"Describe your experiences with diversity in and/or outside of the classroom."
With the shifting demographics of college campuses, it is likely that most job candidates will be asked some form of this question while interviewing for jobs in academia. And, as Nicole Matos writes in an article on Vitae, it is important for applicants not to dodge this question or give an equivocating answer.
Matos gives several pieces of advice on how to face the diversity question head-on in an appropriate and proactive way.
- Explicitly discuss race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, and/or disability as aspects of diversity. Address culturally potent forms of difference (and do your research beforehand about appropriate terminology for each of these diversity categories).
- Demonstrate an awareness of difference within commonly-accepted categories of diversity. Demonstrate that you know that cultural groups such as African Americans and persons with disabilities are not homogenous entities.
- Go easy on the “stranger in a strange land” equivalencies. Be mindful of how your own experiences of being a minority do and do not compare to others'.
- Never assume your expertise with diversity issues should go without saying. On the flip side, don't assume that a rich personal background equals adequate reflection about issues of diversity.
- Discuss privilege. Acknowledge the ways in which privilege has allowed you to become the qualified candidate that you are while also discussing how you would seek to level the playing field for those less privileged.
- Admit to uncertainty and ambiguity. It's okay to be honest about instances where you struggled to appropriately deal with diversity. Again, this admission demonstrates self-awareness and reflection.
- Discuss the very real, positive side of classroom diversity—don’t only treat it as a “problem” to be “solved.” How have you helped students take pride in their backgrounds while also pushing them beyond their comfort zones?
- Offer specifics and stakes. Offer up an example - whether real or hypothetical - of how you would handle a difficult diversity situation in the classroom.
For more in-depth advice, access the full article here.
For more GradPost articles on diversity, click here.