To all of my fellow HUBI graduates, congratulations on making it through your time here. And to all the parents, family members, friends, and faculty, thank you for all of your support.
For the past three years, I’ve been a tour guide here at IU, sharing my experiences with prospective students and their families every week. Besides getting asked by parents what the party scene is like here or whether you can have a car on campus your first year, one of the most common questions I’ve had to answer is how I chose to be a Human Bio major, why not regular biology? Besides the retrospective essay you probably didn’t want to write, maybe most of you have never really thought about what makes this major unique or what you’ve gained, but these are things I’ve had to answer every week. I want to share my take-away with all of you.
I don’t think our major is called Human Biology just because we don’t learn about plants, but because we have used an interdisciplinary education to really consider humans and everything that affects them. By discussing history, we have understood what has influenced science in the past, how these influences have changed over time, and what we can learn for the future. Through electives in classes like sociology, anthropology, and gender studies, we have understood how factors like socioeconomics, culture, and personal identity impact biological outcomes. And by observing all of this in the context of current events, we have learned how the intricacies of the real world interact with textbook knowledge. We do not live in a vacuum, where biology is purely physical, an illness only requires medication, or scientific fact can stand unfazed by opinion. Everything is impacted by the incredibly complex lives we live as humans.
Because of this, the ability we have gained in this major to take something and look at it from these different angles is incredibly valuable. For example, those of us entering a healthcare profession can use this skill to look beyond just treating whatever illness our patient presents and actually understand why they have that illness in the first place. Maybe they can’t afford the things they need to stay healthy, or they have a high-stress lifestyle. Understanding these factors can help us figure out the most effective way to help them long-term. If you’re going on to do research, you can use this skill to part from your own perspective and ask yourself how others will perceive your research and how you can make it accessible to them.
But even if you’re going on to do something completely unrelated to science, the best part of having perspective is that it applies to life in general. We are about to take another big step into a society that is, unfortunately, overwhelmed by disagreement, divisiveness, misunderstanding and strong opinions flying from every direction. I truly believe one of the best ways to ease all this tension is to be able to take a step back and look at things from a perspective that is not our own and that is not obvious to us. We can engage in more productive interactions by first asking ourselves, what are the factors that make that person feel differently about the world than I do? Just like we have in our classes, we can take the time to consider someone’s history, their personal life experiences, their identity, and try to be empathetic before turning a blind eye to what they have to say or how they feel. This ability to open our minds and understand things from different points of view is exactly what we have practiced in our time as Human Bio students by taking diverse courses and becoming well-rounded. This skill can make a world of difference in any and every interaction you have from here on out.
So even if you have forgotten everything you have learned in your classes already, I hope that I have convinced you that as a Human Biology student at IU, you have received an incredibly unique and valuable education that has provided you with a skill you can actually use for the rest of your lives. So once again, congratulations to all of you, and good luck with all of your future endeavors.