Cultural Competency & The Student Affairs

Jessica L. Thompson
University of Michigan
Concordia University Ann Arbor

What Is Culture?
I. Culture is typically described as the totality of learned behaviors of a
people that emerges from their interpersonal interactions.
I. Interpersonal = relating to relationships or communication
between people.
II. Intrapersonal = occurring within the individual mind or self
II. Culture includes the ideals, values, and assumptions about life that are
widely shared and that guide specific behaviors.

More About Culture?
I. Culture is socially constructed = an idea that has been created and
accepted by the people in a society (ex: class distinctions are a social
II. Culture is shared by its members.
III. Culture is dynamic.
I. “We do not become a cultural being and stay that way. It is
healthy to be continually enhancing nuances of one’s cultural
characteristics, improving some and altering or rejecting others.”
IV. Culture is situational.
I. Which identities are most salient to oneself, when are these most
relevant and why?
V. Culture is both objective and subjective.
I. Objective = physical artifacts, language, clothing, food, etc.
I. Visible
II. Subjective – attitudes, values, norms of behavior, social roles,
I. Invisible

The Iceberg Model of Culture
When we see an iceberg, the portion which is visible above water is, in
reality, only a small piece of a much larger whole. Similarly, people
often think of culture as the numerous observable characteristics of a
group that we can *see* with our eyes, be it their food, dances, music,
arts, or greeting rituals. The reality, however, is that these are merely
an external manifestation of the deeper and broader components of
culture -- the complex ideas and deeply-held preferences and priorities
known as attitudes and values.
Culture-The Big Picture Meaning
I. It is a filter through which people process the experiences and events
of their lives.
II. It influences people’s values, actions, and expectations of themselves.
III. It impacts people’s perceptions and expectations of others
IV. The 4 phases of Cultural Interdependence (dependence between
I. Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces
I. Centripetal = heightened connections across cultures
II. Centrifugal = recognition of the importance of cultural
I. Improved/enhanced intercultural communication
II. Inclusive encounters across cultures
III. Increased cultural awareness
IV. Realization of shared destiny and the need to find
common solutions that benefit all

Components of Cultural Awareness
I. One’s own
I. Personal Identity
II. Social Identity
III. Who am I?
IV. Integrity and values
II. Someone else’s
I. How I show up in space with others
II. How someone is showing up in space with me
III. Emotional Intelligence and how we tap into that when engaging
with others
IV. “Other Awareness”
I. Caring to understand the needs, feelings, concerns and
expectations of another person
III. That of many cultures
I. The ongoing and continuous journey of Cultural Competence

Why Should It Matter To Me?
I. Knowledge of self allows for you to be aware of how you show up in
space with others.
II. Allows you to recognize the identities that you hold as salient and how
those identities impact your interactions with others.
III. Acceptance and the embracing of self “signs the permission slip” for
others to do the exact same thing.
IV. The inability to understand self can inhibit you from understanding
others and/or the desire to understand others.
V. Student Affairs Staff should incorporate multicultural competence into
their daily work and decision-making in order to address and respond
to the challenges and needs of diverse student populations.
VI. Multicultural Competency helps Student Affairs Professionals to self-
assess in order to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
I. When they recognize their strengths, weaknesses and position of
privilege, Student Affairs Professionals are better able to work
with and assist people from diverse student populations,
especially students who are different from them.
VII. Knowledge about diverse populations and other cultures will help
Student Affairs Professionals to understand the uniqueness of
individual students.
I. As a result, they will respond to students’ needs and provide the
necessary guidance, advice, counsel and support required to
help students achieve success in higher education

What Is Cultural Competency?
I. The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and
groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and
attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of
services, thereby producing better outcomes.
II. The ability to think, feel, and act in ways that acknowledge, respect,
and build upon ethnic, socio-cultural, and linguistic diversity.

Terms Used To Define The Work/Concepts
I. Culturally Relevant
II. Culturally Aware
III. Culturally Appropriate
IV. Culturally Competent
V. Culturally Proficient
VI. Culturally Effective
VII. Cultural Humility
VIII. Cultural Sensitivity
IX. Intercultural Competency
X. Linguistically Competent
XI. Multicultural Competence

NASPA/ACPA Standards/Learning Outcomes
I. Personal and Ethical Foundations
I. The Personal and Ethical Foundations competency area involves
the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain
integrity in one’s life and work; this includes thoughtful
development, critique, and adherence to a holistic and
comprehensive standard of ethics and commitment to one’s own
wellness and growth. Personal and ethical foundations are
aligned because integrity has an internal locus informed by a
combination of external ethical guidelines, an internal voice of
care, and our own lived experiences. Our personal and ethical
foundations grow through a process of curiosity, reflection, and
self-authorship (ACPA & NASPA, 2015).
II. Social Justice and Inclusion
I. While there are many conceptions of social justice and inclusion
in various contexts, for the purposes of this competency area, it
is defined here as both a process and a goal which includes the
knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning
environments that foster equitable participation of all groups
while seeking to address and acknowledge issues of oppression,
privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs
educators who have a sense of their own agency and social
responsibility that includes others, their community, and the
larger global context. Student affairs educators may incorporate
social justice and inclusion competencies into their practice
through seeking to meet the needs of all groups, equitably
distributing resources, raising social consciousness, and repairing
past and current harms on campus communities (ACPA & NASPA,
III. Values, Philosophy and History
I. This competency involves knowledge, skills, and dispositions that
connect the values, philosophy, and history of the student affairs
profession to one’s current professional practice. This
competency area embodies the foundations of the profession
from which current and future research, scholarship, and practice
will change and grow. The commitment to demonstrating this
competency area ensures that our present and future practices
are informed by an understanding of the profession’s history,
philosophy, and values (ACPA & NASPA, 2015).

Deardorff’s Intercultural Competence Model
***Darla Deardorff’s Intercultural Competence Model (2006) is based
on five elements: attitude, knowledge, skills, internal outcomes, and
external outcomes. This model provides a framework that can be
utilized to guide a curriculum that promotes intercultural competence
and assessment of learning outcomes.
I. Attitudes: There are three key attitudes: respect, openness, and
curiosity. Respect demonstrates that you value others who are from
different backgrounds, and openness and curiosity are necessary to
move outside of your comfort zone. These three attitudes are
foundational for the development of knowledge and skills needed for
intercultural competence.
II. Knowledge: In order to achieve intercultural competence, you must
have a cultural self-awareness, culture-specific knowledge, deep
cultural knowledge (understanding of other world views), and
sociolinguistic awareness. Understanding the world from others’
perspectives is fundamental to intercultural competence.
III. Skills: Observing, listening, evaluating, analyzing, interpreting, and
relating are skills necessary for processing knowledge. When
interacting with others from diverse backgrounds, you cannot rely on
knowledge alone. You will also need to use these skills in order to
understand and process information.
IV. Internal Outcomes: The attitudes, knowledge, and skills lead to an
internal outcome that consists of flexibility, adaptability, and empathy.
These abilities allow individuals to achieve intercultural competence to
some degree. At this point, you are able to begin to see from others’
perspectives and respond to others according to the way in which the
other desires to be treated.
V. External Outcomes: The behavior and communication skills
demonstrated by an individual based on their attitudes, knowledge,
skills, and internal outcomes are the external outcomes experienced by
others. The effective and appropriate behavior and communication are
the visible external outcomes of intercultural competence.

Sociolinguistics Defined:
Sociolinguistics is concerned with language in social and cultural
context, especially how people with different social identities (e.g.
gender, age, race, ethnicity, class) speak and how their speech
changes in different situations. Some of the issues addressed are how
features of dialects (ways of pronouncing words, choice of words,
patterns of words) cluster together to form personal styles of speech;
why people from different communities or cultures can misunderstand
what is meant, said and done based on the different ways they use
Intercultural competence model

Cultural Competence Includes
I. Self-Awareness
II. Cultural Understanding
III. Multiple Perspectives
IV. Intercultural Communication
V. Relationship Building
VI. Flexibility/Adaptability
VII. Intercultural Facilitation/Conflict Resolution Skills
VIII. Multicultural Organizational Skills

Stages of Cultural Competence
I. Cultural Destructiveness
II. Cultural Incapacity
III. Cultural Blindness
IV. Cultural Pre-competence
V. Basic Cultural Competence
VI. Advanced Cultural Competence

With Cultural Competence...
I. One can be able to gain a broadening of perspective that
acknowledges the simultaneous existence of differing realities that
requires neither comparison nor judgement.
II. One can be aware of likely areas of potential cross-cultural
miscommunication, misinterpretation, and misjudgment; anticipate
their occurrence (knowing what can go wrong); and have the skills to
set them right.