Who me?

The Vermont state college system enables both male and female adults of any age and any social economic background to continue their education.I know this, because at forty-something I took advantage of my local community college to pursue and complete my associate’s degree. I decided to then continue my education at Castleton State College.

I selected CSC for two reasons. Number one, the campus is 70 miles from my home and therefore within my acceptable driving distance. Number two, as part of the Vermont college system, all of my credits would automatically transfer into my major or as electives.

Transferring into a new college presented the usual issues of finding one’s way around. At first I repeatedly checked my schedule to see were I was suppose to be and at what time. I lived in fear that I would get lost, or be late for a class.

After a few days I started to relax as I became comfortable with the physical layout of the campus. I allowed my attention to be drawn over to other aspects of the CSC environment.

The architecture gives the college a traditional academic feel, while the interior furnishings lend an air of relaxation to the learning atmosphere. The educators and the support staff are all very friendly, helpful and encouraging. The students are engaged, animated, and personable. There appears to be no lack of equipment or learning materials in any department. We do however appear to lack an array of skin tones here. We could use a greater variety of flesh tone crayons to our Crayola box. Almost everyone at CSC is white.

One of the things that I had been looking forward to is meeting people from different cultures. The opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds appeals to me, and I am a little disappointed that we do not have a higher percentage of multi-cultural students here. I should not have been surprised.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that when one attends a state college, smack dab in the middle of the whitest state in the union, the diversity rate might just be a bit low.

With my Hispanic surname, is it possible that I was counted as a minority student and part of the diversity? That would be quite a surprise if they were expecting a young Hispanic woman. Then I showed up, a pleasingly plump, middle aged, white woman with rosacia. Then like a lightning bolt from God it hit me . It is me. I am it. I am part of the diversity ratio. I am a minority, and I know this is true because I even have a title that describes me. I am a non-traditional student! I am one of the students who grew up in a different time and therefore a different culture.

It was a time when chains were put on the car tires in snowstorms, and not all-season radials. I used to change the channels on the black and white TV by getting up and turning the knob. (It was not such a big deal since we only had three channels.) I watched John Glenn walk on the moon with my fellow classmates. Gathered in the all-purpose room at Grafton Elementary School, we watched it happen live. I helped to gather sap, by removing the bucket from the tree and dumping the contents in the gathering tank that was hauled through the woods on a trailer pulled by a John Deere tractor. My first car was a green 1966 Chevy Impala convertible, with rust spots and a hole in the ragtop over the driver’s seat. It was only 10 years old at the time. I remember Jan Brady, Gilligan, Donny and Marie, Sonny and Cher, and Michael Jackson with a wide nose. I was born in 1959. I am a baby boomer.

I am used to being part of the majority. It feels strange to be a minority, and it is a bit lonely. But, if my experiences have made me different, isn’t that true for everyone? No one has the same exact background. So does this mean that everyone is part of this diversity that colleges value so much?

I think so. I think that we all bring with us our individual experiences that make us who we are. It gives us each a perspective that is different from anyone else’s. In the classroom it shapes our discussions and the way that we process the academic material.

We are able to see other ways of thinking about and viewing the world around us. We are able to help others perceive different perspectives. We have an impact on each other’s ideas; we help each other grow. All of us come together to create a diverse learning environment that makes us more open up to the world.

Diversity is not just the color of our skin or the ethnic origins of our names, it’s who we are and who we become as our lives unfold. We are all part of this diversity in our school, our communities and our country. And while our box of flesh toned Crayolas may be limited, the experiences of our varied backgrounds allows us each to bring along our individual diversities onto campus. In the classrooms, dorms and lounges, these multi-cultural differences (no matter how subtle) will mix into the academic environment and will benefit us all.

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