by Tingting (Rachel) Chung (she/her/hers)
Being a first-generation, Asian, female, and international graduate student in a Midwest town in the late 1990’s, I always felt like an outsider in graduate school. Although people in the department welcomed me warmly, and supported me in ways I never imagined, I was keenly aware of the cultural, language, and educational differences between me and my classmates. Fortunately, I did not experience many explicit forms of discrimination. However, I know first hand how hard it is to “make it” as a minority member and how hard it is to articulate the subtle challenges that are often invisible and unspoken.
As I feel incredibly fortunate to have come this far in my own career, I am firmly committed to helping other members of minority groups succeed. Over the last 20 years, I participated in many diversity-focused events to promote women, Asian Americans, and minorities in general. I also organized events to promote female leaders in business, and Asian American female entrepreneurs in the Pittsburgh region. At the Mason School of Business at William & Mary, I have always served on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
What really matters the most to me is how to support diversity in the classroom. Business analytics and business schools in general have been traditionally male-focused. Being one of the few female professors, I have always had mentored and encouraged female students formally and informally. Asian students, on the other hand, seem to enjoy having an Asian role model in the classroom.
I design my teaching materials to support diversity in several important ways. First, I try to use diverse names in examples and homework problems. Each semester, I would carefully update slides with diverse student names from the current semester, so everyone feels included and seen. I make specific attempts to incorporate diverse voices into the course materials. I particularly like to collect data from students as in-class exercises, and to illustrate diversity of the class by analyzing the class dataset, not only in terms of demographics, but also in terms of preferences, choices, and ideas.
Moreover, I design my teaching materials to support multiple learning styles. I use many visual illustrations to support those who struggle with learning from math equations alone. I use physical activities in class to engage student kinesthetically. I use music, videos, and podcasts to engage students who prefer auditory modes of learning. To support international students who are nonnative speakers, I record all my lectures with transcripts.
To support first-generation or low-income students, I do my best to assign low-to-no cost educational resources. I currently only teach with freely available textbooks. I also always make sure the library has both a hard copy, and a digital copy available on reserve. I also offer office hours to accommodate students who may need to work outside school.
Not only is it important to implement diversity and inclusion in the classroom, I also find creative ways to connect diversity to the academic topics of business analytics that I teach. For example, the notion of diversity is very much integrated into lectures on variance and model evaluation. On the other hand, the decision tree algorithms are very much anti-diversity. With these discussions, I engage students in exploring ideas of diversity from a mathematical and analytical perspective.
Having been in the academia for over twenty years, I find it incredibly exciting to be an Asian female scholar today. Not only has the academia become more diverse, there are also many more opportunities for me to support and mentor diverse minds who will lead us in the future.