Why Colleges Need To Stop Lying About Diversity

I’m sure everyone remembers when they were applying to college and how nerve wracking the process was between all the research, SATs, campus tours and open houses. And of course, we can’t leave out the hundreds of pieces of mail that filled our mailboxes and inboxes every day. We all remember the countless brochures from colleges telling us why their program was better than everyone else’s, how their internship programs are endless, and their campus is beautiful and strategically located in great areas for college students and of course, how diverse their campus is. You look through all the brochures and you see all the pictures of campus with all the different races and ethnicities under the sun being represented. Then there was my personal favorite, the “Diversity Brochure,” which literally says look how diverse we are. Now maybe I got those specific brochures because I checked off the African-American and Hispanic boxes and I get that, but there are some profound issues with that. First off, if you have a specific brochure trying to tell me how diverse your campus is then I’m just going to assume that everyone in that brochure accounts for all the minorities on your campus. Where the real trouble comes is when colleges that are not at all diverse are successful in tricking students, especially students of color into believing they are indeed diverse.

This intentional deceit on the part of colleges is really unfair to students and can really damage their college experience, and that goes for white as well as non-white students. Let me start with how this is damaging to some white students, specifically the ones that are looking for diversity. Whether these students come from predominantly white towns and are looking for something new or they come from diverse hometowns, they are seeking out diversity for some reason, and they are right to. Being able to live and work with people from diverse cultures and religions will only benefit students in our increasingly globalized society. When students enter the work force they will no doubt interact with people that come from many diverse backgrounds, especially if they are in the fields of business, engineering or the sciences. Knowing that, students actively seek out environments that foster that same diverse community. For students like that they look heavily into diversity when it comes to making college decisions and can be robbed of vital experiences when they are tricked into coming to campuses that are less diverse than advertised. They are robbed of a skill that will no doubt benefit them throughout their life and career. That’s essentially equivalent to telling a student that wants to be an accountant how great your accounting program is and then when they get to your university you tell them well we don’t actually have an accounting major, but our general business program is great! Now of course colleges would never do that because it would be unethical, but why don’t the same morals apply to advertising about diversity?

As damaging as this lie can be to the experience of white students, it can be exponentially worse for students of color. As previously stated, being able to work with classmates from different cultures is an invaluable experience and one that should not be taken for granted but there is also something to be said for having classmates that you can easily identify with, especially for black students. When you are walking around campus there’s a certain level of comfort being able to look around and seeing students that look like you and dress like you and a descent amount of discomfort when you see that is not true at all. This is especially true in moments of crisis, much like the issues that have arisen after the incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter campaign. In moments like this, students of color need to know that they are not alone on their campus and that there are people out there that feel the way they do. That is not to say that white students can’t support the movement, but no white student can understand the emotions evoked when the Ferguson decision was made. Being a student of color at a predominantly white institution it was very difficult for me feel safe in my beliefs and to know there was a safe place for me to openly express my emotions. Now not much can be done about students of color that knowingly choose to attend a PWI, but it is not fair to the students that are tricked into a sense of false security. And it is inevitable that at PWI’s black students will then naturally gravitate to the few other black students on campus and then are constantly questioned with the typical, “why do all the black kids hang out with each other.”  I’ll tell you why, because they need their own sense of security and belonging.

Listen, I understand that not all college campuses can be diverse; that’s simply not a realistic goal and that’s fine. I am not saying that all colleges need to diversify themselves (though it wouldn’t be a bad idea) I am just saying that colleges need to be honest about it. They need to be upfront and let people know what really makes up their student body. They need to focus on what their college actually does do well, rather than try to trick people into believing things that just aren’t true. I also understand that diversity means more than just race, and colleges are misleading about that too, but that’s for another blog post. To all colleges and universities, own who you are and please STOP LYING TO STUDENTS.

Hey College Students, Being Smart Is OKAY!

As I sit here a mere three months away from graduation I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting on my four years (as well as a descent amount of crying, but that’s a separate issue). I’ve been extremely fortunate in my undergrad experience to do things and meet people that I never thought imaginable. I traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the FIFA World Cup with my university, as well as met personal heroes of mine such as rapper Chuck D. Most of all, I have made amazing friends that will no doubt be a part of the rest of my life. However, at the end of the day the thing that I am most proud of is that I will be able to walk across that stage and hold my degree that I have worked so hard for, and that is an area I have reflected on a lot…

As with most college students I have worked very hard over the past four years to obtain my degree. I’ve spent countless hours studying, written more papers then I can count and pulled more all-nighters than I care to admit and I couldn’t be prouder of that (well, I guess I could have pulled a few less all-nighters). As much as I may have hated all the work while I was in the thick of it, there was no better feeling than knowing the hard work paid off when I received a grade back on an exam or paper. I remember one of the first exams that I really had to study hard for was a geography exam with a particularly challenging professor. I remember leaving the exam unsure of myself and how well I performed, and I remember how nervous I felt when the professor started handing the exams back. I grabbed the exam and when I looked at the grade I was ecstatic, I got a 92! I’ve always been someone that’s taken pride in my grades so when I turned to my classmates as we were all comparing grades I couldn’t wait to share the good news. When I told them I was expecting to hear, “congratulations,” and “good job!” Instead what I got was called an asshole and a jerk and was made to feel ashamed of how well I had did and that was something that stuck with me for a while.

I would say I went through the next two years of college afraid to tell people my grades on exams and papers and I blamed them for that. Then at the end of my junior year I realized it was my fault. I allowed other people to let me feel shame for doing well academically. I took names like overachiever, try-hard and nerd as an insult. Well I am here to tell all the students out there like me to wear those names as a badge of honor! You should NEVER be ashamed of doing well academically, especially considering how much you pay to be able to earn those grades. I want you to realize that all those people sitting in that class with you that didn’t do well had the same opportunity that you did to get that grade. They sat in the same classroom (if they showed up), had access to the same notes, class discussion and professor as you did so do NOT be ashamed that you did better. Now of course sometimes certain students don’t grasp certain concepts and that’s perfectly understandable; this is more geared toward the students who don’t do their work then want you to feel guilty for doing it.

So to all the students out there that think they have to hide their academic achievements I say to you, that is why you are in school! You are in school to receive a degree and to hopefully do more than the bare minimum to get by. If your classmates want to live by the mantra “C’s get degrees,” then go ahead and let them but don’t allow them to diminish your accomplishments. Being smart is cool my friends. Now don’t read into this incorrectly; don’t go around flaunting your grades to people that didn’t do so well because that just makes you a jackass. It’s okay to get good grades, that’s what your supposed to do. Don’t feel guilty for busting the curve on an exam. Don’t feel guilty for having your hard work pay off. Don’t feel guilty for not wasting your time and money. Don’t feel guilty for realizing your potential and most of all NEVER feel guilty for achieving the goals you set for yourself.

When I walk across the stage at graduation it will be as a member of four on campus honor societies and as the president of one of them. When they announce that I am graduating (insert latin word here) cum laude I will hold my head up high because I achieved the goals I set for myself and because I stopped letting people make me feel bad about it a long time ago.

A Brazilian send off done right

Today was unfortunately our last day in Rio and we are off to home tomorrow! While it is extremely sad, I feel we had a fitting farewell.

Our first stop was at the International Broadcast Center where we learned all about the process of producing and broadcasting the World Cup. While it really wasn’t my area of interest it was still interesting seeing how the beautiful game is broadcasted into the homes of millions of people throughout the world. One of our unexpected stops was in the television studio for Televisa, a Mexican television station that was covering the World Cup and we got to check out their set 20140623-195009-71409391.jpg

Then after the IBC we headed back to our hotel for an authentic Brazilian barbecue prepared by our driver Daniel. Daniel is truly a jack of all trades, he’s a great cook, a police officer, a driver, an event promoter and as we would soon find out a great soccer player. We had delicious food and ended the barbecue with a little ceremony to thank Rodrigo and Daniel, the dream team that helped make our time here so amazing!

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But of course, no Brazilian celebration is complete without a friendly soccer match that we roped Rodrigo and Daniel into! And let me just say that each of them are probably about 40 years old and wiped the floor with us! But it was a whole lot of fun and definitely a workout, and here is some proof that I have a little athleticism left in my body…

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And if that didn’t tire us out enough, we decided that one final fans of volleyball was in order! While my team lost the soccer match we cleaned house in volleyball, which is my sport anyway. Even in the sand, after years off the court, it appears I still got something left in the volleyball tank!

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It’s hard to believe that this experience is over, and I will post in a couple days summing up my whole experience but to make it short, this truly was the experience of a lifetime and one I will NEVER forget! Thank you Rio! See you again soon (hopefully).

A farewell to Maracanã

Today we headed to our third and final match at the iconic Maracana stadium to watch Belgium play Russia.

While I didn’t really have a dog in this fight as Professor Hamakawa would say, it was still another amazing opportunity in Maracana. While sitting in the stands we were surrounded by Belgian fans and one offered to paint my face with their flag, so of course I had to say yes! 20140622-210946-76186903.jpg
With their flag on my face I quickly caught Belgian fever (if that’s a thing). Most of the game went scoreless until the 85th minute when Belgium scored and won 1-0!! I got high gives from Belgians all around me and they embraced me as their own!

It was a great way to say goodbye see you later to Estadio do Maracanã!

On our way home from the match we stopped at a giant festival celebrating Brazilian culture. We had more delicious Brazilian food, heard Brazilian music and saw a little Brazilian dancing!

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We finished off the day by watching the US vs Portugal game back in our hotel where we hoped to see the US secure a spot in the round of 16 with a win over Ronaldo and his Portugal squad. Admittedly, I did not have much faith in the US to get past Portugal, and they almost proved me wrong. The match was back and forth with the US and Portugal trading goals. Then Clint Dempsey put the US ahead 2-1 and the clock was winding down. The ref added 5 minutes of stoppage time and at about 44:30 it looked like the US was about to pull out the upset. Then Ronaldo got the ball and he did what he has done time after time, made a great play. With one of the most beautiful crosses I’ve ever seen he set up his teammate for a goal as time expired. It was deflating for US fans but at the same time, nobody can deny the perfection of that pass. It’s not called the group of death for nothing…

Tomorrow is our last full day in Rio, and I have to stop typing their so my tears don’t damage my keyboard.

At the Copa, Copacabana

Today we finally had a beach day! The weather wasn’t quite what I would have liked it to be but it was sunny and there was no rain so I won’t complain!

We spent the day visiting two of the most famous beaches in Rio and the world, Ipanema and Copacabana! The water was an amazing temperature and the beach gave us a beautiful view and scenery. 20140621-210605-75965521.jpg

While on one of the beaches I got try try coconut water for the first time, and it was fresh straight from the coconut and it was pretty good!

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Also while at the beach we were looking for a place to eat and stumbled across a restaurant that immediately caught my attention for obvious reasons…

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Our last stop before going home was a display of the United Nations Buddy Bears. Giant bears decorated by over 140 nations displayed together to demonstrate unity. How fitting since the Golden Bears were there for a visit! Here I am with the bears from Brazil and Spain!

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While I didn’t quite get the tan I was hoping for, I still get to say I swam in the ocean…..AT THE COPA, COPACABANA!!

Favela livin’

So today we only had one item on the agenda, a tour of one of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

As we were touring the favela we got a really good history of the favelas in Rio. Currently there are over 800 favelas in Rio with about 20% of the population living in them. They range in size from from around 50 to 200,000 people. Favelas for those that aren’t familiar with them are shantytown a built into mountainsides and unused land for people who can’t afford to live in traditional housing. We visited the Racinho favela, the largest in all of Latin America with 200,000 people living in an area less than 1 sq kilometer in size! 20140620-201411-72851628.jpg

At the risk of sounding cliché, I will say that seeing those living conditions truly makes you appreciate what you have. In addition to the accommodations I noticed some other cultural differences. First off, children were often walking around by themself, something you don’t really see in the states. Another really cool thing we saw was part of their informal economy where one woman turned her living room into an art gallery, with amazing art!

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We learned the history of gangs and drugs in the favela and how the culture changed once the police arrived. We also debunked some of the myths of the favelas. Some believe the people there have nothing, but they have electricity, water and cable tv! Others believe that they have these things but steal them and pay for nothing. While some of these people do live like this, there are certainly people that pay for everything.

With people not having to pay for these things it brings up the question of whether or not people want to leave the favelas? This made me think of the US and the accusation or belief that people on welfare are content living off of welfare. I could have a whole other blog post about this but for now I’ll just leave you to ponder this comparison.

Another comparison, and one I mentioned earlier was between the rich and poor areas in Rio.

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You can clearly see the favelas, that cost about 200 reals per month to live in. Then at the bottom of the picture you see the high rises right next door which is the most expensive part of Rio to live in where homes can cost around 10 million reals! Such a stark contrast cohabiting the exact same area. The issue of poverty is something I’ve studied a lot and an issue I hope to tackle in my professional life so this was an amazing experience for me.

Tomorrow we are off for a relaxing day at Ipanema beach and Copacabana!! Hopefully I can get a tan!!

Living in the past

Today was one of my favorite days because we spent the day learning about Brazil’s history and I am a huge history buff!

We spent the day in Petropolis, the imperial city, which stands for Peter’s city, who was the emperor of Brazil in the 17th century. We started the day in the former imperial palace turned museum.

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Unfortunately we could not take pictures inside the museum but it was absolutely beautiful! Learning the history of Brazil was great, and as a political science major, comparing the imperial history to that of other countries was especially rewarding and eye opening for me.

As we walked through Petropolis it looked as if the town hadn’t been touched since the 17th century. Even a house we walked by that was having construction done on it looked straight out of the imperial period. You could see the Brazilian people had a strong and proud connection to their history; something you don’t see a lot in the United States.

Next was a quick stop at another cathedral, a typical French style cathedral but beautiful nonetheless. Here, don’t take my word for it

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Our next stop was lunch where we had some authentic food once again! Those who know me know that I love to eat and I love food. Those that know me well know my favorite food is Shepard’s Pie and today I had the Brazilian version and it was delicious! Now it’s not grams Shepard’s pie but it did the job today!

Our final stop was at the Bohemia Cervejaria (brewery) where we learned about the history of beer and alcohol both in Brazil and the world. Did you know the Egyptians introduced the world to beer? Maybe that should be one of the 7 wonders of the world instead of the pyramids (just kidding). It was an extremely interactive your with games and photo opportunities the whole way. At the end we got to taste two types of Bohemian beers, a Pilsen and a Confraria. Now I’m not much of a beer person (at least I’m assuming so because I am not 21 so I’ve OBVIOUSLY neeeever had alcohol) but the Pilsen was pretty good!

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Another great day in Brazil in the (history) books. Hope you’re enjoying following my journey half as much as I’m enjoying having it!

Viva España!

So today was a relatively short day but still one filled with heartache on the pitch!

First off was our delegation friendly where we played a game of 5-on-5 soccer in honor of the World Cup. After taking an early 4-0 lead I was feeling pretty confident in my team. Then the other team battled back for a 10-9 victory. In the end we all had fun and had a nice little workout! But I still hate losing!

Then we went to attend our 2nd of 3 World Cup matches pitting the defending world champions Spain against Chile, a team not many thought had a chance. Before we even got into the stadium we were stopped by a group of entertainers and we got a workout in as they taught us some dances to warmup for the game! 20140619-003438-2078170.jpg

Walking into Maracana I quickly saw I was outnumbered as a Spain fan as the stadium was filled with Chileans. Still I felt confident in my team, a confidence that quickly faded as they lost 2-0 and were knocked out of the World Cup! My heart still aches but I will forever bleed red and yellow for La Furia Roja! Viva España! Campeones Siempre!!

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Even though I hate seeing my team lose there is a silver lining here, I no longer have to split my time between Spain and Argentina and can devote all my attention to Messi! Argentina para Los campeones del mundial!

Totally a tourist

So today we completely played the part of tourist and went all around Rio on a cultural tour and visited some pretty cool places of interest.

Our first stop was the site where Carnival is held each year. We saw the area where as many as 2 million people gather to dance and listen to traditional Brazilian music. We had the opportunity to try on some traditional samba costumes so of course I jumped at the opportunity! 20140617-220000-79200317.jpg
Personally I think I look great! And let me tell you, after five minutes I was sweating so I couldn’t imagine what it’s like for the dancers in the summer heat!

We next stopped at a catholic cathedral unlike any I had ever seen. When I hear cathedral I think typical cathedral like that in Italy or Spain. This was different because it was built in the shape of a cone, with inspiration from the Mayan Pyramids. It was definitely unique but really cool. It was designed to represent the people. A large base to represent all the people and narrow at the top to represent the small amount of people who made it into heaven.

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The last stop was the Escadaria Selarón or Selarón’s Staircase. Which is a set of 215 steps in the middle of Rio where the artist spent 25 years decorating the stairs with artwork from all over the world!

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Another great day topped off by FINALLY having authentic Brazilian food and it was delicious!!

Ain’t no mountain high…

I can certainly say I am exhausted after day 2 in Rio after climbing two mountains. Well, the train and cable car we took climbed the mountains but there were still stairs involved!

The first mountain was the famous Corcovado mountain! While most may not be familiar with Corcovado, they are certainly familiar with the figure that sits atop it, the iconic Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) or as I like to call him, Giant Jesus! If you’ve ever seen a movie that even mentions Brazil you’ve seen this giant statue and I got to see it up close and personal! 20140616-213146-77506390.jpg

Being up there was nothing short of amazing, after the fog cleared of course. And once it did we had amazing views of all of Rio!

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Even up here soccer reigned supreme as chants broke out all over the place from the fans of Colombia, Algeria and the US! Then shortly after everyone would join together for a group pic, because even though we all want our team to win, we are also here to celebrate soccer and just have an amazing experience!

Then, as if this view wasn’t beautiful enough we then made our way to the top of Sugarloaf mountain for even more amazing sights, especially with the fog completely gone! Just check out this pic of the famous Copacabana (which I will be visiting later this week)

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Yesterday I got to experience the beauty of the World Cup and today I got to witness the beauty of Rio and see why it is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world! This trip gets better everyday!!