International Writers Magazine:
Her quote comes in
a chapter contribution she makes in a timely book in the Faculty of
Color which explores the experiences faced by minorities teaching
in colleges and universities in the United States whose majority staff
tends to be white. The importance of the book lies in the narrative of
the individual experiences, the pressures, heartaches, obstacles and alienation
which black people, Mexicans, Latin Americans, Asians living in United
States and Arab-Muslims (as in the case of Reem) subjected to in their
academic and professional careers.
of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities,
Christine A. Stanley (Editor), Bolton, Massachusetts, Anker Publishing
Company, 2006, pp373.
Dr Mawan Asmar review
Reem Al Haj Ali
moved from being a dental student at the University of Jordan into
an award winning professor at the School of Dentistry at the University
of Missouri, Kansas in the United States.
"Since the time I was a dental student at the University of
Jordan, I have dreamt of teaching in a dental school. I never imagined
this dream would come true with a culture so contrary to mine,"
However Reem's experience is an extension faced by the other color faculty
staff as in problems of being stereotyped, stigmatization, and expected
representation of one's minority race.
Beyond that, however, Reem's experience is different still because of
the fact that as a Jordanian, Arab and a Muslim she wears a Hijab in her
teaching duties at university, a characteristic increasingly frowned upon
in post-9/11 America when there was increasing association between those
that of a different culturespecifically Middle Eastern and Muslimand
wore different mode of dress and an accent and those that committed the
abhorrent acts of 11 September.
Yet, Reem took to her occupation well. She became Assistant Professor
in the Department of Restorative Dentistry in the School of Dentistry
at the University of Missouri at Kansas in 2003 where she continued to
excel as a dental educator.
But she says the pursuit of her academic career was far free from pressures
she had to contend with on daily basis. The hijab, the scarf and the long
dress continued to shadow her during her lectures and seminars and in
the dental hospital, always feeling she is under the spotlight.
"Aren't you hot in that" or "you always wear that"
are constant and bland comments in her personal and professional life.
Reem says one patient even refused her care solely because of her dress,
or in the time she had to argue her way into the school-affiliated hospital
because of her head cover, yet she says of "the few times I was mistaken
for a nun I was treated with the utmost respect."
Like other faculty of color members in the book, she says she had to work
twice as hard to prove her abilities to her other white majority colleagues,
but in the end she gained their respect, trust and friendship.
This was first because of her teaching skills and abilities as reflected
in her methods of delivery in the lecture rooms and in the practical hands-on
approach with her students, and as testified to by the numerous awards
she received in record time since she joined the faculty in 2003. Such
includes the American Dental Education Association Dentsply Research Award,
Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award, and the Distinguished Summer
School Mentor Award.
The second factor for her academic success is the research she quickly
set upon doing and publishing with her colleagues. Her first published
research paper was when she was just a post-graduate student in the reputable
Journal of Prosthodontics in 2002. This was quickly followed by
other research papers in General Dentistry and Journal of Dental Education
on a variety of specialized topics related to dental surgery and reconstructive
Although this was developing at a time when Reem was looking after her
husband and three young children Reema three-year graduate of protodontics
at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a one-year general practice
residency at the Truman Medical Centerclearly has a knack for balancing
her time between family life, her teaching, service activities to students
and her faculty and to her research.
Many in the book collection say that quite frequently they are inundated
by service work and serving on different committees that very little time
is left for research work and publishing, and this goes does not favor
their promotion in a university culture where considers research as supreme.
Because she is the only minority member in her faculty Reem also feels
university administrators expect her to take on the role of service to
her Muslim/Middle Eastern, and even students from the developing countries.
She says this is an extra stress placed on the faculty of color member
and would appreciate it if other 'white' faculty members taken on the
role of representing students of different ethnicities.
She also says such turns her into "beyond a role model" as she
is expected to be "the defender, expert and prime example of all
things related to my religion, people and culture" and places her
into a situation where she has to take extra work hours unrelated to her
Reem says there has to be a real melting in academia rather than token
hiring of minorities and paying lip service to multi-culturalism to build
an effective academic community based on real understanding of the other.
"The world needs to get smaller," she says. Trust and new perception
needs to be built through things like workshops or continuing education
courses so that the leaders of these academic institutions encourage a
working environment that appreciates diversity in its outlook towards
Faculty members serve as role models to students. "If we work together,
we can create new generations truly appreciative of the differences among
us," where the contributions of our communities will work for an
'Before coming to UMKC, I always thought I would want people to be color
blind, now I know that it is more valuable to be color aware,' because
new color ..has a unique characteristic that further enriches the whole
© marwan asmar October 2007
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.