Saturday, December 12, 2009

Exploring Identities

"All paths lead to the same goal. To convey to others what we are." --Pablo Neruda

This is our last week of the fall quarter and my students in SOC 320 Online, Gender, Race & Class, have been presenting their final Identity Power Point Projects on the Week 11 discussion board. This is the culmination of our exploration of our cultural, religious, gender, class and other group identities. Students asked themselves "Who am I? What do I value? How did I learn my values, beliefs, etc.? What are the components that make up my identity, including the varied roles I play.

Berkeley College students are highly diverse and this multicultural mosaic is reflected in the student projects. Here are some observations:

* One student is from Sweden and identifies with two cultures -- Italian culture from his father and Swedish culture from his mother and from growing up in Swedish society.

* A student who came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1997 shared aspects of her Haitian identity including how to say some common English words and phrases in Creole.

* Another of my online students came to this country from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A mother of two daughters and living in Georgia, she shared her childrens' experiences with prejudice.

* A young man in our class explained that his ancestors were from a region known as Circassia before the Russian conquest of Caucasus. He educated all of us about the history of Circassia and included a map in his power point. He also shared photos and descriptions of traditional Circassian foods and values from this culture with which his family identifies.

Empirical studies have demonstrated the many benefits of a diverse student population. I agree with one researcher in diversity education who has written "instructors need to give a voice to every student, to point out differences, similarities, universal and not-so-universal ideas, all of which enrich everyone's store of knowledge" (Buckelew 1991).

Works cited: Buckelew, Mary (1991) "Group Discussion Strategies for a Diverse Student Population" Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (42nd, Boston, MA, March 21-23, 1991)

Identity Map Image from Brainstorm Communication (

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