Multicultural Competency in Student Affairs


Rachael Pocklington
Communications Manager, Student Affairs

Sidebar Content
No sidebar content submitted.

Summary Sentence:

No summary sentence submitted.

Full Summary:

Dr. Toti Perez, director of the Counseling Center, and Dean Stephanie Ray, assistant dean and director of Student Diversity Programs, discuss the deployment of a long-term plan to help guide the Division and its staff through a comprehensive process designed to build multicultural competency.

  • Representative Flags in Student Services Building Representative Flags in Student Services Building

Last May, the Division of Student Affairs officially began the deployment of a long-term plan to help guide the Division and its staff through a comprehensive process designed to build multicultural competency.  While multicultural competency is a relatively well-known and practiced philosophy in higher education, there is much opportunity at Georgia Tech to improve our understanding of what it really means to be multicultural competent and how to practice it in our day to day lives.

To get a better understanding of the Division’s multicultural competency plan including the motivation to develop this plan, I went straight to our resident subject experts in student affairs, Dr. Toti Perez, director of the Counseling Center, and Dean Stephanie Ray, associate dean and director of Student Diversity Programs. Aside from being the co-chairs of the Student Affairs Multicultural Competency Committee, both represented Georgia Tech and the Division of Student Affairs during this summer’s National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in New York in presenting “A Student Affairs Approach to Developing a Multicultural Competence Strategic Plan.”      

Let’s start with the basics. What does it mean to be multicultural competent?

Perez: It is really a combination of three factors. One, an awareness of biases and assumptions. Second, factual knowledge of other cultures. Third, acquiring the skill set needed to develop effective programming, policies and service delivery which embody awareness and knowledge.

Ray: Yes, it is not enough to have the awareness and knowledge. You actually have to do something with it. That’s what sets multicultural competency apart and makes it a vital component in what we do in Student Affairs.

What was the reasoning for developing a multicultural competency strategic plan?       

Perez: We have very good diversity initiatives, but up until now there was no real road map on how to tie it all together. This is where the multicultural strategic plan comes in – to help bring all these elements together. Compared to our peer institutes, Tech is quite diverse and this gives us a real point of positive differentiation. But Tech is not currently at the forefront of multicultural competency. This plan will bring Student Affairs at Georgia Tech into the new age of diversity in higher education across the nation.

Ray: The plan will help the Division practice what it preaches. The goal is to give all staff in the Division the opportunity to build awareness, increase their knowledge and develop the skill set to effectively work in an increasingly diverse campus community which includes students, staff, faculty and parents.

It is a very exciting time to be involved in such an important initiative. For one, our student population is increasingly diverse – just look at the increase in non-Georgia resident students this coming year. The Institute’s strategic plan, after which our Division’s plan is modeled, also speaks specifically to (Multicultural Competency) in its goals and strategies to the need to “…recruit, retain and engage a diverse cadre of students, faculty and staff with a wide variety of backgrounds, perspectives, interest, and talents.” These are the exact words, and the multicultural plan provides direction on how the Division can help us achieve this goal.

While multicultural competency is embedded in the Division’s strategic plan and is pervasive in much of what we do, we felt that it was important enough to warrant its own plan with its own specific strategies and measures for success.      

What are the expectations born from the plan?

Perez: One would be to implement professional development opportunities. We’d like to see an online library for staff to access to help build their awareness and increase their knowledge of diverse cultures. Training of course is vital and so is the recognition that staff has completed the training.  

There also needs to be honest understanding of our current multicultural environment and what we aspire to be years from now. This plan helps uncover the milestones necessary to get there. 

Lastly, it needs to penetrate the entire Division and that means all departments and units will be responsible for incorporating multicultural competency into their respective goals.

How can departments incorporate multicultural competency into their goals?

Ray: It is actually easier than it sounds. The first step is understanding where you are today and where do you want to go. Individually, it can mean attending diversity workshops and other professional development opportunities. From a departmental and programmatic viewpoint, it begins with assessing the needs of the populations you serve and developing a plan to provide a more inclusive environment.

Now that the plan is coming to life, what can the Division look forward to in the upcoming months?

Ray: There are a lot of components to the plan and we do need to take it step by step. Our immediate next step is to develop the metrics for the strategies. We hope to accomplish this in fall 2012.  The plan will be the central component of the fall Division meeting scheduled for October 15. We are excited that Dr. Archive Erivn, Vice President for Institute Diversity, will be on hand to give welcoming remarks. We are very fortunate to have the support of Dr. Ervin and his office as we embark upon implementing the plan.

You both presented this plan at last summer’s National Conference on Race and Ethnicity. How was it perceived by others in higher education?

Perez: The feedback was extremely positive. There were 35 attendees at the presentation – all student affairs chief officers at their schools. There were many thank-yous for doing this work on behalf of the student affairs profession. There were very enthusiastic about the metrics.

Ray: Yes, one woman approached me and said, “This is exactly what we were looking for!” Toti and I have been invited back next year to conduct a pre-conference which will allow us delve deeper into the plan, including the metrics, as well as to show them how the plan has evolved since this past summer. It is a great opportunity and a true honor to represent Georgia Tech in this capacity.   

Related Links

Additional Information


Student Life

No categories were selected.
Related Core Research Areas
No core research areas were selected.
Newsroom Topics
No newsroom topics were selected.
diversity, multicultural
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Aug 27, 2012 - 11:22am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:12pm