Dedicated to Diversity
Education student examines relationships with peers
As a middle-class white woman from Boise, Emily Gehlken has never really faced discrimination. And if she hadn’t changed her major to education, she may have never thought about how others see the world.
Gehlken, 20, is a senior elementary education major in the University of Idaho College of Education. She is part of a group of UI education students who meet outside of class to discuss their observations and experiences of diversity and the way people from different backgrounds interact. Their aim is to discover how to improve relationships among all the people on campus.
“The research isn’t typical,” Gehlken says. “We aren’t testing people or gathering data. We write up our experiences and then explore them.”
Instead of creating graphs and collecting data, Gehlken says the research the students conduct is based on observations of what they felt or saw happen.
For example, Gehlken describes a hypothetical scenario where a student goes into her education class. The teacher brings up a difficult topic of conversation, but because it is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable subject, the student decides to not partake in the discussion. What Gehlken and the group are hoping to learn is why situations like this happen and how they can be changed.Gehlken previously majored in biology. When she switched to education she encountered some negativity.
“People think education is an easy major,” she says, “but getting into the research discourse of it has been exciting.”
Gehlken’s research strongly ties into her major. It has made it immensely clear to her how important it is to help children develop an appreciation for diversity.
The biggest issue Gehlken says her group members encounter is the “common lack of engagement in diversity.” Because they have seen this time and time again, their goal is to encourage an openness to the different backgrounds people have at UI.
Diversity can be a controversial topic. Gehlken explained it is completely normal and OK to not understand where someone is coming from, but it’s important to remember that person’s feelings are still valid.
The group hopes to publish the research they have done in hopes of informing people about what they have noticed and learned throughout their daily experiences.
“I wish there was one end-all-be-all answer, but there isn’t,” Gehlken says.
She believes the first step to fixing the problem of discrimination is to educate and make people aware of the common misconceptions there are for the many diverse students and faculty on campus.
“It goes all the way back to kindergarten. We know when things are right and wrong. We just can’t be bystanders to it,” Gehlken says. “We just need to figure out how to love people better as humans.”
Writer: Emily Lowe, from Kuna, is a sophomore majoring in journalism. She hopes to write for a travel or outdoor magazine in the future.
Photographer: Madelen Johansson is an international student from Tibro, Sweden, and is majoring in interior design. In the future, she hopes to be able to settle down in the United States and design residences.