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Credit: Jo Xiang

A quick glance while walking down Locust, if one ignores the masks being worn, will reveal the plethora of diverse students the University of Pennsylvania calls its own. According to Penn's website, over 13% of 2021 first year students were classified as “international” — students who do not call the United States home. In total, Penn states that there are 6,392 international students enrolled as of fall 2021. This means that nearly one in every five people you meet at Penn is likely to have lived or been born outside of the United States. 

Penn’s undergraduate racial diversity, while less impressive, accounts for 36% White, 11% Latinx, 8% Black, and 25% Asian — providing a good picture of the plethora of experiences lived by our student body. Diversity in a student body has been repeatedly proven to be beneficial to an academic experience. No wonder that the academic world is pushing for further developing this positive trend. 

Unfortunately, however, diversity within the teaching faculty of the University is not only underrepresented, but it is undervalued. What value does diversity provide for students? It's simple: A wider range of experiences to learn from. 

Without getting too far into the cliche about globalism, it is important to recognize that our world is more interconnected than ever before. For example, the study of history is no longer confined to a dusty textbook that drones on about the Navigation Acts of the 18th century. Instead, many humanities have begun to explore the wealth of information that goes beyond the shores of New England. 

Oftentimes, however, topics are taught by American academics, a natural occurrence considering that Penn is, in fact, in America. To be clear, there is no issue with this — nationality is by no means a prerequisite for expertise. However, growing up in another country, with a different culture, separate traditions, and unique societal norms, offers students a unique learning experience. Even if one spends a lifetime learning about apartheid in South Africa, it is nearly impossible to replicate the experience of a South African. While respecting that there is a duty to remain objective within academics, students should learn to take in several interpretations of subjects, with the intention of learning from each. 

Dr. Fernando Arteaga, an Economics professor, spoke to me about his experience as a Mexican academic at Penn. Growing up near Tijuana in northern Mexico, Arteaga noted that much of the local culture is similar to that of the southern United States. However, having studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Arteaga recalled that he was exposed to a unique learning experience. “A lot of my professors in university [had] studied in Eastern Europe … for example, our math library contained books written in Russian instead of Spanish.” As a result, Arteaga’s classes focused much more on Marxian economics and planned economies, in place of more conventional mainstream economic thought. Arteaga was conflicted about this experience, but he did say that learning about planned economies allowed him to better argue against them. This enriched his ability to objectively compare his personal learnings toward market economies to the Marxian economics he studied in school.

This sort of experience is precisely why hiring faculty from outside the United States is valuable. Not only do international faculty members bring their own experiences to students, but they also potentially offer new outlooks on what may be seen as commonplace in the United States. 

Of course, this is not an article that is here to argue that all University faculty should be from outside the country, but rather that having a diverse faculty is a strength that students should take advantage of. Recognize the benefits of learning from a different experience. Use this to analyze the multitude of viewpoints that exist around the world today. This applies to faculty as well. Professors should strive to remain objective in their teachings, but should by no means be afraid to explain their own perspectives on a particular subject as a result of their background. 

Next time you're in class, try and engage the professor and your classmates on their experiences. Understand the benefit of learning and listening to people who have different viewpoints than you. Take in as much information as you can, and push yourself to engage with what you’ve learned critically. Finally, speak out and let people hear your own experiences and do not shy away from giving your class a new perspective. You never know what value you yourself may bring to others’ learning. 

OTTO PIASECKI is a College junior studying economics and diplomacy from New York. His email is