In a time when racial, political, economic and religious divisions in the United States are increasingly obvious, the people of one southern city, Chattanooga, Tennessee, are attempting, through dialogue, to understand the religious beliefs of one another. On a chilly November Monday evening a group of over fifty people gathered at a Hindu temple for the Sixth Interfaith Panel Discussion. The attendees and panelists were ordinary people, with extra-ordinary beliefs concerning the value of gaining knowledge and understanding of the faith traditions of one another.
A Technical Development Senior Specialist for a major chemical manufacturer, Jennifer Henry knew from an early age she wanted to have a scientific career. Initially aspiring to be a veterinarian, her interests changed by the time she entered college. Electing to attend community college for her first two years, she felt supported and encouraged, even though most of her professors in her science and math courses were men. Employed at an analytical chemistry laboratory throughout college, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology from UTC (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga).
Recently, I received a copy of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville CBE UPDATE, a publication of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Featuring an article concerning the department’s 2014 faculty and student awards, I was amazed to find almost all of the undergraduate recipients were women, including the university-wide Chancellor’s Honors Award. Things have certainly changed from when I attended UT many years ago when women were actively discouraged from entering the College of Engineering. I contacted CBE Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award winner, Dr. Paul Frymier, who was happy to talk about a subject “near and dear” to his heart: recruiting and retaining students, especially women, in chemical and bio-molecular engineering.
I am a fan of the CBS television show, The Big Bang Theory. Though frequently exaggerating the personality traits of scientists and engineers, it hits the mark often enough to make it genuinely funny to those of us who love and live with those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Featuring three physicists and one engineer who often experience difficulty adjusting to the non-STEM world, The Big Bang Theory cast includes two successful women scientists. These women are equally as dedicated to their fields as the men, but they do not get to do the cool stuff like travel into outer space or send a signal around the world that comes back and turns on their apartment lamp, or even, to my knowledge, and I have seen a lot of episodes, present a paper at a conference. They are, however, depicted as smart, serious scientists and, more importantly, beauty and sexual attraction are a minor part of their characters.
Providing patient care without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, or religion is a core value of all medical professionals. However, do they extend the same level of tolerance, stand against prejudice, with other members of their profession?
Beginning in colonial America, the myth of the drunken Indian persisted throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The current, more “enlightened,” explanation for the high incidence of alcoholism among Native Americans, concludes that since they were exposed to alcohol for only the past few hundred years, they were genetically unprepared and, therefore, have little genetic “immunity.” American Native people, therefore, have little tolerance for alcohol, become intoxicated on small amounts, and, consequently, experience high rates of alcoholism. This belief, like many others concerning Native American culture, adds to the stereotype of genetic inferiority that continues to influence white American thinking.
Riding happily on the London Underground’s crowded Piccadilly Line, I was headed for the famous Harrods’s Department Store. My fellow passengers were a diverse group. They included two young Asian women, several people from India or Pakistan, a Sikh man with the signature maroon turban, several black people whose accents indicated Caribbean or African origins, several white Brits with various British accents, a few white American tourists, and next to me were two young men, one black, one white talking about their families in South Africa. I sat, taking it all in, and thinking “This is what I love about London. Such diversity and all living together, mostly peacefully, going about their lives. What an interesting and exciting place! So unlike east Tennessee!”