Being the Only One
What does diversity really look like?
By Ijeoma Ugboajah
I'm a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and I'm three weeks into my first year. I went from high school classes of 30 students to classrooms up to 150. As Nigerian-American girl living in Eagan Minnesota, I was already faced with various challenges. Even in my small high school classrooms, it was difficult to not feel invisible. Now I'm posed with a new challenge: I am one of the few black students in my lecture of 100 people.
Pursuing a major in political science and journalism—areas of study that must address race in order to fully understand the complexities of their fields—I once again find myself in a situation where classes that should be rooted in diversity fail to actually have a diverse student population. For me, it's always been an awkward experience when discussing race in a class when there are only one or two students of color present. While admittedly the lack of diversity may not actually be actively intentional, it still highlights the issues regarding students of color and lack of access to educational spaces. It forces me to ask the question: are classes that are supposed to be diverse or that claim to care about diversity really putting in the effort to attract a diverse student body?
Being a student of color at a predominantly white institution sometimes feels frightening and intimidating. Even the classes seeking to address these issues still feel like part of the problem. Personally, I’d like to see the University of Minnesota put more emphasis on hiring teachers of color. It’s time to prioritize accessibility and give teachers and students of color a space to feel welcome in class. Diversity means nothing if our classes aren’t inclusive.