Multicultural Awareness

I. Questions I Wanted To Answer

a.) How does my cultural heritage and other identities affect my world views, values and assumptions AND how do these identifies affect my work as a student affairs professional?

b.) What are the systems of privilege and oppression that affect various individuals and groups on a college campus? How do these systems affect them?

c.) How can I challenge and support members of my community to increase cultural sensitivity and corresponding appropriate practices?

d.) How can I continue to grow professionally and personally in my own cultural sensitivity?

II. Introduction

Before coming to graduate school I’d say that my awareness of issues related to multiculturalism was quite limited. I had attended various diversity trainings, which seemed to open my eyes for the few hours while I was participating, but did not provide me with motivation or an avenue to explore the issues in much depth. I had worked and lived in the southeastern United States and been exposed to the clear cut racism that still exists in some communities down there. I had seen the damage done by Hurricane Katrina to primarily black neighborhoods, but had once again not had the time or support needed to ask the  the hard questions related to why these systems of racism, oppression and privilege were still in existence.

Looking back I can now recognize a number of times when my lack of multicultural knowledge had a huge impact on my personal and professional experiences. The most predominant memory that I have involves one of my first experiences working in student affairs. I was working for AmeriCorps VISTA at a small, public university and shared an office with three women of color. It was my first time working in an office where I was in the minority and I did not handle it well. I wish I had taken the opportunity to learn and grow, but in reality, I spent the majority of my time feeling uncomfortable and out of place. All three of them were graduate students in student affairs and they would spend a great deal of time talking about issues of race, privilege and their own experiences as women of color. Of course, now I realize that this was what they were talking about in classes and therefore it would be only natural for their discourse to spill over into their work. Plus, issues of racism, sexism, homophobia were things they had all personally faced and I’d imagine that studying such things provided them an academic way to view things that they had already dealt with at length. In other words, I now realize that they had ever reason to be discussing such issues. At the time though I just felt like they were talking a different language and having not fully explored my own identities, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my own experiences. Looking back on this experience, I can see that at the time, I was given a challenge that I simply wasn’t equipped to deal with in a good way. My white privilege had allowed me to coast through my life knowing that those around me weren’t always the same race, ethnicity, religion, etc. as I was, but that I didn’t need to take our differences into account. Here I was being told that race (along with other identities) did matter and that it mattered a lot. This experience, as well as some of my other lesser detailed ones have helped me realize that previous to coming to graduate school, I largely bought in to the concept of a “color blind” culture, which I can now see is all too simplistic in today’s world.

III. Hypothesis

a.) I don’t consciously acknowledge or celebrate my cultural heritage or identities-particularly in my professional life. On the whole, I tend to keep my heritage and identities to myself in order to promote greater teamwork and consensus/decrease conflict. I’m sure that my identities affect me subconsciously but I think I can control how they affect my role as a student affairs professional.

b.) Students, faculty and staff members are all affected by systems of privilege and oppression. I think that these systems shape the choice of college, the transition into college, the academic and extra-curricular activities and fields a student chooses to go into. I also think that these sytems

c.) How can I challenge and support members of my community to increase cultural sensitivity and cooresponding appropriate practices?

d.) How can I continue to grow professionally and personally in my own cultural sensitivity?

IV. Methods and Materials.

a.) and b.)

AHE599: Multicultural Issues in Higher Education

White Like Me

PHL: Ethics of Diversity

Oppression Hurts the Oppressor  •  Shame of the Nation paper  

c.) and d.)

Training and membership in Bias Response Team

Project with Student Spring Break student group

NODA internship

V. Data and Analysis

a.) Cultural heritage Socio-economic Status •  Gender •  Sexual Orientation

b.)   Internalized Oppression  •  White Like Me Notes (1)  • White Like Me Notes (2) • Connecting Higher Education and Social Justice  

c.) My White Privilege  Student Life Environmental Audit  •  Service Work

d.) The Never Ending Journey

VI. Conclusions



I am more fully aware now, than ever before that my own identities and my own experiences significantly influence the way that I see the world, my place in it, my future goals and how I interact with students. My identities are automatically going to connect me with some students and create barriers with others. I cannot let the ease or difficulty caused by my cultural heritage get in the way of reaching out to all students, yet I must know that these factors are at play and be able to refer students to others when the barriers seem to great.


In trying to condense my knowledge and observations about the systems of oppression and how they affect students, I want to make clear that I am constantly learning new information about populations of students who experience ooppressionin ways that are far different from the ones I have thus far expressed and therefore this list should be seen as an ever-evolving document. I also acknowledge that many people experience multiple systems of oppression and therefore the effects are compounded.
I choose to use the definition of oppression that I learned in my Ethics of Diversity course. Oppression is discrimination backed up by institutional power. The concept of needing power in order to act as the oppressor is an important distinction from merely choosing to discriminate against someone. The main outcome of this definition is an understanding that while an underrepresented group could see and treat people different than themselves in as lesser way, they do not have the institutional power to oppress others.
I believe that I have established a solid foundation surrounding privileges and oppression due to the following factors: ethnicity/race, nation of origin, religion, gender and gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and age. I believe the most notable impact that these systems of oppression within the higher education system include the following:
Systems of oppression lead to unequal access to quality education. Lack of access to quality K-12 education makes oppressed groups less likely to access higher education, less likely to be well prepared for college, and less likely to graduate.  
Systems of oppression create uncomfortable, not supportive and sometimes hostile educational environments for students, which decreases their chances of success.


Oppression leads to minority groups not being adequately represented in student publications, student government, academic programs of study, and staff and faculty positions.


c.) While I have often chosen to consciously hide my identities in the name of teamwork I now see that this is neither possible nor beneficial. In order to challenge others to be culturally sensitive, I must bring my cultural identities to the table, be willing to acknowledge other peoples and work to ensure that the differences and diversity at the table are used to serve students in the best ways possible.

I must support and encourage others to share their cultural heritages and how these factors impact their work as student affairs professionals. I must create environments where people feel comfortable addressing issues related to cultural sensitivity without feeling judged or labeled as ignorant. I must value opportunities for growth in this area and support others in their pursuit of new information.

d.) See Data and Analysis










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3 Responses to “Multicultural Awareness”

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You have tapped into a very power and very emotionally tied experience here that very nicely frames your conversation concerning your own growth and development. I think a lot of European-American’s struggle with the concept of privilege and the way in which oppression still operates in our culture. Obviously, Peggy McIntosh did an incredible job of detailing the concept and it is up to us to continue the conversation. I appreciate your approach here and hope that I can provide any opportunity for shared learning in this regard.

Portfolio Evaluation Comments: Very good. Cultivating a multicultural competency is very much steeped in self-awareness and self-exploration, and you obviously have worked extremely hard on this in your two year s in CSSA.

One question I have (and may ask at your defense) is how you envision this competency playing out in your job search. How are you going to read a prospective job or institution through the lens of this multicultural awareness? What are your deal breakers in terms of an institutional/departmental mission and values when it comes to diversity? This isn’t necessarily something you have to write on, but the blog gives you the potential to reflect on your job search while you are in it.

I’d encourage you to post a link to your ”environmental audit” PowerPoint presentation here.

Eric wonders how I would rate myself on the Milton Bennett model of intercultural sensitivity and whether or not I think that I can really evaluate myself in this regards. Paper on the model can be found at
Having quickly re-read the principles behind the model I’d put myself somewhere on the front side of Adaptation. I believe that I am just now starting to intentionally develop intercommunication skills and have started to recognize the reference shifts with regards to cultural difference but still find them hard to articulate and back up with research or personal experiences.
As for whether or not I can accurately do a self-assessment here, I would have to say no. After all I might think that I’m saying things or acting in ways that are culturally sensitive but until someone else observes and critiques me, I am left without necessary feedback. It really shouldn’t be me who gets to decide if I’m interculturally sensitive, but instead the people around me who could have positive or negative responses to my attempts at cultural sensitivity. With this being said, self-assessment in this area can be a good place to start as long as there others are available to challenge the assessment and make suggestions for how to improve, I do not see it as an ineffective exercise.

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