Statement on Diversity in a Liberal Arts Setting
I am interested in teaching in a liberal arts college for a variety of reasons. First, as mentioned in my cover letter, my own experiences with liberal arts education as an exchange student at Maryville College had a substantial impact on my life. They opened me to the possibility of getting involved with it as well. Second, the generalist approach to education and knowledge speaks to my understanding of learning. While there might be benefits to just pursuing one subject or career, a more generalist approach that exposes students to various other perspectives, disciplines, and skills is more suited to create tomorrow’s decision-makers and problem solvers. It also fits well with my understanding of civic life in a democracy requiring an informed, educated, and self-reflecting citizenry. Third, I believe that education is most effective when it happens in a welcoming and personal atmosphere that motivates students and teachers to engage with each other. Liberal arts colleges are perfect for this because of their small class sizes, low student-faculty ratio, and tight-knit communities. One of the main reasons my time at Maryville College had such an impact on my personal life and re-ignited my passion for learning was the fact that I was treated as an actual person by the professors and staff, and not just as another anonymous face. Finally, it is my firm belief that higher education should be accessible to everyone despite socioeconomic, cultural, or geographical background. For me, liberal arts colleges are a vital part of this idea because even though they tend to charge more tuition, they are more generous with providing financial aid to students.
My appreciation for liberal arts colleges is not based on a ‘blue sky’ utopian fantasy but rooted in what I regularly saw in action at Maryville College. My time there, albeit limited, motivated me to incorporate a liberal arts approach into my teaching, scholarship, and service. If given a chance, I would like to use these skills and experiences to promote community and commitment to diversity and inclusion in the following way:
At the core of my teaching lies the desire to enable students to become critical reflectors. This requires an approach that presents knowledge from different perspectives, e.g., political or cultural. Part of these will be provided through me as the instructor by relying on texts, articles, examples, or news from outside of the United States and authors from a variety of backgrounds and experiences (e.g., by using WomenAlsoKnowStuff.com as a source for class material). The other part will be provided by the students themselves through a high degree of involvement and feedback. To enable and allow all students in my classes to voice their opinions without repercussions, hindrances based on writing or speaking ability, perceived power dynamics, or time constraints, I provide different ways to participate. These include traditional in-class discussions, group projects, written work (e.g., memos or essays, on paper and in digital form), and short feedback rounds. Additionally, as mentioned above, a quality learning experience requires an open and inclusive atmosphere. That is why I aim to reduce the barriers that might keep students from reaching out for help to me or each other. As an instructor, I try to get to know the individual members of my class and provide them with multiple ways to contact me (in person or virtual). To help students get to know their classmates, I rely on introduction rounds and group work (with changing compositions). I recognize that Political Science classes can be a place for heated discussions, especially on sensitive topics. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to maintain civility and create a respectful learning environment which I achieve through humor (which helped me de-escalate many heated debates), personal examples that make me relatable, or by the simple fact of being a foreigner who is often perceived as more neutral in the classroom. In the past, students have reacted well to this approach to teaching, as illustrated in consistently good evaluations, especially in creating a respectful and positive learning environment.
My research is focused on Civil-Military Relations. I want to understand how the government, the public, and the military talk to and about each other and what consequences these conversations have for society, the state, and international security. My work surrounding conscription addresses issues of diversity and equity. Mainly, service in the military, be it voluntarily or forced, has mostly been a masculine domain with little room for anything different. Furthermore, conscription, especially in modern times, is suffering from equity issues with its focus on men and not drafting every eligible candidate. Additionally, it exacerbates existing societal inequalities because it puts a particular burden on marginalized groups that do not have the resources (power or financial) to escape forced service in the military. By analyzing conscription, its impact on society, and remediating policies, such as Conscientious Objection and Alternative Civilian Service, I want to inspire debates on how policy could be reformed in a way that the military can still perform its tasks while simultaneously making it equitable and beneficial for society. I hope that raising these questions in my research and teaching will not only further motivate inquiry within my field or others, e.g., Economy, History, Sociology, etc., but also encourage students and our community to recognize and reflect on their relationship with their government, state, and the military.
In the past, I had the chance to serve in several organizations that were focused on issues of diversity and inclusion. First, as a member of the Graduate Student Senate I worked closely with the Graduate School to improve the situation of graduate and professional students on campus. It gave me distinctive insights into the unique role of this student population as both university employees and students and the problems that come with it. In my two years as an officer, the Senate managed to successfully lobby for the first increase of minimum graduate stipends in several years. Second, I volunteered to become a member of the University of Tennessee’s Technology Fee Advisory Board. Working alongside others, I quickly realized how much I took technology and its availability for granted. I was surprised to learn that many students and their families were struggling to access even the most essential technological equipment or even broadband internet, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit our campus. Third, outside of my service for my discipline and the Graduate Student Senate, I was the leader and instructor of the International House’s German Language table for four years. As a weekly scheduled event that was open to the university and the broader public, it allowed me to become friends and a mentor to people that I would not have met if I had stayed in Germany or within my bubble.
In sum, the impact that liberal arts education had on me, their importance for civic life, their tight-knit communities, and their commitment to the intellectual inquiry are the reasons I want to provide an education that is not only successful, but also a positive force in the region, across the state, and throughout the nation.