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Learning Center Experience
By Lisa D. Belfield, EdD, Kaplan University College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Adjunct Faculty
language do you speak? What is your religion? What holidays do you celebrate?
What is your racial identification? What is your ethnic identity? What is your
is that which shapes us; it shapes our identity and influences our behavior.
Culture is our “way of being,” more specifically, it refers to the shared
language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and material objects that are
passed down from one generation to the next.1
to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2009 population in America was:
Each race encompasses a multitude of different ethnic groups. An
ethnic group refers to people who are closely related to each other through
characteristics such as culture, language, and religion.3 There are many ethnic groups in the United
States, due in large part to its immigrant population; each of these groups
contributes to America’s cultural heritage. From African Americans to Russian
Americans, the United States is one of the most diverse nations in terms of
What does it mean to be “culturally diverse”?
term “culturally diverse” is often used interchangeably with the concept of
“multiculturalism.” Multiculturalism is defined as:
“…a system of beliefs and behaviors that recognizes and respects the
presence of all diverse groups in an organization or society, acknowledges andvalues their
socio-cultural differences, and encourages and enables their
continued contribution within an inclusive cultural context which empowers all
within the organization or society.4
Dr. Caleb Rosado, who specializes in diversity and multiculturalism, described
seven important actions involved in the definition of multiculturalism:5
Why is cultural diversity a “good thing”?
is the lens with which we evaluate everything around us; we evaluate what is
proper or improper, normal or abnormal, through our culture. If we are immersed
in a culture that is unlike our own we may experience culture shock and become
disoriented when we come into contact with a fundamentally different culture.
People naturally use their own culture as the standard to judge other cultures;
however, passing judgment could reach a level where people begin to
discriminate against others whose “ways of being” are different than their
own—essentially, we tend to fear that which we do not understand.
diversity is important because our country, workplaces, and schools
increasingly consist of various cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. We can
learn from one another, but first we must have a level of understanding about
each other in order to facilitate collaboration and cooperation. Learning about
other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within the world in
which we live, and helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about
addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that
are not necessarily our own, so that as we interact with others we can build
bridges to trust, respect, and understanding across cultures. Furthermore, this
diversity makes our country a more interesting place to live, as people from
diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new
knowledge, and different experiences.
How can you support cultural diversity?
diversity supports the idea that every person can make a unique and positive
contribution to the larger society because of, rather than in spite of, their
differences. Imagine a place where diversity is recognized and respected;
various cultural ideas are acknowledged and valued; contributions from all
groups are encouraged; people are empowered to achieve their full potential;
and differences are celebrated.
“Diversity is the one
true thing we have in common. Celebrate
it every day.”–Anonymous7
1. R. Schaefer Sociology: A brief introduction (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2006). 2. U.S. Census Bureau, USA QuickFacts, accessed December 2010.3. www.dictionary.com4. C. Rosado, What Makes a School Multicultural?, accessed December 2010.5. Ibid.6. Adapted from Promoting Cultural Diversity and Cultural Competency, accessed December 2010.7. www.thinkexist.com, accessed December 2010.
Dr. Lisa D. Belfield
Dr. Lisa D. Belfield is an adjunct professor in the Kaplan University Human Services Department. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from
Mansfield University, a master’s degree in social relations from Lehigh
University, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Wilmington
University. In addition to teaching, she works as a methodologist and content
expert on doctoral study committees, and is an education research consultant
for LeadingEd Consultant Network. She has worked at organizations and
institutions in positions which focused on behavior modification and
therapeutic support, social welfare, college admissions, and education
Belfield’s current research interests include: self-efficacy; the mentor-mentee
relationship in higher education; and the impact of multiple social identities
(race, gender, social class) on personal, social, academic, and career
Belfield continues to have valuable experiences, lifelong mentors, and
friendships that have made her personal and professional life quite meaningful
and fulfilling. As a professor, she enjoys engaging students in taking a
critical look at the world in which they thrive, and encourages them to see
themselves as lifelong learners in an intellectual arena. One of her favorite
quotes is, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.” She encourages
everyone to choose the option to grow.
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