Last year, I used my January term to travel to India on a 3-week field study trip with Dr. Richard Cash, world-renowned inventor of Oral Rehydration Therapy. (See blog entry #2 for more details).
This year, after considering traveling to Brazil, Cyprus, and New Orleans, I'm ending up in one of my favorite places: my home! I've decided to use the holiday to spend time with family (especially my younger siblings) and catch up with friends. I'll also be working on my thesis and doing work for the Office of Diversity.
I've made many references to the "OD," as we call it, so I'm sure you're wondering what it is. What is this thing called diversity? And what is this mysterious place that I manage to spend 10 hours of my week working for?
Well, the Office of Diversity is a special division within HSPH that is designed to "to initiate and support activities that increase diversity and promote cultural competency among members of the HSPH community." It has been well-documented that diversity, i.e., a blending of different racial/ethnic, religious, political, and cultural groups, is important in higher education. It's especially crucial in the fields of medicine and public health in order to more effectively assist minority populations, which are often overrepresented in poor health groups. Through mentoring, providing resources, bringing in speakers, and providing both support and study space, the OD is important in supporting underrepresented minority groups and in increasing the cultural education of all students, faculty, and staff.
While I know that some of you may not see the necessity of such an office, I would argue that it's offices like these that bring qualified, talented individuals that might not otherwise be at an institution like Harvard there. It's not about affirmative action or providing handouts to people who don't deserve it; it's about recognizing that people from different backgrounds have different needs, and ensuring that there is someone who understands. The OD is actually what encouraged me to come to Harvard, demonstrating to me that the institution where I would spend 2 years of my life actually cared about creating an environment composed of different types of people that can reach different audiences. It's a second home to me! When I hear stories like this one that talk about the "old white male" legacy of Harvard University, I'm reminded that while Harvard is trying to make strides, we still have a long way to go.
Mata ato de (trying a little Japanese now!)