As a philosopher who works on problems in ethics, historical oppression, and women of color feminisms I am professionally committed to promoting diversity and inclusion within Philosophy and the university at large. And as a first-generation, non-traditional student from a low-income background, I am also personally committed to these goals. Because diversity of demographics is not enough to guarantee true diversity of scholarship or equitable distribution of resources and recognition within educational contexts, I actively seek to support efforts that empower historically underrepresented students as they develop the skills to confidently participate within and contribute to educational institutions and communities. In addition to my own teaching and research, I have worked within a variety of programs to provide student-centered mentorship and skills.
Diversity in the classroom
My classes are designed to meet a variety of student needs and remain open to revision to accommodate students’ individual learning styles, accessibility requirements, and experiences. Rather than teach my students what to think, I strive to teach them how to think by meeting each student where they are and working to build critical awareness. Doing so allows me to highlight the ways in which philosophical exploration often models the kinds of critical thought, ethical attentiveness, and epistemic humility necessary to build truly equitable and pluralistic communities. I have taught a number of undergraduate courses at DePaul University and the University of New Mexico (UNM), both of which have significant numbers of first-generation students and ESL learners, and serve very racially and ethnically diverse student bodies. Because students come to the classroom with a variety of experiences and intelligences, I work to create an environment that invites and prizes participation and contribution from a plurality of perspectives and voices. I accomplish this by foregrounding discussions and small group activities with consideration of the practices of active listening, thinking, and responding, and by continually inviting students to tie philosophical and theoretical work to real world contexts they are already knowledgeable participants within, allowing them to become co-educators.
I believe philosophical questioning is one key route through which we can work to decenter exclusionary models of belonging and citizenship that perpetuate marginalization. I thus encourage acknowledgement of historical violence and oppression both within the production of the canon and the material conditions that found our institutions, educative and otherwise. Rather than censor oppressive histories, I work to teach students to ask the kinds of questions necessary to analyze and assess normative claims and the material conditions such claims support and arise from. My courses place the history of ideas within a larger social history while consistently returning to ongoing issues of inequity within the contemporary world.
Diversity initiatives and mentorship in the academy
I am a member of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) and use my positions on the Graduate Student Council of the American Philosophical Association (APA) and APA committee on the status and future of the profession to advocate for historically underrepresented scholars and scholarship within the field of Philosophy. Within my own research and teaching, which draw form critical race theory, feminism, and decolonial thought I promote diversity in content and topic.
As an undergraduate student at UNM, I was a McNair scholar. I also participated within the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) at Penn State University as an Iris Marion Young Scholar and attended the Rutgers Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy. These initiatives helped shape my growing awareness of matters of race, gender, sexuality, disability, and socio-economic status within Philosophy and gave me the tools and mentorship to flourish. All of these formative experiences impact my commitment to giving back to up-and-coming generations of scholars within Philosophy and interdisciplinary research efforts. While at UNM for my M.A., I was also a founding member of the Women in the Academy series and served as a mentor through the Women’s Resource Center.
During my Ph.D. I worked within DePaul’s Mitchem and McNair programs, both of which support students from historically underrepresented groups in the development of research and professional development skills. I oversaw programming and curriculum development and served as instructor and mentor for two interdisciplinary sophomore cohorts of Mitchem scholars. And I gave guest lectures on research methods and professional development and acted as a mentor and coach for graduate school applications for junior and senior McNair scholars in the Humanities. Within my own department I hosted events and workshops for Society for Philosophers from Underrepresented Groups and MAP, and often recruited and mentored undergraduates transitioning to Philosophy from other majors.
I also personally mentor students and peers at other institutions. This is because I believe that strong mentorship is key to expanding access to and success within academic research, and that diverse academic communities are crucial for advancing rigorous scholarship as well as creating institutional policy aimed at equity and inclusion. At the heart of my approach to mentorship is the idea that mentoring is a reciprocal relationship in which both mentee and mentor learn from one another and work toward common and individual goals. I continue to work toward my own education by studying best practices in mentorship and pedagogy, and recently attended the APA’s Mentoring the Mentors workshop.
Diversity work in the community and public sphere
Beyond the academy, I utilize the skills my educational access has granted me to assist community projects. I organize with Food Not Bombs and other grassroots efforts aimed at combatting food injustice and violence against communities of color through public education and mutual aid. I have participated in workshops on liberatory memory within contexts of state violence and served as a facilitator in discussions of anti-oppression work in Chicago’s community spaces. I volunteered as a funding coordinator for a community gym and have hosted events on digital literacy on Chicago’s south side. And, as a previously homeless person, I engage in efforts that promote autonomy in resource acquisition for unhoused communities both through direct visitation of encampments and through raising public awareness and support for community organizations.
There’s no such thing as neutral education. Education either functions as an instrument to bring about conformity or freedom.Paulo Freire
Pedagogy of the Oppressed