Monday, October 8, 2012

Breathing Diversity

Just a week ago, Darden concluded its renowned International Food Festival. Only on this day can you get to try cuisines from over 30 countries and watch cultural performances all in the same day. It's legit: I started at the first booth and pick up only a bite from each type of food at each booth. I worked my way down, but boy, before I even get to the last 1/3 of tables...I was stuffed! It was like living out the movie Around the World in 80 Days, except that it was more like 80 minutes or so. The best part was that I got to see my fellow classmates dress up in their traditional costumes...and they suddenly don't look like the professional business people in nice black suits whom I have known before. After that day, I actually knew some of them even more...

When we think about diversity, culture is probably the first thing that comes to people's mind. I think it's fair to say that the way the business world frames "diversity" might have helped us develop the reflex to think straight about one's gender, ethnicity, nationality, skin color, religious beliefs, etc. Let's make no mistake: these are diversity attributes, and key ones. Here at Darden, just like at other business schools and companies, we can never stress enough about the value and breath of the perspectives from our international students. Benjamin, my section-mate from France, gave a "French Labor Regulations 101" some days ago in class. Yue, another of my fellow Chinese section-mate, wowed everyone with his in-depth knowledge about the effect of Netbook in China. The entire class was lifted immediately from all these storytelling.

Of course, diversity is also found in professional and personal experiences, academic backgrounds, family upbringing, hobbies, etc. Just as cultural insights make exceptional contributions to classroom learning, so are professional experiences. But I think a less emphasized lens to look at diversity is that you don't have to be/have anything to be diverse. Dictionary.com defines "diversity" as "unlikeness," "a point of difference"; Merriam-Webster listed "diversity" as "the condition of having or being composed of differing elements." Technically, just by being a different human being, diversity already applies to you. When I disagree with someone on the answer to a problem, that's diversity. When I write my finals paper in a different style than the person sitting next to me in class, that's also diversity. 

And to me, we need all these simple diversity to fully thrive and appreciate the life at Darden and beyond. It's not just about who we are and what we look like that translate into diversity. It is also all the little things we say or do in everyday life that add layers of color to the world of diversity. And this has enriched my appreciation of diversity enormously. At Darden and in life, no diversity is too little and every person is breathing and living it in his/her own way, every minute. 

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