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The Tilford Group

Multicultural Competency Development: Preparing Students to Live and Work in a Diverse World

(While the principle focus of this research was to identify multicultural competencies needed by students, the results have clear implications for faculty, staff and administrators.)

Students, faculty and administrators all acknowledged the importance of helping students develop the multicultural competencies necessary to be effective and successful in today's diverse workplace. Participants in the focus groups conducted at Kansas State University in 2000-2001 confirm this premise.

Institutions of higher learning are beginning to recognize the importance of infusing diversity within the curriculum. Higher education curriculum transformation for the 21st century will become more inclusive of multicultural learning. The academy is moving beyond the one course approach which is sometimes referred to as the "diversity overlay" to recognizing that multicultural competence is a curriculum process that looks beyond courses offerings and views student life and extracurricular activities as an integral part of the total student experience.

Essential to the process is identifying the multicultural competencies needed by college students. Multicultural competency is defined as the knowledge, skills and personal attributes college graduates need to live and work in a diverse world. To better understand this process, the Tilford Group used several strategies to determine the multicultural competencies.

A. Reviewed corporate diversity training programs, to ascertain what competencies, knowledge, skills and personal attributes are necessary to work in multicultural environments.

B. Interviewed corporate diversity trainers and human resource managers to determine the multicultural competencies needed by employees.

C. Reviewed literature from interdisciplinary sources (i.e., social work, ethnic studies, education and psychology) to identify disciplined-based multicultural competencies.

D. Analyzed focus group results from KSU faculty and students to determine their perception of multicultural competencies.

A synthesis of these competencies was compiled identifying the following knowledge, skills and personal attributes essential for multicultural competence. They are:

I. KNOWLEDGE -- Awareness and understanding needed to live and work in a diverse world.

  • Cultural Self -- The ability to understand one's ethnic identity and how it influences identity development.
  • Diverse Ethnic Groups -- Knowledge of diverse ethnic groups and their cultures.
  • Social/Political Frameworks -- Awareness of how economic, social and political issues impact race and ethnic relations.
  • Changing Demographics -- Understanding population dynamics related to ethnic minority and majority citizens.

II. PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES -- Traits needed by those who live and work in a diverse world.

  • Flexibility -- The ability to respond and adapt to new and changing situations.
  • Respect -- An appreciation for those who are different from one's self.
  • Empathy -- The ability to understand another person's culture by listening to and understanding their perspective.

III. SKILLS -- Behaviors and performance tasks needed to live and work in a diverse world.

  • Cross cultural communication -- Verbal and nonverbal communication skills in interaction with those who are culturally different from one's self.
  • Teamwork -- The ability to work in culturally diverse groups toward a common goal.
  • Listening -- The ability to attend to what others are saying.
  • Conflict Resolution -- The ability to resolve cultural conflicts that occurs between individuals and groups.
  • Critical Thinking -- The ability to use inductive and deductive reasoning.
  • Language Development -- The ability to speak and write more than one language.
  • Leadership Development -- The ability to provide multicultural leadership.

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