Kia Marie Lor
Graduation Year: 2013
Current Position: Assistant Director of Language and Intercultural Communication for the Center for Global Studies at Wesleyan, University (Middletown, Connecticut) (Graduate School: University of Pennsylvania-Philadelphia, PA Area of Research: Intercultural Communication Graduated: 2016)
Please give a brief description of your new position:
I provide leadership to Wesleyan University's language program, within the framework of global studies, through assessment and programming efforts. In developing the tools to identify what growth our students make, in both second language acquisition and intercultural competency, I play a crucial role for Wesleyan's campaign to mainstream language learning within the liberal arts. This is a brand new position at Wesleyan University, if not unique, highly unusual. It represents a golden opportunity for someone like me to help define the Center for Global Studies and thereby make my mark in the field of global education.
What path did you follow to arrive as the Assistant Director of Language and Intercultural Communication?
As an interculturalist operating at my highest and best, I am passionate about bridging cultures and identities because I want to be a catalyst for social change.
Personally, I feel like my entire life has prepared me for this job. Growing up on government welfare, in a single-parent household, as a public school-educated Hmong girl, who is the first person in her family to attend college was hard - it was an uphill challenge. My path changed when I entered college at St. Ben's. It was at St. Ben's where I became cognitively aware of the social reproductive structures and activities that perpetuated social inequalities.
Professionally, I've worked in middle school and college institutions where I serve and support students in different capacities. Specifically, at the University of Penn Graduate School of Education, I worked as the Student Affairs Coordinator/International Student Specialist. I learned how higher education institutions work within departments and across departments. I've also worked and lived abroad, which gave me a global perspective on why intercultural communication work is so crucial.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
I believe education can shape societies in constructive or destructive ways. When used destructively, education marginalizes minorities and condemns people for their differences. The culture of low expectations forms, perpetuating a deficit view that punishes individuals' linguistic abilities and financial situations rather than recognizing their contributions. When used productively, education can lead to the prosperity of a society. It can be a tool that mediates mutual understanding between people of different race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, physical abilities, and socioeconomic status. It empowers the marginalized.
My advice for students who might be interested in this field is to find your own definition of what education means to you. To me, education has given me critical skills to differentiate what is truth and what is perspective. Education has acted as a microphone to amplify my voice. Education has transformed my understanding of social justice. I believe it has always been in me to contribute to the development of international, multicultural, and diversity in education.
What skills are important in your field?
Conflict management, analytical skills, positive attitude, curiosity, self-motivation, willingness to be patient in times of disagreement, cultural sensitivity, and open-mindedness.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
Coming to work everyday with a purpose and mission. From research, I know a diverse and inclusive campus culture can lead to the enhancement of innovation, collaboration, understanding; all of which are critical factors to an institution's adaptive behavior in facing change, competition, and the imperatives of ensuring long-term sustainability.
As a scholar in this field, I know that students who are exposed to differences with which they are unfamiliar emerge with a greater appreciation for open-mindedness, inclusion, and diverse perspectives. My mission is to help expose students to differences with which they're unfamiliar so they can emerge with a greater appreciation for the benefits of acceptance, inclusion, and diverse perspectives.
What is the most challenging part of my job?
I know many institutions within American higher education institutions are challenged with improving the diversity of their respective academic communities. I think the challenging part of this position for me will be to push our university, our students, and our faculty to have authentic dialogues about racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. The nature of diversity and inclusion work is that it is sometimes very lonely, even siloed. And when funds get cut, they always cut the diversity and multicultural offices first. But I believe if we, as a university, put diversity and inclusion as a priority and give it the attention, the funding, and the importance that it needs, we can overcome the diversity challenge.
To me diversity is not about passive accommodation, or compliance, or compromise. Diversity is more than the social justice imperative of ensuring equal opportunity. Diversity is more than numerically leveling the playing field. Diversity is about the relentless commitment to compassion. Diversity is embracing the richness and possibilities of diverse thought arising from difference of cultures and circumstances. Diversity is strength, a competitive advantage, and a moral imperative. Diversity is shaping the culture and the workforce of the University to be more reflective of the pluralistic world our students encounter. Diversity is encouraging all members of this community to take ownership for creating a welcoming, safe, inclusive, and supportive climate. In essence, DIVERSITY IS ABOUT EXCELLENCE.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Study abroad, Intercultural Communication classes, being friends with people who were different than me (economically, ethnically, racially, gender, etc.).