Cross Cultural Interactions
Helping Skills for Student Affairs Professionals I
Instructor: Dr. Deborah Hamilton, D.Ed., LICSW
Multiculturalism (or ethnic diversity) relates to communities containing multiple
cultures. As a normative term, it refers to ideologies or policies that promote diversity. Shared
values, beliefs, expectations, symbols, worldviews and behaviors of a group that provides its
people with rules and norms for living socially is known as a culture. In this sense,
multiculturalism is a society “at ease with the rich tapestry of human life and the desire
amongst people to express their own identity in the manner they see fit.” Interactions of
cultures provide opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to
create multiculturalism. Individuals that share a common origin and a unique social and cultural
heritage is known as shared ethnicity.
In higher education, one of the most common fundamental values of a multicultural
curriculum is inclusion. As educators, and future administrators one should feel an ethical
responsibility to raise awareness of multiculturalism to develop certain social skills, and ensure
the welfare of multicultural students and students in general. Counselors and other
professionals should monitor their own behaviors related to different cultures.
In terms of obstacles, there are some challenges when addressing the issue of
multiculturalism. Some critiques argue that such a curriculum would water down the skills and
knowledge a student needs to succeed or that race should not be included in this debate.
The journey toward multiculturalism is a lifelong developmental process that needs a
certain level of support from our personal, educational and work environments, as well as a
sanctioned commitment at the professional level by professional organizations and
Diversity and issues of cross-cultures are central to most important
conversations and discussions that take place on many of your colleges / university
campuses in the United States today. Several departments within Student Affairs
Divisions in a lot of institutions of higher education are faced everyday with the
challenge of not only making sure they are in agreement with their college’s mission
statement, but also ensuring that they maintainand abide by important ethnic policies,
procedures and practices.The makeup of our student bodies are changing continually by
becoming more racially diverse, older, more international, and more openly lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) (Reynolds 2009). Diversity within higher
education has taken on a new meaning. In the past, when referring to diversity on a
college campus, one might automatically think of race involving a student of color, but
on today’s campuses, a person cannot be quick jump to conclusions or instantly make
any assumptions until they have heard all the facts, because the parties involved could
have a totally different issue unrelated to race or culture.
A lot of experts would probably argue that technology and computers are the
wave of the future in higher education, but in my opinion, Multicultural Competence
Awareness coupled with Counseling are vital components, necessary in creating and
maintaining a safe, fair, healthy, and peaceful university environment conducive for all
faculty, staff, and students to be successful. (MCA) has been the core foundation in the
field of counseling for the past thirty years. I believe that counseling is a basic
fundamental construct in the division of Student Affairs, and relates to all disciple
departments within higher education.
Cross Cultural Interactions sounds like an easy subject to discuss and work within in
terms of higher education, but the fact of the matter is that it is a very difficult and complex
area within colleges / universities, and one must possess a high level of skill, knowledge and
training when addressing this issue with students, faculty and staff. In my opinion, as a
professional, there is no such thing as too much training when working with a sensitive topic as
multiculturalism in higher education. Economically, society is in a state of panic and individuals
are very desperate in their everyday situations, and as educators and administrators in the field
of education, we have to act very cautiously when interacting and working with various cultures
on issues of culture and fairplay.
The subject of Cross Cultural Interactions focuses on three levels of understanding, self-
awareness, the nature of mankind, and inter-cultural similarities and differences. Once insight
and knowledge is gained, an individual can begin to understand the life of others. It is within
these frameworks that we can begin to grasp the meaning of cross-culture interaction. The
training for this interaction does not concentrate solely on differences between cultures.
Rather, participants learn what each one is bringing to an issue and why they have a particular
view or opinion. The information gained from this approach allows people to become a multi-
cultural community and communicate on an entire different level where empathy can
beexercised, and through this method, participants will have the opportunity to develop a true
sense of relationship.
However, this method of communication among different culturesrequires a high level of
honesty, being non-judgmental, integrity, and morals for all who participate. I feel this is the
greatest challenge we as Student Affairs Professionals face.
If I were to administer a self-assessment evaluation of my level of competence relating
to model figure 1.1, I would have to say that I am a work in progress. Some areas I would score
well, and in others, I would probably score low. The competencies that I would rate well in,
would fall under helping and advising, multicultural awareness, administration/management,
andteaching and training. The reason why I would score well in those areas are because of my
past personal experiences growing and maturing as an African American male, as a professional
athlete who has traveled and lived all over the world experiencing a multitude of different
cultures first hand, and my experience in the work force in terms of the various positions/titles
I’ve attained, more importantly, because of my religious backgroundbeliefs, which umbrella
many characteristics that assist me in the area of student affairs, such as integrity, honesty,
morals, values, patience, understanding and empathy.
On the other hand, the areas I feel I need to gain additional knowledge in would
beassessment/research, ethics/professional standards, and theory and translation. My reason
for stating this is because, I feel through research and theory translation practices, one can
allow his or her self the opportunity to gain a deeper, more profound understanding of various
groups/cultures and discover new philosophical strategies to meet some of the challenges and
obstacles that currently exist in the field.
Studies have shown that there is a joint lack of knowledge present in higher education in
terms of a true unified definition of multiculturalism. Without a mutual understanding of the
definition of multiculturalism, it is difficult for student affairs practitioners to develop common
goals and expectations about what constitutes successful cross-cultural interactions. (Reynolds
2009). This is a serious problem among colleges, universities and society in general. It is my
belief that having the ability and courage to address cross-cultural issues is the one main
ingredient missing from society that no one is willing to discuss openly and honestly. It
continues to forever be the pink elephant in the room, people cringe and are so fearful at the
mere mention of the word “race” or “multiculturalism”, but in the same token, whether we
want to admit it or not, it stands in the forefront of just about every major issue in our world
today. We as a world have to continue to strive to discover ways to address this issue openly
without fear or hesitation.
I agree with Reynolds, in our required reading, that this work must continue to be
supported by different agencies and professional national / local associations. Preparation and
training programs at various undergraduate and graduate level institutions must continue to
increase awareness regarding the issues surrounding multiculturalism. Finally, as individuals, I
believe that each person owes it to themselves and their fellow man to continue to educate
themselves and others of the dangers of unfair treatment and discrimination regarding
multiculturalism. Educating, raising awareness, and changing negative views when needed are
not only my plans for the next several months, but for the rest of my life, that road to success,
will always be under construction.