Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Being aware of others

by Hyun Lee
The Phi Theta Kappa HIA Regional Conference in Rochester, NY was the second conference that I have attended. It was larger compared to the first conference that we had over the summer in Westchester. I found it to be more dynamic regarding the content because we had keynote speakers and many activities to do. Among all the programs from the conference, I found the seminar group activity to be the most valuable because we were able to share our thoughts with PTK members from around the New York region. These Seminar Groups were discussion sessions that took place after we listened to each keynote speaker at the conference. It was interesting to see how everyone differently interprets ideas and seeks solutions throughout my seminar group. Our seminar leader was one of our advisors from LaGuardia, Ann Matsuuchi. She was a great moderator because she made sure that everyone had a chance to speak up their opinions so no one would feel excluded in the group. During the seminar group session, we spoke about segregation and diversity which are two of the topics that our  keynote speakers spoke about.
When we talked about segregation, my seminar group shared their emotions and thoughts that came to mind during the talk. I am taking an urban sociology class this semester and I immediately made connections between what I have learned in the class and this topic. It seemed to me that segregation is influenced by different social institutions such as media and the education system. Others in my group shared their personal experiences of experiencing segregation in their countries. One of our Alpha Theta Phi officers, Soleil Griffin, pointed out that the segregation is not just in other countries, but here in New York, as well. She observed that people in our own group sat with their own college when we were told to separate into our seminar groups. Eventually, this conversation led to a discussion on inequality and poverty of the minorities who are experiencing segregation. Some mention that poverty comes from one’s mentality, while I noted that we have to look at other possible, such as social institutions. I did disagree with some of the perspectives presented in my group, but because of the exposure to different viewpoints, I was able to challenge my own assumptions.

In our seminar group, after the second keynote speaker’s topic, we talked about diversity. The United States, especially New York City, is known to be one of the most diverse cities in the world, but racism and segregation are still issues that don’t bring to mind ‘diversity.’ LaGuardia Community College also has one of the most ethnically diverse student populations among community colleges. Therefore, we as the leaders should be the exemplary models to recognize the social inequalities to respect the diverse ethnic groups of students.

The topics were sensitive and difficult to understand thoroughly in the time we had, but the seminar group experience taught me that questioning is the first step to understanding others’ ideas. Each us us was able  to refine our thoughts through our discussions. We realized that many of us at the conference were, either directly or indirectly, influenced by the social inequalities. Yet, at the same time, we all shared similar experiences. We bonded over the weekend in these groups. In my group, we promised to become brave leaders who can fight the social inequalities and guide the next generation to a better social environment. I hope that the Alpha Theta Phi members will also practice accepting and respecting others’ ideas and be open to new experiences in their surrounding communities and in the world. Understanding will allow each of us to grow as the global leaders.

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