Ronnie Townsend - Kultural Kurator
Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Ethnicity - Black American
Occupation - Event Technology Specialist
Place of Employment - NAFSA: Association of International Educators
Years in the field: 3
What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?
I went abroad for the first time in 2017 during my Senior year of undergrad to Guyana for a missionary trip to teach art, science, and home economics to both elementary and middle school students. Later in 2017, after graduating I visited Barbados, Puerto Rico, St.Thomas, St.Kitts, St.Lucia, and St. Marteen. I have also done an organic farming work-away program in Quebec, Canada.
How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?
Global Education has impacted my career choice in a huge way. When I traveled to Guyana, my eyes were immediately opened to how people outside of the United States lived. I witnessed how the Guyanese people have so little, but enjoy each and everyday to the fullest and make due with what they have. Learning about Guyanese culture excited me, and I began to become curious about other cultures outside of my own. I also begin to extend hands to those of a different culture in my own country, and exchange cultural customs and viewpoints among my diverse group of peers. When it came time to choose a career, I knew that I wanted to do something in the realm of technology, but I wanted to do something that contributed to a greater cause. Global Education was the field that called out to me, and I recognized that I would be able to practice my skill set while also contributing to the field of Global Education. This fired up a passion within me that makes me excited to go to work each and everyday.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?
I enjoy meeting people from around the world each and every day and hearing the stories that these people have. It fosters meaning behind the work that I do, and I am always fascinated by how many places around the world the people that I meet come from. During my daily job I design programs, international education events, and trainings that all contribute to the greater field of Global Education. Knowing that the work that I do reaches such a broad span inspires me to continuously move forward and grow. I also enjoy having the opportunity to meet different Global Education professionals. There is a colorful array of individuals from many places in the Global Education field. I like to think of it as a huge blanket where every Global Education professional has knitted their own patch into the broad blanket.
What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?
One of the challenges that I have had to overcome as I work in the field of Global Education is ageism. I am currently in my early 20's, and as a result people may often assume that I lack expertise in various areas that an older and more seasoned professional may have. This does not stop me from putting forth good work, and actually fuels me to grow even more as a professional. I have learned that people will always make their own assumptions of you regardless of how good you are doing, but it is important to always maintain your dignity and strength, and to keep the ball rolling.
Another challenge that I have had to overcome is being the only African American in an office or work group. Often times I remind myself that my very appearance and presence is highly significant, even if I stand alone in these spaces as a man of color. I think about what my ancestors fought for and how they may have not have had the same opportunities to occupy the spaces that myself and my fellow peers of color occupy today.
With a rapid and changing environment as a result of this current pandemic, I have found myself having to grow faster than I could have ever imagined. Learning and implementing new skills within my role has been a major occurrence in the last year, and this was very scary in the beginning with so many people losing their jobs. We are moving into 2021 and I am still going strong! I have embraced learning and all of the growth that this year has stimulated for myself and other professionals.
How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?
Cultural identity has impacted my experience working in Global Education in many ways. When I walk into a room, I often catch looks of surprise and looks of intimidation. I have become aware of presence and how my presence can impact the energy and tone of a room. On the other side of the pendulum, I have witnessed other people of color and non-colored people admiring me from afar and acknowledging the work that I do. I remind myself that me being in the role that I am in is paving away for many other minorities as well, and this is highly motivating. I often connect with other minorities about their experiences in the work place, and I am always amazed at their stories. We go through similar things, but we all remind each other that our work spans far and beyond the boundaries that have been set before us and to let our experiences fuel growth for ourselves and others!
How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?
Seeing people of color/diverse backgrounds is highly motivating to me. I always feel a sense of inner warmth and strength when I see a professional of color working in the workplace or while traveling abroad. It inspires me and sends a message that nothing is impossible, keep your head up and know that you can achieve anything. It shows me that despite the challenges that have been set before us, many people are transcending and paving a road for others to follow down the line. Just the mere sight of another professional of color can be inspiring for others, and it can contribute to comfort in the workplace!
As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?
To me culture represents food, customs, values, traditions, art, phrases. Every Culture is unique!
Self/Soul Care is important as we live our lives and do this work. How do you incorporate self/soul care into your life?
Self care is very important to me, especially while working a 9-5 job M-F. I always say that if we want to keep your flame bright while working a full time job, then we must prioritize self care.
I incorporate self care into my life by going hiking and spending time outdoors as much as possible. I find the fresh air to be revitalizing, and I love getting vitamin D from the sunlight. I am also big on meditating, I find that this brings peace and calmness into our minds and clears out allot of daily mental clutter.
I also enjoy working out, I find that this keeps my body strong and enables me to also release and alleviate any work related stress.
Every once in a while, I will treat myself to a massage. Overtime it is amazing how much tension and pressure can become built up in our muscles, especially if we are sitting for long hours during the day. Massages provide relaxation for me and also help keep my body aligned and in working order.
What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?
My advice to future Kutural Kurators as they think about working in this field is to follow your heart and to always be open to growth. You may experience bumps along the road, but know that those bumps are a key and integral part of your growth and overall journey.
Learn from those around you and connect with new people as much as you can, there is an infinite well of knowledge that we can access at any point in time. Know that you are absolutely capable of anything! Stay strong on your journey! You got this!
How can others follow you on social media, website, and/or is there an email address that you'd like to share?
If you are Person of Color who has studied, interned, worked and/or lived abroad and would like to be featured on Kultural Kurators we welcome you to complete our interest form.