May 16, 2024

Embracing Identities: The Journey of Chandrima Powers in the U.S.

PBA News

From Kolkata to Academia: A New Beginning 

Chandrima Powers’ story begins in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, where she was the only child born to Hindu Bengali parents. Despite her parents’ religious background, she found her own spiritual path in Christianity during her early school years, coming to faith in the sixth grade. 

This personal transformation was the first of many profound changes that would shape her life. Her journey to the United States in 2007, driven by a desire for higher education, marked the start of a new chapter. She pursued a master’s and a Ph.D. before eventually joining Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA), as Associate Professor of Psychology. She was attracted by the university’s Christian values and academic offerings that aligned perfectly with her expertise. 

At PBA, Dr. Powers found a community that not only welcomed her but also celebrated her unique background. She recalls the significant impact of her initial interactions, where colleagues and students embraced her with open arms, even praying over her—a gesture of inclusion and respect that deeply touched her.  

“I really liked how it felt – the Christian environment,” she says. “People were welcoming, and I remember they prayed over me, all gathering together. It was such a beautiful experience. It was like nothing I had experienced at other Christian universities,” she reflects. This acceptance was a stark contrast to some of her previous experiences in academia, where she faced ignorance and exclusion outside her immediate department. 

Celebrating Cultural Diversity: Teaching and Learning 

In her role as a professor at PBA, Professor Powers uses the opportunity during her lectures to share aspects of her cultural heritage, particularly in classes like social psychology. She leverages her personal experiences to illustrate the differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures, enriching her students’ understanding of global perspectives.  

“What does that actually mean? So, giving examples, they’re really interested in it,” she explains, highlighting the curiosity and engagement of her students. 

A Vision for the Future: Advocacy and Awareness 

Despite the overwhelming positive experience, Dr. Powers acknowledges the subtle challenges of living between two cultures. She points out that even well-meaning actions can sometimes perpetuate stereotypes or biases.  

“But honestly, even with the best intentions, we sometimes have implicit biases, implicit stereotypes that we are not even aware of.”  

She urges everyone to consider the impact of their actions and to engage in open dialogues to foster better understanding and respect. 

 “For example, when assigning tasks, one might think they are helping by not assigning challenging tasks to women, assuming they might not handle them well. This well-intended action can inadvertently reinforce stereotypes and may overlook an individual’s capabilities. It can be the same when approaching people from different cultures. It is important to recognize that even actions meant to be kind can have unintended consequences, especially when they stem from our unrecognized biases.” 

As AAPI Heritage Month unfolds, Dr. Powers hopes that it will be a time for reflection on the nuanced realities of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Her message is one of awareness and advocacy, urging people to look beyond surface-level interactions and understand the deep-rooted cultural dynamics at play.  

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