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The journey of developing multicultural competence : A phenomenological exploration of lived experience in student affairs professionals Public Deposited

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  • Prior research has noted the changing demographics of higher education since the Civil Rights Movement and the expanded need for multicultural education. Armando Hernandez Morales (2003) wrote that, “A multiculturally competent person is aware of and knowledgeable about cultural differences, their own cultural identity, and the history and contemporary struggles of marginalized groups” (Morales, retrieved 2005). This study adds to the field by examining the life experiences that led to the development of multicultural competence in student affairs professionals using a qualitative research method. Seven co-researchers were selected from a pool of 17 adults who were currently working or had recently worked in student affairs and who had been nominated by their peers for demonstrating multicultural competencies. Each of the co-researchers was posed with five prompts. The co-researchers’ responses were recorded, transcribed, reviewed by the co-researcher, and then analyzed using phenomenology, a qualitative research method outlined by Moustakas (1994). The first step in this process was the Epoche, where the researcher disclosed her personal relationship to the questions. Themes from the interviews were clustered into 14 themes that were then categorized into three realms: personal, professional, and structural/institutional. The research concluded, within the personal realm, that the development of multicultural competence begins with a personal awareness of one’s own multicultural background and an internal motivation for self-improvement. Within the professional realm, in addition to continual training, it is necessary to operate under a shared vision and philosophy, and develop effective communication channels between departments. Finally, in the structural realm, leadership must act under a set of guiding principles that value diversity and equity, and that require the development of multicultural competencies. This study adds a qualitative perspective to the field of multicultural competence, illuminates the role of student affairs in this field, suggests ways to support graduate training programs develop these skills in student affairs professionals, and demonstrates the significance of personal background as the foundation of multicultural competence.
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