Our statements on diversity and inclusion focus too intently on the past and the future while neglecting the present moment completely. What I really want to know is what an educator is doing here and now, day by day, minute to minute, and second to second; to question and improve his or her own attitude toward diversity. I want to see more awareness of and challenge to the innate biases, the hidden prejudices that plague us all blindly and chronically taint the lens through which we see the world. What I have written below is the present tense version of Berkeley’s “Guidelines for Applicants Writing Statements” .
I have nothing against UC Berkeley. I was actually at Berkeley this past weekend while out in the Bay area for a conference and I have to say it is one of the most forward thinking, progressive campuses I have ever visited. There is an overwhelming sense of pride in acceptance of diversity and you can outwardly sense it not just in the students and the faculty but also in the youth that grow up in the area. Diversity is boldly embraced and exalted all around. But the intro of the statement shared in the schedule for this week mentions the past and the future and planning five times without referring to the present moment even once. It is a reflection of how these types of statements are written and reviewed not just at Berkeley but at universities across the country and the world. They encourage the have done’s and will do’s much more than the grounded, active am doing’s of potential candidates.
“The Contributions to Diversity Statement should describe your past experience and activities, and future plans to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, in alignment with UC Berkeley’s mission to reflect the diversity of California and to meet the educational needs and interests of its diverse population. Some faculty candidates may not have substantial past activities. If that is the case, we recommend focusing on future plans in your statement. A more developed and substantial plan is expected for senior candidates.”
My statement would look more like this:
In each moment when teaching a class I remain as aware as possible of each individual student’s needs. This is why smaller class sizes are so crucial. The ability to dynamically cater to different learning styles and different backgrounds is what I find to be both the most difficult and the most rewarding element of teaching. I believe there is a certain improvisation required in good education. I know that classes rarely go according to the scheduled syllabus, and I pride myself on my ability to adapt in the moment. Though I recognize the potential distraction that computers constantly pose to students, I also believe that they can be used intentionally as powerful tools to assist human ingenuity. Much like chess masters consult computers and merge with them to become “centaurs”, or doctors use electronic medical records (EMRs) to distinguish each patient’s unique medical history, I believe electronic educational records (EERs) can give teachers a more constant awareness of student learning preference, educational history, and active, real-time, engagement in any given course material. Computers also connect us with people all over the world- making education accessible for billions of the world’s poor and breeding a new opportunity to empathize with different cultures and customs. The key is that students meditate on each task- serial mono-tasking rather than distractedly multitasking- and only engage with their screens when it is appropriate to do so.
- Research Activities: I research the meditative mind in an effort to better understand consciousness and the physiological processes of learning and emotion. A person sitting in meditation becomes the perfect research subject. Static and still, meditators can often use newer mobile sensing techniques without generating too much noise. Global Vitals, for example, offers a respiration rate tracker that works by using a smart phone’s accelerometer to track the rising and falling motion of the abdomen. It would be nearly impossible to capture this data cleanly on a moving subject, but the steadiness of the meditation allows for these less intrusive methods of data capture. Since Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is typically done in a lying down position, it can be recreated in a functional MRI scanner (fMRI) without fundamentally altering the experience for the participant. This allows me to capture detailed 3D images of the brain as a fly on the wall, without the documentation itself significantly altering the practice and therefore the physiological state of the subject. The main hypothesis of this research is to prove the possibility of learning and retaining information when in the deeply focused, subconscious state of yogic sleep.
- Other Activities: I am the active founder of an immersive mindfulness collective whose mission it is to make the benefits of meditation more accessible to those that need it most. Transp0.se works with inner city youth from Southeast Washington DC and other unprivileged areas to take real ambient sounds and turn them into soundtracks for guided meditations. We travel to different cities to exchange creative energy and experience, connecting people from different places together in the present moment. We use social media and technology as both an educational tool for STEM programming as well as for connective empathy generation. We are actually in the middle of an event as I speak on the National Mall- and we always stream our sessions live to increase immediate accessibility. See video from the experience below.