As our society is becoming progressively diverse, it is more important to prepare students to be active participants of the community and gain leadership skills (Zuniga, Williams & Berger, 2005). Many institutions of higher education have developed initiatives to increase diversity on their campuses. Despite university efforts to increase access and equity for individuals from diverse backgrounds, the concept of increasing the numbers is not sufficient to create multicultural changes in the infrastructures (Castellanos, Gloria, Mayorga & Salas, 2015). As the demographics in institutions of higher education changes over time, the student affairs professionals need to change their strategies in working with diverse students from various backgrounds in order to meet their needs. Student affairs professionals usually receive training on how to work with students in different roles. However, they need to know how to help students from different cultural backgrounds to become successful as college students.
One of the most important aspects of campus life is the residential life. Residential students spend about 70% of their college time and experience in residence halls (Cummings, 2010). Therefore, they potentially have frequent interaction with other students in the hall and also the professional staff working there. Intensity and frequency of student interactions with Housing staff (especially resident assistants) is actually much greater than contact with faculty members. (Evans & Broido, 1999).
After the passage of the Civil Rights and also the Higher Education Acts in the 1960s, and since the time that diversity was included in the institutions’ strategic plans, different students from diverse groups began enrolling in colleges and universities in exceptional numbers (Engberg, 2014). As a result, the number of these students increased in residence halls as well and the environment became increasingly diverse. Different groups of people who live in residence halls include male and female students, students from different races and ethnicities, students with disabilities, students with different sexual orientations, students with different religions and international students. Each of these student groups comes from a different cultural background and has special needs and expectations which should be met by residence life staff to help them become successful in their academic and social life (Cummings, 2010). Therefore, this paper aims to investigate why resident assistants (RAs) need to be multiculturally competent and how can diversity training help facilitate this process.
Since resident assistants share the residence hall as both their living and work space and as their interaction with different students is higher than that of other staff, it is imperative that they gain the essential multicultural competency to be able to support the students and meet their needs. Residence life staffs encounter many interpersonal conflicts which requires them to become familiar with proper cultural solutions. Therefore, this profession needs various areas of knowledge and skills. However, the problem is that many residence life staff get some kind of training to enter these positions and leave the positions after two or three years. This frequent turnover does not allow the departments to enhance their training (Cummings, 2010).
Another problem is the lack attention to diversity training. One of the main roles that RAs play is the teaching role. When students enter the campus, they look for campus leaders to help them and teach them the campus behaviors. Students in the residence halls refer to their RAs, and it is the RA’s responsibility to model good behavior to them and teach them how to behave on a diverse campus. According to Pope, Reynolds and Mueller (2004), student affairs professionals may be involved in two types of teaching: Direct and indirect. Direct teaching refers to teaching courses in higher education programs, and training for professional development. The indirect teaching in which the RAs are usually involved is done by providing services and programs to students and creating a positive environment for them in the residence halls, and shaping meaningful relationships among students through activities. This type of teaching which requires daily involvement in student lives, has valuable educational outcomes. However, it demands intentional interventions and training (especially with respect to multicultural diversity) to be successful.
The Role of Training in Resident Assistants’ Multicultural Competence
Resident assistants comprise a significant number of student leaders on campus and are expected to be role models for other students. Student affairs practitioners who live and work in residence halls face the challenge of creating a living environment that values cultural diversity. The issue is how to effectively enhance the ability of these practitioners to become multiculturally competent (Watt, Howard-Hamilton & Fairchild, 2003). The residential life professionals should have a level of multicultural competence. Being multiculturally competent means that one integrates the issues of ethnicity, race, gender, age, religion, culture and sexual orientation while working in a helping position. According to Pope, Reynolds and Mueller (2004), multicultural competence requires awareness, knowledge and skills by which one can identify issues of social justice and create a multiculturally sensitive environment. Accordingly, RAs should foster an environment where students are able to fully express themselves, utilize different resources and obtain a sense of belonging to the residence hall and the whole campus (Claros, Garcia, Johnston‐Guerrero, & Mata, 2017).
Multicultural awareness refers to the values, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and self-awareness that student affairs professionals need to serve those students who are culturally different from them (Reynolds & Pope, 1997). The inaccurate awareness of culture including stereotypes and biases, and the false assumptions must be changed if one desires to develop multicultural competence. Multicultural knowledge refers to the information one has about different cultures. The inaccurate and incomplete information about other cultures should be corrected. Multicultural skills refers to the meaningful and effective interaction with people who are from different cultures. According to Pedersen, Developing multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills is a “continuing and unending process that requires learning and relearning” (1988, p. 107).
Due to the educational policies which urged institutions of higher education to increase enrolling students from underrepresented groups over the last few decades, colleges and universities have increased their racial and ethnical diversity (Harwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, Lewis, 2012). However despite the numerical diversity, underrepresented students in predominantly white institutions do not have a positive perception of the campus climate. These universities have not tried to change the campus climate. Thus underrepresented students experience an adverse environment which results in great amount of stress, poor academic achievement, and mental health problems.
Although the residence halls house a diverse group of students, and a great amount of responsibility is placed on the resident assistants to help students and orient them, set expectations and negotiate differences, etc., not much has been done to prepare them for challenges like these. No benefits will be derived from the inclusion of diversity in residence halls if residential staff do not have the knowledge and skills to know how to deal with issues of diversity and encourage active participation of diverse students in all programs and activities.
Resident assistants are the first individuals that residents come to with their problems associated with college experience and seek for help and direction (Kang, Johnson & Thompson, 2011). Therefore, It is really important that they get essential training to be able to assist students with the problems they face. Many residents and RAs experience living with people from different cultures for the first time in residence halls. Residents may seek help from the RAs in dealing with situations arising from encountering with residents of different cultural groups. RAs are expected to teach or facilitate diversity in residence halls when they have not received the training on how to facilitate or direct these conversations (Donahue, 2015). This makes the RA training of cultural diversity increasingly important. Such kind of training should help the RAs promote their comprehension of cultural diversity, connect residents of diverse cultural backgrounds, and foster cultural understanding of the residents.
Studies show that “the perceptions residents have of residence hall staff are an important indicator of the sense of acceptance felt by cultural groups in the residence halls” (Kang et al., 2011, p. 40). For example, in a predominantly white institution where all RAS are white, African American and Asian American residents’ perception of the RAs is more negative than that of the white residents. These findings indicate how residents relate culturally to the staff working in their residence hall.
On the other hand, RAs are usually undergraduates at the same age or just a few years older than other residents, and do not have enough multicultural experiences as most of them have been surrounded by the people like themselves for their whole life. Despite the fact mentioned, they are required to foster multicultural understanding and growth among residents and create an environment in which all residents from diverse backgrounds feel welcome. Accordingly, they are expected to facilitate student success and provide a positive experience for residents in the residence halls (Kang et al., 2011).
Studies show that resident assistants usually do not know how to create a positive environment and build a relationship with all residents from different cultural backgrounds as they have not been trained on how to do that (Johnson et al., 2007). In most institutions, African American students, international students, students with disabilities (and even sometimes female students) are isolated and do not socialize with other residents. Furthermore, the RAs do not try to help these students get connected to other students and feel welcome and comfortable in that environment. One reason is because some RAs are not communicative enough themselves and do not know how to facilitate a conversation with a resident from an underrepresented group to encourage them to get out of their rooms and start socializing with diverse residents. When they do not have this skill, they will not be able to model it for the residents to learn how to deal with diversity in their residence halls. In addition, although there is an abundant emphasis on connection to students in RA training, the skills related to that are not taught to the RAs.
Although residence hall social and cultural climate is partially created by the residents, it is mainly shaped by the residential life staffs and their multicultural vision (Johnson et al., 2007). Based on a research, African American, Asian Pacific American and Hispanic students do not have a strong sense of belonging to the residence halls and the campus in general compared to White students (Johnson et al., 2007). Another study on the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women shows that many of them experience a hostile environment in their residence halls because of the lack of support, and harassment from residents and resident assistants (Evans & Broido, 2002).
Pascarella and Terenzini and Blimling (1994) believe that living in residence halls have several benefits for the students including experiencing a welcoming and socializing environment which fosters the sense of belonging, empathy, tolerance and active thinking, openness to diversity and greater engagement. However, how can the students reap these benefits if an RA does not have enough skills to facilitate this process and make a welcoming environment?
Since RAs need intense training in many areas, some aspects of their position may be neglected in training programs, and therefore not every issue is covered and addressed equally (Kang et.al, 2011). As RAs try to help their residents with a wide range of issues, they may become overwhelmed without receiving proper training. Diversity training is one of those areas which does not receive a lot of attention in RA training and as a result RAs do not get the required knowledge and skills to be able to handle the situations associated with it. Thus, it is essential to develop effective diversity training and focus on that as an essential long-life learning.
The intervention strategy I propose uses three steps of assessment, designing diversity training, and evaluation for contributing multiculturalism into Resident Assistant training program. There is a great need to train RAs in the area of diversity as the campuses are increasingly becoming diverse. However, it is important for the student affairs professionals to know how to design effective training to improve the performance of individual practitioners on campus.
To assist RAs in promoting cultural understanding of the residents, it is important to assess their level of readiness and confidence in dealing with issues associated with diversity based on the experiences they had before. It can be done by developing a questionnaire to find out if the RAs’ previous relationships with different people have provided them with the confidence to interact with diverse students in the residence hall. This, for example, can be figured out by asking questions about the neighborhood in which they used to live, or friends they have made in their life. Based on a study by Milem and Umbach (2003), over 75% of White students come from White neighborhoods and therefore did not have many opportunities to interact with people who were different from them. Consequently, they are not able to form opinions of cultural diversity based on their personal experiences and may make judgements according to the stereotypes they have in their minds. This phase of the training helps the RAs to increase their self-awareness and become aware of their own values and assumptions. It will also teach the RAs to assess the level of their residents’ openness to diversity and social justice in the beginning of the year.
According to the facts mentioned, before trying to promote RAs’ appreciation for diversity, the Housing staffs need to make sure what kind of knowledge RAs have about diverse groups, and then develop appropriate strategies to modify some of the stereotypes and assumptions they have. It is beneficial to assess RAs’ motivation and skill level early in the training to enhance the learning process and as a result make the training more efficient (Kennedy, 2009). Consequently, goals and objectives of the training should be specified based on the assessment of the RAs’ knowledge, attitude and skills. In order to do that, I suggest the designers to focus on the first level of this model as it highly determines the objectives and the design of the training program based on the level of RAs’ readiness and confidence in facing diversity issues.
Designing diversity training
The next step would be designing the training based on the assessment and the defined objectives and desired outcomes. Stewart and Peal (2001) discussed that lecture-based training is not the most appropriate training for RAs as it does not change their perspective on cultural diversity. Therefore, I believe a set of professional training which transforms the underlying knowledge and beliefs should be presented to the RAs. In order to help the RAs improve their skills in diversity areas, universities should provide an ongoing training for them throughout the academic year. In most institutions, training happens as a pre-service requirement in the fall in one to three weeks and prepares the RAs for their roles in the residence halls. Limited amount of information can be presented in this limited time, and no additional training is offered during the year (Whithney, Early, Whisler, 2016). Furthermore, the information cannot be effectively absorbed by the RAs in a short period of time. I believe training designers should connect the RA development to a curricula or in-service training all over the year. While very little diversity training is provided to the RAs prior to the beginning of the semester, ongoing in-service diversity training throughout the year can focus on how to deal with the issues as they arise. The set of ongoing training I propose includes sharing experiences, case studies and cultural diversity training videos.
I think it would be beneficial if RAs share the experiences they have had in confronting different situations associated with diversity in residence halls and how they handled it. Study shows that it would also be a great opportunity to incorporate returning RAs’ experiences and perspectives into training as they provide significant insights and a knowledge base for the new RAs (Kennedy, 2009). “New RAs look up to their more experienced peers and value their perspectives” (Kennedy, 2009, p. 4). This activity should be facilitated by a professional staff to direct the discussions in a right way and help the RAs identify their own assumptions and think deeply about the existing issues to identify what they would do if they faced the same situation. It will also increase their knowledge of different cultures as the other RAs talk about their own challenges and the information they acquired in those situations. This part of the ongoing training can be a kind of reflection on what RAs have learnt through interaction with other students.
Case studies are one of the best ways to facilitate the development of RAs’ knowledge and skills. Since most of the RAs in predominantly White institutions have not experienced what it means to be a minority group, they have a hard time identifying their issues (Stewart & Peal, 2001). Therefore, Case studies should provide RAs with the fears and struggles that students from underrepresented groups may face in a new cultural environment. This will raise multicultural knowledge among RAs. Furthermore, the case studies should be done individually and then in groups so that the RAs have time to think about the case and the possible solutions. Then, the group discussion provides the opportunity for each individual to expand their worldview as they become familiar with different perspectives. This part of the training should also be facilitated by a professional or someone who is familiar with the characteristics of different groups to give accurate information to the RAs and help them improve their cultural diversity knowledge. Next, RAs can perform role playing related to the case studies to practice skills required for multicultural issues arising in residence halls. This will provide new RAs with the opportunities to apply what they have learnt, and obtain helpful feedback from their peers and supervisors (Kennedy, 2009). It is also important to mention that it would be more helpful to choose case studies which reflect the most common issues at that institution.
Cultural diversity training videos
One way to make RAs familiar with different groups of underrepresented people is training through visual documentary clips about the history and fact of the lives of those groups. This activity should be highly goal-oriented to help the RAs become aware of their own privilege, and also the wrong assumptions and stereotypes they hold. Furthermore, it should be thought-provoking and increase their knowledge about cultural groups to make them feel the necessity of gaining essential skills to know how to deal with different people from diverse groups and how to advocate for them. Visual training is usually more impressive especially when they illustrate the facts and realities in life. They open people’s eyes and make them think deeply about how they can play a role to make a difference. This activity needs to be more than just watching and listening. Therefore, a facilitator should direct a discussion to let the RAs know that they can be allies for underrepresented groups to help their voices be heard. This part of the program can lead to ally training when students become determined enough to be allies.
RAs usually receive a small portion of training on issues of diversity each year, but there is almost no measurement of how effective this learning experience has been throughout the academic year. Therefore, it is necessary and also helpful to evaluate RAs’ experiences with cultural diversity issues and the way how they have dealt with those situations. This evaluation can be done by a final self-reflection and survey and comparing it with the one done in the beginning of the year. Moreover, it is important to get feedback from RAs to see what has worked best for them in diversity training, and ask for their suggestions and ideas as they are the ones who have constant interactions with residents and their experiences are precious. Consequently, the evaluation will provide the opportunity to find the strengths and weaknesses of the training programs in order to promote it for future purposes.
Different students from diverse groups who enter universities and live in residence halls have different needs and expectations which should be met. Residents from underrepresented groups should be welcomed and gain a sense of belonging in a positive environment and in their relationships with others. It is the responsibility of resident assistants as the student affairs practitioner with whom the residents have immediate interactions to provide this positive and welcoming environment. However, it would be a really difficult and overwhelming task for them if they do not get the appropriate diversity training to gain multicultural competence and become confident and able to deal with diversity-related issues. Therefore, RA training designers should pay enough attention to this aspect of the training. It would be beneficial to assess the RAs’ level of multicultural competence, design the training based on that, and finally evaluate the effectiveness of the training for future improvements.
References with Annotated Bibliography
Castellanos, J., Gloria, A. M., Mayorga, M. M., & Salas, C. (2007). Student affairs professionals’ self-report of multicultural competence: Understanding awareness, knowledge, and skills. NASPA Journal, 44(4), 643-663.
This study aims to investigate how student affairs professionals perceive their own multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills. To do that, 81 female and 19 male student affairs professionals were selected to participate in the study. Form this population, 47 were Whites and 51 were racial minorities. The data were collected from the information provided by the participants through a survey and a demographic sheet. The results showed that males reported higher level of multicultural awareness compared to females. However, no differences were revealed based on the sociorace. The major limitation of the study was the nonrandom sampling which limits the transferability of the results.
Claros, S. C., Garcia, G. A., Johnston‐Guerrero, M. P., & Mata, C. (2017). Helping students understand intersectionality: Reflections from a dialogue project in residential life. New Directions for Student Services, 2017(157), 45-55.
This study aims at helping students in resident halls better understand intersectionality. It describes residential life as the primary setting for integrating intersectionality into events, programs and interventions. As a result, it designed and implemented a certain residential program named Intersectional Dialogue Project (IDP) based on the main themes of intersectionality. Finally, the insights gained from the experiences with IDP were applied to find additional ways of incorporating intersectionality in residential life. The limitation of the study is the small sample size which included 10 resident assistants from different backgrounds. This would make the study less generalizable.
Cummings, K. J. (2010). Are residence life professionals culturally competent? An exploration of the perceived multicultural counseling competence of residence life professionals new to the field.
The purpose of this study is to examine the multicultural counseling competence among residence life professionals who are new to this field. The researcher used the Multicultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness Scale as well as a demographic questionnaire to collect data. The results indicated that there exist positive relationships between race and multicultural awareness, field experiences and multicultural knowledge, completing a multicultural counseling coursework and multicultural knowledge. The study finally included some implications of the findings for student affairs professionals. One limitation to the study is that the results come from the RAs’ perspectives, not the students they are helping. This can make the results a little subjective and provides the need for further research.
Donahue, B. P. (2015). Impact of being a resident assistant on student’s academic success.
The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of being a resident assistant on a student’s academic success. A quantitative data was sent to 175 RAs at a public research university to assess their academic success approaches, and six RAs were interviewed to gain a deeper insight into the subject and get more accurate results. The findings indicated that the RA’s behaviors and motivation, the environment in which they live and work and the academic success can impact one another. The use of mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) is considered as a strength of the study which makes the results more believable and reliable.
Engberg, M. E. (2004). Improving intergroup relations in higher education: A critical examination of the influence of educational interventions on racial bias. Review of Educational Research, 74(4), 473-524.
This study investigates the impact of different educational interventions on students’ racial bias. The interventions included service-based interventions, diversity training and workshops, multicultural courses, and peer-based interventions. The overall effectiveness of the interventions was analyzed based on the measures and research designs. Finally, the author concluded that most of these interventions reduce racial bias effectively. I believe the study does not have any weaknesses as it has supported the idea with a detailed analysis of the interventions and provided comprehensive information on the pros and cons of each.
Evans, N. J., & Broido, E. M. (1999). Coming out in college residence halls: Negotiation, meaning making, challenges, supports. Journal of College Student Development, 40(6), 658-668.
This study examines the process of sexual orientation disclosure experienced by some gay, lesbian and bisexual students who live in residence halls in a research university. The participants are both male and female and from different cultural and racial backgrounds. The study reports how these students disclose their sexual identity, the factors that influence this process, and the reactions to this process. The constructivist framework is used to help individuals being studied make meaning of their experiences. The findings specify that coming out is a complex process, is impacted by numerous factors, and needs a range of support in the living environment. The authors finally make some recommendations to professionasl in this area to create more welcoming and inclusive environments for the mentioned student population in residence halls.
Evans, N. J., & Broido, E. M. (2002). The experiences of lesbian and bisexual women in college residence halls: Implications for addressing homophobia and heterosexism. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(3-4), 29-42.
This study aims at investigating the experiences of ten lesbian and bisexual students in residence halls at a large eastern research university. The participants were asked to describe their experiences and make meaning of them by utilizing open ended questions. Many of them reported a hostile environment in which they were directly or indirectly harassed as a result of lack of support from resident assistants and also their roommates. They also emphasized the importance of training residence hall staff on how to work with this student population and create a positive climate in residence halls. The study concluded that education and visibility are the main factors in helping these students be accepted as members of the community.
Harwood, S. A., Huntt, M. B., Mendenhall, R., & Lewis, J. A. (2012). Racial macroaggressions in the residence halls: Experiences of students of color at a predominantly White university. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 5(3), 159.
The aim of this study is to uncover the experiences of students of color in residence halls and how they perceive the campus climate. The data was gathered from 81 students of color in 11 focus groups in a predominantly White institution. The students were asked to provide the descriptive narrative of different types of macroaggressions they had experienced. Over 70 racial macroaggressions were identified in residence halls in the form of racial jokes, racial slurs, segregated spaces and denial of racism. The findings indicated that this student population experienced a more negative campus climate in comparison to White students. The major limitation of the study is that it focused on a single university and the findings may be unique to this university.
Johnson, D. R., Soldner, M., Leonard, J. B., Alvarez, P., Inkelas, K. K., Rowan-Kenyon, H. T., & Longerbeam, S. D. (2007). Examining sense of belonging among first-year undergraduates from different racial/ethnic groups. Journal of College Student Development, 48(5), 525-542.
The purpose of this study is to examine the sense of belonging among first year students. 2967 first year students from 34 universities were selected and the data were collected based on a scale developed by some experts regarding surveys. As a result, the relationship between different aspects of university environment and students’ sense of belonging was examined and analyzed. The findings indicated that Asian Pacific American students, African American studenst, and Hispanic students did not have a strong sense of belonging compared to White students. The large sample size can be considered as a strength of the study. A limitation associated with the study is that the data were collected between January and March. Therefore, there results do not show the whole first year experience.
Kang, Y. S., Johnson, V. D., & Thompson, G. F. (2011). Structural analysis of the resident assistant cultural diversity questionnaire. Journal of College & University Student Housing, 37(2).
This study examines the five factors of the Resident Assistant Cultural Diversity (RACD) model which helps evaluating the RAs’ confidence in dealing with cultural diversity issues in residence halls. The instrument was administrated on 364 RAs from three predominantly White universities to measure their belief and confidence in working with diverse residents, and evaluate the need for diversity training. The instrument proved to be useful in assessing RAs’ confidence in handling diversity issues. The weakness of the study is that it does not explain the procedures completely and mostly focuses on the results, which, I think, creates some confusions for the reader of how the research has been done.
Kennedy, D. F. (2009). Exploring how resident advisors create meaning of their paraprofessional fall training and its transfer: A constructivist case study. University of Northern Colorado.
This is a case study which explores 12 resident assistants’ training experiences to find out how they make meaning of the training, as well as how they apply what they have learned to the living community in their residence halls. The participants were selected from a public research university, and a qualitative case study design focusing on the collective, intrinsic and instrumental aspects was used to collect data. Five themes were identified based on the findings and analysis of the information: RA training structure, RA experience over the time, influence of the hall director, the importance of peer relationship, and content of the training remembered by RAs. Furthermore, some suggestions were provided to the training designers to improve the quality of the RA training. The main limitation of the study is its focus on one institution which makes it challenging to transfer the results to every institution as each institution has a different campus culture and diverse training strategies.
Milem, J. F., & Umbach, P. D. (2003). The influence of precollege factors on students’ predispositions regarding diversity activities in college. Journal of College Student Development, 44(5), 611-624.
The purpose of this study is to examine how students’ experience of diversity before entering the college affects their involvement in activities related to diversity in college. It also investigated how the students’ personality type and racial background would impact this involvement. The study utilized the data from a survey which studied the impact of diversity on educational outcomes of first-year students at a public research university in the US. Descriptive and multivariate analysis were used to analyze the data. The findings reflect that White students who come from predominantly White neighborhoods are least likely to engage in diversity-related programs. Strengths include focusing on different underrepresented groups such as African American, Latina, and Asian Pacific American.
Pascarella, E. T., Terenzini, P. T., & Blimling, G. S. (1994). The impact of residential life on students. Realizing the Educational Potential of Residence Halls, 22-52.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the importance of place of residence on students’ general outcomes. By synthesizing over 2600 studies, the authors concluded that the major impact that residence halls have on students is that they shape their interpersonal and social aspect of their lives, and do not do much about the academic growth. The study indicates that students who live in residence halls are more satisfied with the interpersonal environment of the campus, and are more able to foster their cognitive growth in areas other than academic life. One of the strengths of the study is the large number of the studies investigated which makes it more reliable.
Pedersen, P. (1988). A handbook for developing multicultural awareness. American Association for Counseling.
This book is a guide on how communication and cultural awareness can be improved among different cultural groups. It focuses on three stages of cultural development. The author discusses techniques of behavior modification, different dimensions of multicultural training, and the ways people can develop their multicultural identities. The guide also proposes some strategies to help students identify cultural stereotypes and overcome them.
Pope, R. L., Reynolds, A. L., & Mueller, J. A. (2004). Multicultural competence in student affairs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
This book is a unique guide for the student affairs practitioners and offers a model of core competencies with reference to multiple multicultural issues such as sexual orientation, religion, gender, class, race, abilities and age. It also contains useful models, theories and findings based on research. The authors focus on the importance of multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills for the student affairs professions to be able to work with students effectively. They provide a comprehensive model for gaining multicultural competence and explain how diversity influences different areas of student affairs.
Reynolds, A. L., & Pope R. L. (1997). Student affairs core competencies: Integrating multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. Journal of College Student Development, 38(3), 266-277.
This article suggests important aspects of multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills that are essential for an effective practice in student affairs positions. It also addresses the training implications of these competencies. The study mainly focuses on the student affairs core competencies and emphasized the need to be multiculturally competent in all of those areas. It finally concludes that as institutions of higher education become more diverse, there is a greater need for the practitioners in this field to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to work more effectively with students from diverse backgrounds.
Stewart, D. L., & Peal, D. A. (2001). How we can improve diversity training. About campus, 6(4), 25-27.
This study focuses on the problems why White resident assistants in predominantly White institutions are not able to fully understand and help residents from underrepresented groups. It mentions that White RAs cannot understand the fears and struggles of African American and international students as they have not experienced what it means to be a minority group. It finally discusses how diversity training can be improved, and transform RAs’ perspective. The authors explain the Otterbein College diversity workshop which leads to White students’ intellectual growth by letting them spend one day in a historically black institution to obtain an experience of being the “other” among African American students. The strength of the study is a focus on the experiences of White students in a real situation as being a minority group.
Watt, S. K., Howard-Hamilton, M. F., & Fairchild, E. (2003). An assessment of multicultural competence among residence advisors. Journal of College and University Student Housing, 32(2), 32-37.
This study assesses the RAs’ multicultural competence prior to training. The data were gathered from 455 RAs at four doctoral granting institutions, and the Social Response Inventory (SRI), which examines the multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills, was utilized as the instrument. SRI consists of some questions that gather demographic information, and some other questions which measure the multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills based on a semantic differential scale. The findings indicate that females had a higher level of multicultural competence than males. Furthermore, students from a lower socioeconomic status experience some kind of oppression and as a result are more multiculturally competent. The major strength of the study is the use of SRI as the instrument with the 7 point scale that makes more accurate measurements.
Whitney, R., Early, S., & Whisler, T. (2016). Create a Better Flow Through Sequencing Resident Assistant Training.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the pre-service training programs for resident assistants to design a training sequencing for them. 11 institutions across the nation were selected to provide the programming data for RA training. The results indicated that there existed a sequencing aspect to the pre-service training in these institutions. The proposed sequencing model includes categories of identity, skills, community development, programming, peer support, crisis intervention, synthesis, propriety and ongoing. A limitation to the study would be the small number of schools and lack of literature on the subject being studied. However, the results can be applied by other schools to expand and improve the model as needed.
Zuniga, X., Williams, E. A., & Berger, J. B. (2005). Action-oriented democratic outcomes: The impact of student involvement with campus diversity. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 660-678.
This article studied college students’ participation in activities and programs related to diversity and investigated its effect on their motivation to take actions to promote social justice. The study analyzed the data collected from a survey among the undergraduate students in three residence halls at a predominantly White institution. The results suggest that participation in diversity programs and courses, and interactions with diverse groups of students inspire them to question their own prejudices and fight for a diverse democracy. The major limitation of this study is its focus on a single institution which makes it less generalizable to other institutions.
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