my experiences in undergrad, throughout grad school, and in the world have opened my eyes to the critical importance of true equity in education. My vision of diversity is one that seeks to enhance student self-understanding through education; I firmly believe that the small liberal arts college experience is uniquely equipped to provide this opportunity.
My own field of study in biology is a powerful arena for all students to develop these reflective skills. The material seeks a common truth through empirical process while allowing for students of differing racial, ethnic, national, and gender backgrounds to construct a personal, humanistic interpretation and share that with others in the class through open, supportive discussion. By fostering this critical but inclusive environment, students begin to develop their own identities as scientists while also embracing the unique identities of others. I have grounded my vision of teaching around the most inclusive possible definition of diversity - both seen and unseen - through an emphatically and evolving anti-racist approach to education, the development of science communication skills among students, and ensuring an equitable classroom where all students have the capacity to develop and demonstrate their understanding.