IDEAA launches its Profile in Diversity Series

Posted in News Story

Throughout the year, IDEAA will profile faculty and staff whose life experiences have helped shaped their vision and contributions to the Georgetown University community. 

Diversity Profile: Professor Leslie Hinkson

Written by Natasha Bhatia, IDEAA Diversity Fellow

For Georgetown sociology professor Leslie Hinkson, childhood experiences and surroundings have shaped her interests both inside and outside the classroom. Growing up in a racially segregated area of Brooklyn, New York, Hinkson says she often wondered why she made it out of the area when many of her peers didn’t. This curiosity about the determinants of educational achievement led Professor Hinkson to become interested in the sociology of education, which is now one of her main areas of academic interest. “Part of what I feel like I’m here to do in sociology is to illuminate the social phenomena that are helping to shape the educational trajectories of these kids who grew up in similar environments as I did,” says Hinkson.

Now, Professor Hinkson’s classes focus on engaging in historical trends and discussing power relationships over time, while also focusing on the goal of instilling in her students “some level of understanding of other people.” Hinkson’s commitment to this shared understanding has driven her to encourage her students to open their minds to new perspectives. After attending a magnet high school, Hinkson describes how the whole of New York City, and then the whole world, was opened up to her. Professor Hinkson is dedicated to facilitating her students’ worlds to open up in the same way here at Georgetown. Part of her method of doing so involves the Jesuit commitment to social justice. As a result of Georgetown’s location in D.C., Hinkson sees many opportunities for students to engage in volunteer and immersion work within the city and to “get students to really engage intellectually in what ‘difference’ and ‘diversity’ mean, and why some groups have so much more than others.”

Outside of the classroom, Professor Hinkson would like to assist her students to use their experiences at Georgetown to make good decisions later on in life. Part of this process involves recognizing and celebrating the differences that exist between different groups of people. Professor Hinkson notes that racial “diversity initiatives are not about getting everybody to like each other,” but rather enabling people to see each other as individuals rather than simply as a collective group. It is important, however, to “recognize that an individual’s group membership has real potential consequences for that person’s life chance.” Thus the challenge arises “to see people as individuals but also to recognize the power of group membership.”

Professor Hinkson believes that faculty at Georgetown have a unique role to play in this development of students’ perspectives. “I think sometimes we don’t understand that maybe 90% of what we teach will go in one ear and out the other and students will forget it, but there’s that 10% that will linger, and faculty must be very selective about what that 10% will be. And I think faculty can have such a positive influence on the decisions that individuals make later on in life.”