KENT HUBBELL: There's nothing more important to me than what international students and other international members of our community bring to the community, and the idea of talking about internationalism at home really strikes a chord with me for a variety of reasons. And if you would indulge me, I'm going to share a few things with you that are relatively personal reflections about my experience here at Cornell.
I was an undergraduate in the '60s. I was a young faculty member in the 70s I went away for 18 years to the University of Michigan, where I chaired the department, came back and chaired the department here until the 2000s when I became the dean of students for Cornell.
So I have known Cornell all those years off and on, either on campus or at a distance. And this little knot of space and time we call Cornell is really an incredible space, not least of which is the result of our international student community. So as was said earlier by Laura, Cornell has always been an international place. And in the '60s, I guess it's fair to say that it was a much whiter, much more middle and upper middle class community. There were fewer international students, but still international students.
And they were distributed, I think, probably unevenly across the campus. And so architecture was by virtue as being a very international profession, has always had large numbers of international students. And so this kid, Kent Hubbell, who came to campus from San Antonio, Texas, having traveled around the country with his dad, who had a number of different positions in the Federal Aviation Agency, had gone to five different high schools.
But I was just the All-American boy, and really had not traveled abroad at all. So here I come to architecture in the studio, and it's populated by kids from all over the world, from all walks of life. So we had someone like Fred Mangones, whose dad was an architect in Port Au Prince, Haiti, who'd been to school at Cornell when he was younger. Fred came to Cornell by way of New York City. He didn't speak English as he left Port Au Prince, so he went to New York, visited with relatives for the summer and learned English by watching television.
Henry Richardson came to us from Ghana, where he was part of a royal family. He came in between or following a year at Phillips Exeter as sort of a year to become acquainted with American education systems. Celine Fung came to us from Macau and was a very interesting young woman who went on to do portraiture for the better part of her career. Jerry Rivasa came to us from Colombia, and came to us belatedly, and wound up being a painter. And now he's an entomological Illustrator back in his home country.
Jaime Cobas was a classmate. He was the first openly gay person I'd ever met. He was a few years younger than I was, a few years older, I should say. He was a fifth year student, while we were freshmen. In architecture, you're essentially in the studio for five years, 10 terms, in groups of 14. You get to know your classmates very, very, very well, and not only that, you get to know upper classmen as well as students younger than you are.
So in a five-year degree, you get to know 10 years worth of people. And so there's this intensity that's brought to these relationships that is, I think, distinctive, and is particularly useful when it comes to understanding people who come from other backgrounds than your own.
So down through the years, I have really valued, and I'm only speaking of just a handful of a large number of examples of such cases, valued the kinds of things that Cornell can do when it's organized well to bring students together across these differences. And now of course, it's much more than cultural or national or ethnic. It's about religion, economic status, you name it. The list is long when it comes to the differences we're trying to bring students to understand and reach out across from.
So in my time as the chair of the departments of architecture here and at Michigan, we spend a lot of time with travel programs abroad. In fact, [INAUDIBLE] is in our audience here. He's done-- one of the architecture faculty who's traveled abroad with students more often than most other of our faculty and has just finished a book summarizing all the summer experiences that he has had with his students.
So subsequent to my encounters with my classmates, I went on to support both at Michigan and here, study programs for our architecture students that took them abroad. They were quite different than their nature, but nevertheless, it was an opportunity for them to get out and see the world, not least their professional world that is authentically international.
As a dean of students, we have, over the last 15 years, set up a series of advocacy centers that are providing a space for students who share a lot to come together. The Asian American Student Center is an example, where they're not really meant to isolate communities, but rather they're intended to create community of people who share a lot, and at the same time, have staff there who can support that are reaching out beyond their own cultural identity to connect with students across the campus.
And so from my point of view, we still have a lot of work to do, but we still have a lot to be very pleased with. It's gone on now for generations. So with that, I would like to go forward to-- I guess it would be Katy first. And our first question is to tell us a little bit about yourself, Katy, about your upbringing, your family background, and how you perceive your international identity or identities. And then if you have time for it, how does it shape your view of the world?
KATY HABR: OK. Well, my name is Katy. Well, I lived in a lot of different countries. So I was born in the UAE, and I lived there for four years. And then we moved to Lebanon, and I lived there for two years, and then we moved to New Zealand, and I lived there for seven years. And then I moved to Kuwait, and I lived there for seven years. And now I'm here.
So I've kind of been all around. So I think growing up internationally has been a big part of my life. And not only that, but within my family, everyone in my family was born in a different country, which is funny to me. But I think that's just really changed the way that I see myself, and I see the world.
And I think having my identity is kind of mediating tensions, especially between like identifying very strongly with my Arab heritage, and my culture, but also with my largely Western upbringing. So that's been something that I've had to mediate between and find like an in between.
I also think another part of it is having lived in so many places, I feel kind of disconnected from a lot of different cultures, so while I do recognize each of those countries as having a place in my heart, I don't really feel that I really belong anywhere, or that I can say anywhere is my home. So in that sense, it can be somewhat alienating sometimes. I feel a bit lonely, and that's why I think it's important to have a strong support group of similar friends, who have been through the same things, have a similar upbringing and life experiences and create our own community that doesn't necessarily have to be tied to a country.
KENT HUBBELL: Thanks. Aditi.
ADITI: Sure. Good morning, everyone. I'm. Aditi I'm a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. I'm an economics and government major at Cornell. So I grew up in India 10 years back, if you had told my dad or me that I would be going to university in America, let alone an Ivy League institution, we would have laughed at you. Like it was nowhere in the plans. It was unaffordable. But here I am. And that's just how life works.
And I guess my international identity has really, really enriched how I navigate this world. But that being said, there have also been obstacles, and there have also been a lot of loopholes that I've had to get through already. So I grew up in India. My parents currently live in Calcutta, which is a port on the East Coast of India. I went to boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas, which is pretty neat. Kind of look as scenic as Ithaca, but not half as cool.
And my first experience with culture shock was in 11th grade when I had an exchange with a boarding school in England, and it was nothing like I had ever experienced before, people not being able to understand what I say, so like having to repeat yourself and being OK with it, not taking it personally, or like going to a coffee store and just freezing. That happens at Starbucks to me still or like College Town Bagels. Like, why do they have so many different types of coffee? I just want coffee.
So I kind of knew what was coming for me when I came to America for the first time on the day of my orientation, because of my boarding school experience, because of exchange and so on. And with that being said, I had never thought about what it means to be Indian til I started my experience here.
And I think that's like a very common theme. You never think of what it means to be African til you get to America and things like that, because you grew up in a very homogeneous society at times, so you don't pay attention to these social identities. But I've been fortunate at Cornell with opportunities like intergroup dialogue project and my government classes, my development economic classes. I've been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to me, and I'm happy to share my experiences here.
KENT HUBBELL: Kevin.
KEVIN: Yeah. So I'm Kevin. I'm a senior undergraduate here studying international development and environmental science. I guess a little bit about my family background, I was the youngest of two brothers. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. I moved to New York City when I was about six years old.
My upbringing was very different when I was in Indonesia compared to when I was in New York City. In Indonesia, my family was relatively stable, very well off, but we were forced to move because of ethnic conflicts that resulted in Chinese Indonesians being targeted. And so when we moved to New York City, my socioeconomic background changed drastically.
We were relatively not so well off. My mother became widowed, and she had to work multiple jobs. And so she wasn't present for most of my life growing up in the States. So I struggled to kind of identify between these two identities from having different socioeconomic backgrounds, from different family experiences.
And while being here, I get subsumed to the identity of just being Asian, or sometimes just being identified as the more majority East Asian countries like Japan, China, or Korea, and even identifying as Indonesian is sometimes quite difficult because of the discrimination that I faced in the past in Indonesia itself.
So oftentimes, I feel like I'm in the space of where I can't necessarily identify with any specific cultural ground and, like Katy was seeing, a feeling of not being able to belong anywhere.
KENT HUBBELL: So we have a second question here. How does your identity inform your studies and career goals? Katy.
KATY HABR: OK, well I'm in ILAR. So I think my upbringing has really influenced the path that I'm choosing to take. So I definitely know that I want to have a career that's international. So I'm planning on doing something that involves living in more than one place. I know that I can't spend the rest of my life just in one country or one place.
I think my experiences abroad have influenced my decisions a lot in my education, so for example, seeing some labor abuse and mistreatment in the Gulf has really encouraged me to attend ILAR and to devote my life to remedying those wrongs. So I think having an international experience really helped me to kind of have a firsthand impression of problems that are happening and not really see them in a reductive way from an outsider perspective, but to kind of have firsthand experience of the nuances of the problems that are happening and the difficulties of trying to address those problems and the steps that can be taken to fix them.
Also, I think affects me in my classes. I think that a lot of the classes, especially I have to say in ILAR are very US based. So I always have to stop and think about how does what we're learning affect other countries, how does this affect the people that we might not be discussing, and how does this apply differently in other places, which I think is something important to think about.
But I would say, yeah, mostly, living abroad all my life has just made me really passionate about I don't want to stay in one place for the rest of my life, and I do want to do work abroad in a lot of different countries.
KENT HUBBELL: Thanks, Katy. Aditi.
ADITI: So I guess I'll talk about my academic experience at Cornell, and then I'll tell you about what I'm doing next. So I'm an economics and government major. Unlike the classes in ILAR, a number of government courses and development economics courses deal with a lot of papers and topics which are actually happening someplace else, but given the campus climate right now, when we talk about these issues as if they're happening someplace else, we're overlooking the fact that there are students in the class who are actually from those places.
And that is something I've experienced time and again at Cornell. For instance-- so I'll share a positive and a negative anecdote with you. So I'm taking Southeast Asian Politics this semester in the Government department. Kevin is in it with me. And Professor Pipinski teaches it. And we talk about a number of different countries, and we cover very critical issues, like genocide, mass violence, and things which are very related and sensitive to people's personal lives, you know, if you're from those countries.
But like, the way our professor handles and like navigates that class is very aware of the elephant in the room and does not kind of gloss over it is very impressive for me, as someone who's constantly thinking about social identities. For instance, when we were covering Indonesia, and he has a wealth of knowledge and experience working in Indonesia and everything. He's like an Indonesia expert, but he's a quick to admit that, OK, by the end of the day, I'll never know what it is like to be an Indonesian, because I am not. And like, just saying that much means so much.
And that was like a great model for what an intercultural academic experience and setting should look like. On the other hand, I was taking a class in nutrition this semester, and we had a guest speaker. And the lecturer asked us to compare African and Western health systems. And we had a girl from Ghana, who spoke up, saying, what do you mean when you say African health systems? I'm from Ghana, but the situation is very different from Kenya, and there's also regional variation.
And it wasn't so much the words that were being exchanged that stuck with me, but there was a lot of emotion involved. Like clearly, this girl was hurt. And what do you do in that situation? Situations like this will come up in class given how diverse Cornell is today. And even in my Development Economics classes, if we studying poverty, India will come up, and my friend sitting next to me will turn around and ask me, is it actually like that? What am I supposed to say in that situation? Like yes, it is. But how do I navigate that conversation?
So yeah, that's a little bit about my academic experience. In terms of future work and career goals, I came to Cornell thinking I wanted to work for international relations with an international institution, but then Cornell happened to me, and I wanted to work on Wall Street. And so I went to that for two years, and then senior fall, this realization happens, and I want to do a public policy, international relations kind of stuff again. And next year, I'm actually working with the Poverty Action Lab on an education project in India, and I have my experience with some of my Cornell classes and my professors to thank for that as well.
KENT HUBBELL: Kevin.
KEVIN: I think my background and in Jakarta and New York City. And my personal experiences, being in this space of not belonging has made me a lot more sensitive to minority voices, and kind of being able to see the disparity of wealth in Jakarta and New York City has made me just more sensitive to that.
And so my academics, I first started out as an engineer but I ended up somehow in the hard sciences and social sciences. So there's really been this shift of interest, because Cornell has really provided a way to experience all of those global problems in a contextual way, and realizing that I could actually bring my international experiences into the classroom and have it help inform my academics, whereas I think, in high school, you never put your personal self into academics, and you never had a role of culture and identity to play in your academics, whereas I think in Cornell, that's not necessarily true.
So that has really influenced my career goals to work in an international organization, and being this-- sort of identifying as sort of this global nomad, where you don't feel a sense of belonging any place actually helps you be able to attach yourself to multiple cultures and multiple countries, wherever I go in my international travels, I'm able to kind of adapt very easily because I guess my identity is more amorphous in that sense.
KENT HUBBELL: Thanks, Kevin. So our third question is given what you say, what has your experience been like on the Cornell campus? You might tell us a story about a particular event or a moment here on campus that challenged your perception of yourself, of others, or of your environment.
KATY HABR: So first of all, I have to preface this by saying my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. So I've really enjoyed Cornell so far. So I came to Cornell from also an international school in Kuwait. So being around a very diverse environment was nothing really new to me.
But I thought it was interesting. At Cornell, I talked about this in one of my columns, but the very first day of my freshman year of move-in, the move-in day, I met a girl from my hallway, and she asked me where I was from. And I told her I just moved here from Kuwait, and she said oh, I don't know what that is. So that was a really big shock to me, and I was very frightened for the rest of my Cornell, what I was getting myself into.
But thankfully, it hasn't been like that. I think that it's been a time of growth of both on how I see other people and how I see myself. I kind of, I think, expected more people to be more aware of international students and things happening in other countries, maybe just because of the high school I went to, which was an international school and was so diverse.
And I didn't realize a lot of people that I've met had told me, oh, I haven't really gone to school with people from other countries before, or I never really met people who were different than me before, which is very strange to me. And I also-- it's been a time of self discovery. So I've been thinking about my perceptions of different countries, and especially the states and how I view the states and the things I've gone wrong and the things I've got right.
I think that I've had some good examples of meeting friends who are really aware and interested in learning about my culture and teaching me about their culture. It's been really interesting. And I think I've grown a lot and learned a lot, but I have had some negative experiences.
I think one that stood out to me was I went to talk to a professor once, and he kept commenting about my English and how I spoke English well, sounding very surprised, and then he called his colleague again and said, come listen to her speak, and I felt really, I guess, tokenized, and that was just the strange experience to me because it was a professor of international development.
So that was a strange moment for me, but that was just one of the very few bad experiences. It's been overwhelmingly positive here, and a lot of people are really willing to learn about different cultures.
KENT HUBBELL: Aditi.
ADITI: So I think some of the anecdotes you shared and the issues you spoke about relate to intercultural maturity. I think that is a skill that we need to start focusing on much much more at Cornell in terms of that is a skill you pick up in college and like why not focus on that as part of the curriculum. In line with some of the anecdotes you shared, I had something similar.
Freshman year, spring semester. I decided to decode what Greek life at coin others and went to sorority recruitment. And you're supposed to have a name tag, and you write your name and your hometown, and I wrote Aditi, Calcutta. There was no space to write India. And so the first-- it's kind of like small talk, the first round of meeting people. You're like, oh, Aditi, you're from Westchester, and I'm from New Jersey, too, and like my friend, cousin, is-- and you find commonalities, and you start talking.
But that wasn't the same when it came to me, Aditi, Calcutta, and then the poor girl whose responsibility it was to talk to me, it was almost as if there's a bomb dropped right there, like oh my god, she's from Calcutta, like I don't know what this place is, I don't know if I'm saying it right. Now, what should I do with this information? And it was just so interesting. And it's not her fault.
These are skills that you develop over the years, and I think we should be doing a lot more in that area of Cornell, and the intergroup dialogue project was one opportunity I had as a student to kind of start working on those skills. For instance, when I took the course as a student, I was in the race dialogue. And at first, I didn't know if I was supposed to be there, because as an international student, I hardly thought about race before I came to America.
So that was a really, really eye opening process for me, and I learned how to have conversations which are normally very difficult to have. And now I can have those conversations with any given person at Cornell irrespective of what their race is and where they're from. So for instance, that was one experience, I guess.
And I've had positive experiences in terms of diversity at Cornell as well. Like two of my best friends, one is from Chicago, white male. The other's a white male from Long Island. None of them had stepped out of America before college, and they've visited me. They WhatsApp my parents more than I WhatsApp them. And like every winter break, summer break, I've taken people back home and kind of brought Cornell back home to my parents, but that's not the default setting here at all.
Like that has been a product of me being talkative, my boarding school experience, and like getting into Greek life, getting out of Greek life, and just kind of like a chance thing. But that's definitely the default setting. It's very possible to come here and spend four years, and it not being the American experience that you thought it would be.
KENT HUBBELL: Kevin.
KEVIN: I would sum up my Cornell experience as being very positive, especially as someone from a low socioeconomic background. The opportunities that are awarded to you at Cornell is immense. I think I've been awarded the opportunity to travel abroad so many times that I never thought I would be able to do that before.
So overall, it's been very positive. But I guess in terms of diversity, you do see a lot of visible events on campus that promote diversity, and just by default, that allows you to make yourself feel more at home in a sense that Cornell is a multicultural place. But for example, in my field, as I kind of transition from engineering slowly to the social sciences and to the environmental field, I saw less and less people who looked like me in my classes, and it came to a point where in every class, there would only be about one other Asian. And for some reason, I would just make it an effort to not sit next to that other Asian, just to differentiate myself.
And because that does sometimes become an issue when you hear this idea of even when people are joking around, oh all Asians look the same. And there was an experience I had when it was a class of 13 people, and at the end of the semester, my teacher had confused me with the only other Asian male in the class. And it was very strange, because I had spent two months with her, and I think at that point, it made me feel like my identity was not really important, or it was muted.
But aside from that, I think in general, my experience has been very positive. And diversity is not really necessarily something you can force within classes. If people are interested in the courses that they take, then that's how it just naturally happens. So that's not really a fault of anything.
KENT HUBBELL: So Katy, I'm going to skip a couple of these questions, because I think you've already answered them. What do you understand diversity to be? And what are the challenges to engaging diversity on the campus? So this is the big picture question.
KATY HABR: So to me, I think diversity is a lot of the times used as kind of a buzz word that makes people feel good without really thinking about it, and I think diversity is so much more than numbers and quotas. I think that the emphasis on diversity usually does center on numbers, and oh, we need this percentage of students from this background and this percentage of students from this background, which I think is definitely important.
But I think that doesn't mean anything unless these students are being properly engaged. So I think that a lot of times I do hear about this emphasis on diversity and having a lot of people from different backgrounds, but it still seems to me that a lot of the times, people only really spend time with people who are the same as them and have the same background as them.
So it seems more of an effort of engagement than just having the physical presence of those people there. So I think that's something that's really important and that needs to be addressed. I think some issues with diversity kind of what I was saying is that a lot of people do-- I think that even if there is a lot of people from different places around you, it's still easy to kind of self select out and just spend time with people who are the same as you, and I think a lot of the times, the international students, I think, we do that, too, because it can be emotional labor to kind of deal with some ignorant comments.
So we kind of self select out, too, and only spend time with people from our background or a similar background. And I think that is one challenge of diversity, where there is a lot of different people present, but they're not really engaging with each other. And I think that's where internationalizing the curriculum and cultural sensitivity, like you were saying comes in, and how can people learn to engage with each other, and really make meaningful connections, not just have a diverse group of people that don't really interact with each other, because that doesn't really mean anything.
KENT HUBBELL: Aditi.
ADITI: I think echoing that institutionally diversity is more than having different people with different social identities and from various parts of the world in a room. I think diversity is diversity of interactions, like what's the point of living with people who are very different from you for four years without actually interacting with them, and I'd point out like definitely we've come a long way. The campus landscape today looks so very different from even 10 years back, and you have all of these resource centers. You have so many multicultural and international student organizations and things like that.
And so you have these independent institutional resources, but how much trust, collaboration is actually going on? How often during your four years on campus do you have the chance to get to know someone meaningfully by working on something really cool?
And I think that is somewhere where the academic atmosphere can make some changes. For instance, in classrooms when professors are assigning group projects, like even manipulating the dynamic, like how you assign group projects and paying attention to the social identities in various group projects is useful. And you will be making strides of diversity.
Like to give a nuanced example, for instance, you have a finance class, and you have a social justice oriented class. It so happens that in group projects in finance classes, if there's one woman in the group, she might be saying the same thing as everyone else in the group, but it will require a male in the group to rephrase what she's saying for her to be heard. Reverse, like on the other in the social justice class group, the woman has to run with everything, like the plan, the proposal, delegate responsibility.
And these are things that can be changed in the classroom if we pay more attention to social identities and how they play out in how people learn and things like that. So I guess what I'm saying is we could pay more attention to process than we do to content in the classroom.
KENT HUBBELL: Kevin.
KEVIN: I think physical diversity has some merit in the sense that people who do look different generally have very different experiences. But by the same notion, people who look the same might have completely different experiences as well, and to not recognize that, I think, is a big fallacy. People who are Asian-American versus people who are international students from Asia are very different. People who are African-American or African are also very, very different.
And so lumping these together, I think, is not the way to go. And ultimately, I think diversity of thought is the most important way to have a diverse community. People who are in the same academic majors, despite the physical differences, despite where they come from, the way they think is molded by their academics. And so they end up essentially approaching life or problems in the same way.
So to me, diversity is ultimately different modes of thinking, and that doesn't have to necessarily do with how you look, but being able to engage with people who have opposing views from you rather than being in a classroom where everyone is just agreeing with everyone, and so results in nothing, especially in the environmental field. It's important to-- there's always this painting a picture narrative of economics as being the end all evil of ecology and the environment, but having those dialogues and conversations is the way to go for diversity.
KENT HUBBELL: Yeah, I think that's a point well taken. You know, Aditi, it seems that the academic community could put together coursework that would encourage the kind of authentic relationships by way of collaboration that brings students together in a very authentic way. I mean, that's what I was referring to with the studio environment. I mean, we work together in groups of 14 for 10 semesters over five years. We work all nighters.
And all the formalities fall away, and you get to know your classmates in a very personal and intimate way. You bump into your differences that are related to culture and ethnicity, sort of as they arise in the process of living, and without belaboring this, I mean, social media has brought us all back together again. So these people who have had their careers all over the world now, by way of social media, suddenly, we're on Facebook, or some other social media catching up what's happened in the last 40 years.
And it's quite interesting to reflect back on those friendships that were made so long ago are still alive and well. So the next question, and the last one-- I think we'd invite people to think about questions you'd like to have of these students. What have you done to raise awareness and create inclusive community at Cornell, and what role would you like to see faculty and staff playing? I think we've talked about that just a minute now? Go ahead, Katy.
KATY HABR: So I think the major thing that I have done would be probably my column in the Sun, where I do try to address issues that face international students who are bringing a different perspective. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how international students are often pressured into working in certain fields that they might not want to just because of visa restrictions and requirements.
So that's my big thing that I do. I also think it's important to engage with friends and people in social groups and clubs and kind of talk with them and interact with them, and if they have, I guess, questions, or if they have certain perceptions that I can help to teach them or remedy them, that's really important, especially younger friends, and I think that's something that everyone kind of can do.
As for faculty and staff, I think encouraging students within classes. So most of our classes in ILAR are pretty US based. There are some internationally focused ones. But they're mostly US based. So I think within those classes, encouraging students to reflect on how what we're learning here affects other people around the world and the impact of what we're doing, if they impact other people or how other people from different cultures or countries may be affected by this, I think that's important.
I also think it's important for faculty to kind of give resources to students and encourage them to reach out to more varying perspectives. For example, I know some professors who do projects, say I want you to interview someone from a different country other than the States. So here are some resources I can give you to help you find these people and make connections with those people.
So I think it's important for four professors to play a role in encouraging students and giving them resources to reach out and to broaden their perspectives and interact with different people and different cultures.
KENT HUBBELL: Katy, thanks for that column. I think it's great.
KATY HABR: Thank you.
KENT HUBBELL: Aditi.
ADITI: Firstly, thank you Katy for that last thing you said. I think everything she said is so important, because we all come here to Cornell to learn, and it's an excellent institution in terms of like intellectual stimulation and all that. But if like the process and the experience because of your social identities leaves you with a bitter taste, it's going to hamper your learning as a student. And we don't want anyone to leave with that kind of experience from Cornell.
In terms of what I've done on campus, to add to diversity or promote diversity, like Katy, I started with writing a column for the Cornell Daily Sun, and I wrote for the past four years. And it was just-- it was a great run. It was like my own personal journal, and I could write anything under the sun, and it was great.
And sophomore year, sophomore fall semester, I helped organize the orientation program for international students for the Cornell class of 2018, and that was an incredible experience. It's so rewarding for me even now to see all of these students on campus who were freshmen then, and they still remember me, and that's just incredible.
And so that was one thing that I really enjoyed doing. It's called Prepare. It's a great program. There can be improvements, but I have a soft spot for it. And I was involved with a number of like byline funding organizations and things like that on campus, but I found my final fit in my last semester, and that was the intergroup dialogue project, and I've referenced it like 10 times by now, and you'll hear more about it.
So I facilitate a dialogue on gender for the intergroup dialogue project. I facilitated a dialogue for gender this semester. And it was just great that was debunking of myths and assumptions on both sides. The intergroup dialogue project is kind of like The Breakfast Club happening at Cornell. You have a group of students, like say, 12 students from all different walks of life at Cornell, various social identities, meeting for three hours a week, you know, dialoguing about a particular topic. It could be race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability.
And it's just a really rewarding and meaningful experience. Like, you form connections in a fast paced world, like that is just something so unique and so rare, and the intergroup dialogue project, my experience through it has shaped how I interact in my other classes at Cornell and has shaped what I want to do in life, and it's kind of made me aware of who I am, how I interact with people, and all of those things. And it's been incredible.
KENT HUBBELL: Kevin.
KEVIN: My involvement in creating inclusive community Cornell hasn't been so broad. It's been more focused on the Cornell Indonesian association, where I became program director for a year. But because I noticed that the Southeast Asia Student Associations were very isolated from each other. And so I really tried to make an effort to make it more visible to attract more people, because at Cornell, we have a very strong Southeast Asia program, and a lot of academics were interested in Southeast Asia countries, but rarely do the Indonesians from Indonesia collaborate or interact with the faculty here at Cornell, who focused their research and studies in Indonesia.
So a lot of my efforts have been towards that. I helped host a Northeast Conference on Indonesia two years ago. But I guess what I would like to see faculty and staff playing in general, creating these cross collaborations between student organizations and the resources that they hold on campus to promote these activities within the classroom, also just not being afraid to getting to know your students, especially if it's a small class setting.
Just asking where they're from or just asking general questions about their cultural and social identities shouldn't be such a hard thing to do, because this will create better understanding between both sides and avoid traps like my advisor, who sometimes still thinks I'm from Singapore after a couple of years of knowing him. So yeah.
KENT HUBBELL: Thanks, Kevin. You know, one of my dreams would be to see the International Student Center come into a reality. We have space in Caldwell Hall, which has been designated as such. But I guess it remains to be seen what other resources will be made available, but Brendan and I have been working hard. Brendan O'Brien is the director of the [INAUDIBLE]. We've been working hard to try to make that happen.
There's a model at Stanford, which I think is sort of an exemplar, where they actually have their own building, and they not only are home to international students, but they're also a place for programming that brings in the larger student community. And so international students get to host the whole community by way of this facility.
So you know, one would hope that we could get there from here. So at this point, I would like to invite you to ask questions of our student panelists. Who'd like to begin? Yes.
AUDIENCE: Can you tell about and encounter with students with a not so international background, as yourselves, where you've learned something interesting?
ADITI: I could take a stab at that. So my best friend at Cornell, he is a white homosexual male. He used to be fiscally Republican before this election year and socially Democrat. And talking politics with him has helped me become very mature in terms of how I go about dialoguing about this presidential election, and just like politics in the US in general.
And the reason I bring him up is because his family is like Republican, and this was the-- he doesn't discuss politics with his family. And when I'm talking about Donald Trump, I make sure I tone down things when I talk to him, because at the end of the day, I respect his parents. I love his parents, too. And I don't want him to feel kind of morally torn between like having to choose between his parents and kind of like the liberal agenda, which is so prominent at Cornell.
It's just something that you have to deal with when you come to Cornell. I would say my experience is talking to American citizen students has made me very, very well informed beyond like statistics and information about politics in America.
KENT HUBBELL: Kat.
KATY HABR: So kind of on a similar note, my best friends at Cornell are mostly American. And I think I really learned a lot from them, kind of even though I've lived in all these different countries, I mean each country is different, and you think that just because you have an international perspective that you kind of know more about the way things are, and then I came here, and I had all these assumptions about the states and the people and the way of life and the way things are, and I realized that a lot of the things that I thought were wrong, and I think interacting and making friends with Americans, who don't have really any international experience, but they've taught me so much about different ways to look at issues that I've thought of before, like wealth and class that may manifest themselves in very different ways in different parts of the world.
So I think they've been really a valuable resource to think about things from just another perspective that I didn't have before.
KENT HUBBELL: Anything, Kevin?
KEVIN: Yeah, interacting with students without much international experience, I tend to see that they have a stronger sense of place, and they care a lot more about their hometown and the issues surrounding that, which is sometimes something that I don't necessarily feel so strongly for. And I think that is a strength in itself that they're able to advocate for and care passionately about their immediate surroundings and their environment, and in the environmental field, the sense of place is a strong concept that allows people to manage their resources sustainably, for example.
So just having an international experience or being of international background, it's still only one perspective, and every single perspective is valued for diversity.
KENT HUBBELL: Another question? Yes.
AUDIENCE: I'd like to play the devil's advocate and ask Aditi, do you really think coordinated is a liberal minded university?
AUDIENCE: Tell me what that means. I'm sorry, I think it is in [INAUDIBLE]. I've been at this campus for 45 years, and basically, every five years, I hear a new word for the same thing that's happening at Cornell, so that's where I come from.
KENT HUBBELL: Can you repeat that so we can hear it?
AUDIENCE: I've been at Cornell for 45 years as a staff, as a student, doctoral student, and then as a faculty, research faculty, and I'm not now a retiree, so still active. And I'm still hearing almost the same thing, different programs with different names, different jargons, but the same hierarchy is still there. That's one of the aspects why I'm asking this question. Thank you.
ADITI: Thank you for your question. I guess, when I say liberal, I was drawing from my experience in my government classes, and that could be like a misrepresentation, because like there's self-selection there about the kind of classes I took. So most of my professors happened to be politically liberal, as opposed to conservative. So I take that back. I would say that I'm speaking from my own experience.
But that being said, I've often wondered what it is like to be a student with a Republican affiliation at Cornell. I've often wondered whether, you know, there is a dialogue there or there's an opinion there which gets suppressed, because of the political affiliations. We might be-- like our faculty, or like our university might traditionally or might be overwhelmingly associated with.
That's just something I have been thinking about, but I have no answers. Thank you, though.
KENT HUBBELL: Another question? One more question? Well, thanks, and I thank you for all the important work that you all do. I think there's nothing more important. I've been gratified that the university has moved so proactively to move to the next level when it comes to the matter of engagement internationally.
My little despair is when I run into students who have managed to short circuit, the system. Some students will graduate from high school and get accepted to Cornell, they'll find that there's another student who's going to Cornell in their neighborhood or in their metropolitan area, who is from their same background. They'll come to Cornell. They'll room together as freshmen. And they'll find an upperclassman from their same neighborhood, who's in a fraternity or program, or some other facility that has students, and they'll go there.
And before you know it, they're seniors, and they've short circuited all the opportunities they have to meet students from all different walks of life, from all over the world, from all different backgrounds, which to me, is the best reason to be a Cornell student. So thanks for what you do, and we'll move on to the discussion. Is that right, Nelina?
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Katy Habr '18, Aditi Bhowmick '16 and Kevin Alyono '16 participated in a panel discussion with moderator Kent Hubbell at Cornell's third Internationalization Symposium, "The Globally Engaged Campus: Defining and Redefining Where We Are," May 18, 2016. The symposium explored Cornell’s opportunities for meaningful international experiences on the Ithaca campus.