The Dilemmas of Diversity and Identity in Student Exchange Program with Trinidad and Tobago: The Underbelly of Promoting Diversity
In their efforts to promote diversity as a desirable global good, partners Pacific Lutheran University and the Trinidad and Tobago government and its University of the West Indies campus pursue a semester abroad program in Trinidad and Tobago with an exchange component that brings Trinidadian students to the United States for a four year degree. The exchange program was instituted in an effort to create greater equity of opportunity for Trinidadian students. Yet various issues of concern about the program arise that should be examined and weighed against the greater good. Among such concerns are: US study can be perceived by Trinidadian students as more desirable and a greater privilege than studying at their home institution of UWI; potential seduction of a materially rich future can lure some students to remain in US instead of returning home; struggles for equitable ethnic representation of Trinidadian diversity in exchange program can be complicated by Trinidad's own ethnic tensions; curricular topics critical of US/Trinidad and Tobago government alignments (Eg. drug policies, oil industry, environmental degradation) while partnered with the TT government are sensitive; undoing stereotypes of Caribbean "carnival" culture among some in the university community who pay lip service to, but are ultimately indifferent to, the aims of diversity on US college campuses can be challenging. This presentation will explain efforts to overcome concerns by implementing certain strategies, some successful and others still unresolved.
Keywords: Study Abroad, Diversity, Trinidad and Tobago, Student Exchange Program, Equity of Opportunity, Concerns
Prof. Barbara Temple-Thurston
Professor, English Department