Making My Mark

One of the most important things I learned as a journalist was to compel the reader to follow my story. One of the toughest tasks I face is to make you, the reader, care about this blog.

I guess I should get to the point: I’m kind of unique.

During this academic year, I will be writing about my experiences as a first-year faculty at Lincoln University, a small HBCU tucked away in the farmlands of Chester County, Pa.  I’m probably one of a small number of South Asian American professors at historically black colleges and universities, which makes my experience somewhat different than many of my peers.

I’ve taught at large institutions such as Temple and Penn State, worked as the only minority in a newsroom, and traveled around the world trying to figure out just how to define myself. At Lincoln, I will be an “Other,” especially since many of my students have never interacted with a person of South Asian descent.

For much of my life, I’ve had to explain who I was and in many ways justify my existence to friends and colleagues. As a Hindu in post-9/11 America, I’ve been the subject of some ignorant comments and the object of extra scrutiny at airports.

As an educator, I’ve always tried to make my life experiences relevant to my pedagogy. Everyone experiences a sense of Otherness, and for many of my students, that feeling awaits them in their post-graduate lives. They will make the tough transition from attending majority-minority high schools and a university that is 90 percent African-American to working in offices or attending graduate school courses where they are the only one of color.

Preparing my students for this post-graduate reality is one of my biggest challenges. Many of them have not yet fully dealt with being a minority in workplace or classroom settings, nor have they had extensive interaction with other communities. Maybe this is why I can play such a unique role as an educator of color who happens to be “Other.”

In the classroom, I preach the need for code switching when necessary because we can’t always “keep it real.” This has been one of my own personal challenges, as I learned that in academia, how I interact with my friends is vastly different than how I must interact with my colleagues.

This year will be exciting, exhilarating, gratifying, humbling, exhausting, and thankless (sometimes all at once), but I’m here to learn as much as I will teach. Writing this blog will be therapeutic and in a way will serve as a place for me to articulate my own identity.

I hope you join me for this ride.