The Role of Cultural Introspection in College Teaching
Edited By Susan Diana Longerbeam and Alicia Fedelina Chávez
Chapter Twelve: Finding Community Within White Distance
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Finding Community Within White Distance
SUSAN DIANA LONGERBEAM
Student Affairs & Higher Education Northern Arizona University
I reach back into the cultural influences on me to understand my influence on students. What continues to drive me on the journey to better teaching is a search for the connection between who I am and how I educate. I want to understand not only my impact on students, but how I can expand my ability to reach students, many of whom experienced distinct cultural influences than did I.
My early cultural influences communicated a strong value of individualism. By individualism I mean a focus on independence and self-reliance. These cultural influences gave me strengths. They also led toward a feeling of separation from others.
I identify as a White Northern European American woman, and central to my ethnic identity is an internal experience of separation, what I call the vast White distance. I yearn for connection. Out of this yearning to create greater connection within myself and with others, I try not to retreat into the vast White distance but instead overcome my early cultural influences and maintain deeper connections with students through drawing on a later cultural influence—that of community. The vast White distance exists in a sense of hanging back; when I want to respond, sometimes I do not. I know a moment is powerful but experience a loss for...
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