My interest in the fellowship began at the ABA’s 2015 Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle. Having participated in audience comments at a panel presentation, I found myself having a conversation about diversity and my role in it. This eventually turned into a full-fledged article for the November issue of the ABA’s Just Resolutions newsletter.
I must admit that I do not usually refer to myself as “diverse”. Although I know that many people who look at me see a woman of color, the way I think of myself is far more complicated. As I wrote in November:
In Germany, where I spent the first 16 years of my life, “Sascha” is a boy’s name. I am female, not male. (This resulted in much confusion when I entered school, registered for tennis tournaments or piano auditions, and when I received a letter from the German government ordering me to report for military service at age 18, which is mandatory for men.) Both “Sasha” and “Philip” tend to be White or Caucasian names. I was born in India to Indian parents, and am clearly neither White nor Caucasian in appearance. I always elicit a laugh when I ask new acquaintances whether I look as blond and blue-eyed as they expected me to look based on my name and nationality. Because my name is not particularly “ethnic”, and because I grew up speaking English in addition to German, most assume that I am American, with an unusual accent. But while I have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years and am a permanent resident, I am a German citizen and a first-generation immigrant, having moved to Seattle as a foreign exchange student in high school.
Nonetheless, I am certainly “different” on several levels – and I have always struggled with how much of this is appropriate fodder for marketing, and how much is cheap pandering to the idea that I must utilize my differences to distinguish myself from others. My hope is that the Higginbotham Fellowship will allow me to interact with other ADR professionals who are asking themselves similar questions.
But most importantly, I am simply excited to have been selected for this opportunity to learn from recognized leaders in the field of ADR.