Harris United is hosting a Lunch & Learn series this academic year focusing on what inclusive instructors do in Harris College. Jean Rivera Pérez, Ph.D., associate professor in the Davies School of Communication Sciences & Disorders was the first guest speaker to share his story.
“As a gay, Christian, Puerto Rican cisgender male, I have to navigate various social aspects of that intersectionality of identities; some are marginalized identities, and some are privileged,” explains Rivera Pérez.
“When I was in Puerto Rico, I was the ‘white, privileged male,’” explains Rivera Pérez. “When I moved to the continental United States, it changed; I became one of those with a marginalized identity, and I started feeling it.”
In his first year as a Ph.D. student in Cincinnati, he remembers speaking with his mom on the phone when someone started screaming at him to “go home.”
He explained that, despite his father being a U.S. veteran and citizen, those distinctions did not shield him from the aggression he faced.
Rivera Pérez noticed his culture being challenged in academia, as well. Feeling a strong pressure to assimilate, he began thinking about how he could create more inclusive space in higher education.
“I think if our university is not looking like our community, we are doing something wrong in recruitment.”
He encourages all educators to think about what people will think about their legacy as an instructor in 100 years.
“You can choose to be a white academic gatekeeper, or a facilitator of knowledge and help students to actually learn in the classroom.”
Watch the full video to learn more about what shapes his drive and what he does in the classroom to value diverse perspectives.
MY Harris is a resource for students in Harris College who identify as members of underrepresented groups. This monthly dinner gathering occurs on the first Wednesday of the month in the Intercultural Center’s conference room at the BLUU. Upcoming meeting dates for the 2023-24 academic year include Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Feb. 7, Mar. 6, Apr. 4 and May 1.