But you can call me Vicki.
My name is Vasiliki Gerentes. No middle name. Gerentes, which is pronounced more like ye-ren-dé. In fact, my last name is a Spanish word, meaning “manager” or “boss”. Vasiliki, on the other hand, is Greek for “royal”, as in kings and queens.
Ya’ll, my Greek parents basically named me Royal Boss. Great job, folks!
Not sure if I lived up to the name or if the name coincidently reflects who I am today, but I have always been a royal boss. I like to learn. More importantly, I like to used that learned knowledge to influence my next moves. I would like to think that I am a good leader, like how a king, queen, or CEO would be. No surprise that this quality has led me into the world of higher education. And I hope that as a leader that I am able to be vulnerable and challenged to the point where I can contribute to the greater conversation about social justice.
The goal of this emerging body of work is the production of citizens for a multicultural society that can result in leadership with greater social awareness and the complex thinking skills to alleviate social problems related to the complexities of inequality. The end goal is the improvement of education for students from different racial, economic, and religious communities who must work together to achieve a vision of the pluralistic democracy we aspire to become. (Hurtado 193)
I mentioned being Greek because I do not deny being Greek or Greek-American, but it is not the core of my being; however, I acknowledge Greekiness as a background that influences how I view the world today. After all, I did learn a lot of things in Greek before I learned them English. You would think that I would be able to share my views with other Greeks or Greek-Americans. Right?
I never befriended the children in Greek school. No one I consider a close friend is Greek. I have no idea where I would even go about meeting a nice, Greek boy to marry. I don’t even think I could confidently say that I want to date or marry a nice, Greek boy. Why do I struggle to share the Greek American identity?
I attended public school in Northbrook, IL, which has a predominantly Jewish demographic. Most people in Northbrook live quite comfortably and come from households with a solid income. I went to a competitive high school with intelligent students, whose parents valued education and cultural experiences. The overall political views were democratic and liberal. Other larger groups of individuals in Northbrook included Koreans, Russians, and Catholics. There were very few black or latino/a students in high school. When you think about it, I grew up in a bubble that did not represent the outside world in even the slightest way. Northbrook, especially during the years when I was in high school, could never serve as a fair model for society as a whole.
A huge part of my elementary and secondary education revolved around learning about Jewish history. And while we spent time learning about the Holocaust, we did not stop there. After we learned about the Nazis and concentrations campus, we took time learning about Rwandan (Hutu and Tutsi) and Bosnian genocides. The dialogue about social injustice and diversity began at a very early age for me. We reviewed the classic textbook history information, but we spent a lot of time discussing ways in which people treat people in the past, future, and present. I truly believe that this educational background is what led me to see the bigger picture, and, in combination with my undergraduate experience, ultimately brought me to higher education.
I lived in a Northbrook bubble, not a Greek bubble. Sure, the Northbrook bubble had its limitations, but it also introduced me to a realm where it is important to talk about multiculturalism and diversity. Northbrook taught me the importance of partake in philanthropic and community initiatives. Find what you care about and do something about it. I never really grasped the term “social justice” until I started looking at Loyola University Chicago for my graduate work. But I am glad I finally have a way to define what I have always been interested in.
Like many of my peers, I did not get to socialize with new/different groups of people until I went to college. For me, these groups included low income, republican, international, black, latino/a, and LGBTQ individuals.
As a royal boss, I know I have a lot to learn and discover about both myself and others. I know I am not able to articulate much about topics, like privilege and race. I know I that I have not faced major prejudice in my life. I know that I have stereotyped and held prejudices against others. I know a lot about how much I don’t know. And that’s a little scary. I hope that this course in particular will equip me with the necessary complex thinking skills to propel me into the student affairs professional path, as well as the opportunity to live up to my name as a leader and facilitator of what I am calling “higher” dialogue.
References & Readings
Campus Unrest Exposes the Folly of Higher Education’s Social Justice Offensive
Garces, L. M., & Jayakumar, U. M. (2014). Dynamic diversity toward a contextual understanding of critical mass. Educational Researcher, 43(3), 115-124.
Hurtado, S. (2007). Linking diversity with the educational and civic missions of higher education. The Review of Higher Education, 30(2), 185-196.
Milner, H. R. (2007). Race, culture, and researcher positionality: Working through dangers seen, unseen, and unforeseen. Educational researcher,36(7), 388-400.
Thompson, A. (2003). Tiffany, friend of people of color: White investments in antiracism. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(1), 7-29.
Watt, S. K. (2007). Difficult dialogues, privilege and social justice: Uses of the privileged identity exploration (PIE) model in student affairs practice. College student affairs journal, 26(2), 114-126.