The relationships between multicultural competence, racial identity, and multicultural education and experiences among student affairs professionals responsible for first-year student orientation programs
Weigand, Matthew Joseph
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As the student population in American colleges and universities becomes increasingly diverse, it has been argued that multicultural competence should be acknowledged and integrated as a core competency for the profession. However, there is relatively little research on multicultural competence in student affairs, particularly as it relates to specific functional areas. This study, focusing on professionals responsible for first-year student orientation programs, explored the relationships between multicultural competence and racial identity, multicultural education and experiences, and demographic variables. Additionally, it explored the relationship between varying levels of multicultural competence and (1) the relative diversity of orientation student staffs; (2) the degree to which multicultural issues are addressed in orientation student staff training; and (3) the inclusion of multicultural programs during first-year student orientation programs. A national sample of 198 orientation professionals was solicited through professional association listservs and through the use of snowball sampling technique. Each participant completed four self-report instruments via a web survey. Ex-post facto correlational design was employed and correlations and regression analyses were utilized to examine the possible relationships between the variables considered. Several important findings emerged from this study. First, race and identification with a socially marginalized group correlated significantly with multicultural competence. Second, racial identity was strongly related to multicultural competence, even when controlling for the influence of demographic variables and social desirability. Third, multicultural education and multicultural experience contributed uniquely and significantly to multicultural competence. Fourth, the combination of racial identity, multicultural education, and multicultural experience significantly predicted multicultural competence scores. And finally, while no significant relationships were found between multicultural competence and the three specific areas of orientation practice examined, the study provided evidence that more direct connections between multicultural competence research and practice are needed. The implications of this study are discussed, focusing on student affairs training and development, orientation practice, measurement of multicultural competence, and directions for future research. In sum, this study contributes to the heretofore limited literature addressing multicultural competence in student affairs, specifically within the functional area of orientation.