July 23, 2008

Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?–Zoolander (Diversity and Importance in Life)

By Michelle Casper


Casper FamilyMichelle and her Fish
Casper Family and Michelle's Fish


      Since this is a diversity website and I have no clue what to say but I love Jessica and she asked me to write something…I will write about what I think diversity is and why I think it is important in life.               

       I guess growing up I never really felt like I was a diverse person. Sure I am half Puerto Rican but why does that give me the right to say I am diverse at all. I grew up in Minnesota—look around not exactly the model of a diverse society. I look “white”, reddish hair and freckles—I went to diversity camp (yes such a thing exists) and felt like a minority because I was the only “white” girl there and I didn’t know how to do the tootsie roll dance.  I went to a private preppy high school and an even more preppy college (Pepperdine)—where they actually put me in a dorm area with only people of culturally diverse backgrounds because I had placed on my application that I was Puerto Rican. I have never had to deal with the horrible discrimination that I know appearance and preconceptions bring. But when I look at what I think or understand diversity to mean, it is something way beyond appearance and discrimination. Sure those are very large parts of what we are trying to over come by creating a diverse culture but that is not what diversity is really for. It is not the heart of what it means to be diverse, why we want and need diversity, why I myself am a diverse person. At this point, I have refrained from looking up diversity on wikipedia or any other dictionary so these are all my thoughts in one night of reflection but feel free to look it up if you want a hardcore definition. Maybe the views I put up will be wrong but that only will bring on discussion. To me diversity is about looking at life from all different sorts of angles. Coming to an understanding of all of its aspects through different points of views. Each culture, each upbringing, each experience, I believe, has some truth to share in it. There is always something to take away. We are always a little bit changed by each experience. If we let it, it can be for the better. Why or how could a culture or religion convince someone that it was right otherwise? Nothing is ever going to be a hundred percent true even in science. Sorry if I have shattered some of your dreams. There always is an assumption. Just like Descartes said, all he needed was one fulcrum and he could prove existence but he still needed that fulcrum. He needed to know I think therefore I am.      

        Let me take a quick step back before I go all philosophical on you and give you a little insight into who I am and how I have come to be here at Mayo. After all this is supposed to be my introduction to the blog scene. I will start with the boring stuff you ask when first meeting someone. My name is Michelle Casper. I have been at Mayo now for just over two years as an IMSD postbaccaleureate research student. This means I am not quite a graduate student but do basically the same stuff day to day with more emphasis on research and getting into graduate school programs than classes and thesis work. (If you don’t know what IMSD is there is a link to the right side look it up—research is fun remember) I am in the process of applying for MD/PhD programs across the country. My overall goal is to solve different research problems in orthopedics. I am currently working in the Cartilage and Connective Tissue Lab which most people at Mayo do not seem to know about and I am loving it. (I could go into specifics about my research and future dreams here but really that would be way too boring for you although everyone who researches knows that finding someone to listen to you talk about your research is just awesome). My mom is from Puerto Rico and my dad is pretty much as Minnesota as they come. I grew up in St. Paul, MN and so sometimes I consider myself pretty dang Minnesotan. Just have me say boat or bag when I am not thinking about it or ask me what the Megamall is. My mom thought it was important for me to know Spanish so I went to a Spanish immersion grade school. I have the proficiency of a 1st or second grader. I went to a small private school for high school where I never had a class larger than 18 people. I think there might have been one “minority” family other than my family in that entire school.  I went to Pepperdine in California. I decided to major in math so I spent some time in Hungary studying math my junior year. Became a real college student and also decided I liked medical science way better than pure mathematics. Worked at my dad’s restaurants where I learned the valuable lessons that can only be taught by customer service jobs and realized that I would never be able to be a waitress for life. I respect waitresses so much for all the crap they have to deal with. I have been to Puerto Rio once every two years my entire life if not more often. I am not shy on the dance floor because of the great teachings of my cousins. I love to cook and am always looking for an excuse to make people food (come try my baking at the IMSD meetings sometime or you buy the food and I’ll do the cooking). But now I am boring even myself and beginning to sound like I am putting out a personal ad, so I will stop with the condensed life story.  There of course is tons more but that is for another time, I guess.   

       Jumping back to philosophy, I have been for the most part been called a realistic optimist for my thoughts. This is because it’s not that I don’t understand the reality of most situations in my optimism (although sometimes that is the case because let’s face it I am not God, I don’t know the absolute truth in the Platonic sense—sorry if this ruins your wonderful perception of me). I just chose to look at the reality and find the good in it. I guess my motto in life hinges around not wanting to waste my time thinking about or worrying about the bad there is in life. Life can be so much greater than this. I don’t discount reality or ignore it. I acknowledge the bad, deal with it and move on to what good there is even if there is only a spec. What does this have to do with diversity? I think it is this characteristic of mine that allows me to understand what diversity really is all about. I’m Platonic in thought and so I believe that there is an absolute truth out there. Maybe we will never find it. Diversity in my mind helps us to better see and understand this absolute truth. If you look at an object you have to turn it around and look at it from different angles to get a real sense of that object and that is just an object sitting right there in front of you, something you can see with your own eyes. How much more difficult is it to get a sense of something like human nature? You sure as heck need a lot more perspectives, a lot more angles. Diversity is what gives us these different angles/perspectives. Every culture, every background has something to add to the meaning. You can get to a much more clear and deeper understanding of humanity through looking, hearing and understanding people from every walk of life. It is important to understand humanity because really the way you understand it dictates how you live your life, how you make judgment calls/decisions, how you interact with people... This is why I see diversity as important and why I value it. I value everyone’s opinion or at least I try to and I think that this is something that everyone can do. This is long enough for now and I am tired.          

      If you disagree, great. Why? If you agree partially how do you think of it differently? If you agree what about you makes you agree with my thoughts? I’m not really asking you to answer these questions necessarily, they are rhetorical—to make you think. I usually play the devil’s advocate rather than throwing my own ideas out there. So, this is really a new thing for me. I think it is a hundred times easier to tear someone else’s thoughts apart than to concisely and accurately express your own. So, if you think you don’t understand something I have said, ask. I jump around a lot very quickly and don’t always give complete explanations. If you can’t tell I am a wanna be philosopher but there are reasons as to why it would just never work out…. (Maybe my writing style?)







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