Kent Star: Cultural Connector Grace

This month’s Kent Star is Grace Ingram, who organised and led a “Mixed Roots” event to help individuals discuss their experiences of coming from multiple and undefined cultural and ethnic backgrounds, celebrating these often-overlooked identities. Hear from Cultural Connector Grace:

“Hi, I’m Grace Ingram. I’m doing an MSc in Conservation Project Management. I’m part of the Postgraduate Network and I work at Oaks Nursery on campus. A fun fact about me is I have a playlist for everything. I love music! I played viola and violin for 11 years. Music is still a big part of my life, even beyond classical compositions, which I mostly just listen to when I’m studying or working on assignments. When I’m angry I listen to rap and when I’m energized I listen to Golden Oldies Motown. There’s a song for every mood!”

Can you tell us about the “Mixed Roots” project?

” ‘Mixed Roots’ was an informal conversation with individuals coming from multiple and undefined cultural and ethnic backgrounds speaking on their experiences. Panellists from four main backgrounds (diaspora communities, biracial individuals, Third Culture Kids, and adoptees) answered various questions in a relaxed on-stage atmosphere. I organised the event and also spoke on my experiences as a transracial international adoptee.

The event was a ‘fishbowl’ discussion – fishbowls are frequently called the ‘unconference’. Unlike traditional panels that prioritise making the audiences feel comfortable, fishbowls encourage the audience to suspend their own feelings and rationale to listen with the intention of understanding, rather than responding.

This event was made possible due to the generosity of the Graduate and Researcher College’s Postgraduate Community Experience Awards. However, this event was created because of the vast amount of people falling into these plural and undefined identities, but the lack of collective representation for them here on campus and in broader society. ‘Mixed Roots’ presented an opportunity to listen and humanize individuals with conflicting identities and conflicting senses of community— taking the conversation beyond that evening.

Following the event, we collected general feedback from audience members:

  • 78% of respondents said prior to Mixed Roots they had not been provided with opportunities to learn about these backgrounds at Kent.
  • 100% of respondents said they would like more opportunities to learn about and celebrate ‘mixed roots’ with many interested in incorporating various topics into the discussion alongside race and culture including: gender & sexuality; religion & faith; politics; pop culture & current events; & mental health.

Many respondents also expressed an interest in seeing additional collaborations with future mixed roots events with: LGBTQ+ Network/ Society; A specific racial/ethnic society; Women’s Network; Faith Network; International Network; Accessibility Network; Student Support and Wellbeing.

This feedback points us in the right trajectory regarding future ‘Mixed Roots’ events which is very exciting!”

What advice would you give to other students?

“A piece of advice I would give is that the one of the best ways you can invest in yourself is by investing in community. I think these investments can take place in many forms whether attending listening events like ‘Mixed Roots’, participating in university or community service projects, or getting involved in social justice campaigns. I think even more can be said when we choose to invest in diverse communities— communities different from our own— in regards to race, nationality, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc.”

Student Grace smiling holding Mixed Roots event flier

What are you plans for this year?

“I graduated from university this past May and will finish this Conservation Project Management MSc in September. While I’ve enjoyed my studies so far, but I’d like to do some learning beyond the classroom. Community service is a huge passion of mine, so I’m currently looking at taking a gap year or two with a credible humanitarian/service organisation like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Living abroad in the UK has been an enriching experience. I’d love to serve in a different city, state, or country, if possible.  I believe that community service will only strengthen my future career in conservation.”

Learn more about the Kent Stars campaign.

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