My understanding of diversity goes beyond the surface qualities such as race or gender. Essentially, all qualities that uniquely define an individual or a group can be a diversity element. As today’s education continues to become global, diversity activities are taking its well-deserved position besides research and teaching activities for an academic.
I have long been committed to diversity and providing opportunities to minorities in education. This commitment has started undoubtedly because my family has ties to diverse cultures such as Turks, Greeks, and many others. Living in a cultural melting pot, Istanbul, reinforced my understanding of diversity, and sensitivity towards promoting an inclusionary environment for everyone. One of my fondest memories back in Istanbul was to visit a church, a mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years at Ortakoy, which is a monument to religious diversity.
Attending the most diverse university in Turkey (Bogazici University) helped me to assist incoming international students and I arranged study groups with them. In addition to studying together, I chose to be dormitory roommate with a diverse set of friends coming from Tanzania to Korea, and of course Turkish minorities. After graduation, I found the opportunity to work at three multinational firms (Procter & Gamble, Oracle, and Kraft Foods) where I, again, worked at highly diverse environments and observe how diverse qualities improved performance. Therefore, it is safe to say that I got considerable exposure to diversity, through working with minorities and multi ethnic groups, even before I moved to USA.
During the graduate school, I lived in Austin, Texas, which is another melting pot of diverse individuals and groups. There, I found out that the technology could play an inclusionary role by leveling the playing field for minority students. I also included specialization of diverse individuals in my dissertation research.
At my current university, I am playing an active role in serving students from underrepresented groups. As the petition committee chair, I have revised standard operating procedures to serve women, non-traditional students and underrepresented minorities better. As an eLearning committee member at the university level, we emphasize the importance of online and hybrid teaching to create an inclusive collaborative environment for people from diverse cultures, religions, races, and genders.
In the future, I would like to take an active role in furthering the diversity at academic institutions. I also intend to focus on research topics in diversity and equality.