Senior faculty and university administrators described the steps necessary to infuse multiculturalism into a university department during a well-attended afternoon breakout session at the Fourth National Multicultural Conference and Summit.
Psychologist Patricia Arredondo, EdD, the associate vice president and senior adviser for university initiatives at Arizona State University, noted that in order to embrace multiculturalism, an organization has to first strive to learn more about itself--what its strong suits are as well as where the organization needs to change.
"Organizational change is a developmental process, there's no overnight change," Arredondo said. "The self-study becomes key. You can't guess about what's important; you have to ask students, ask faculty, ask the agencies you partner with for internships. You have to find out what you do well and what your students need to improve upon as they go out and represent themselves as psychologists from your program."
Arredondo further recommended that departments compare the demographic trends within the communities they serve to the demographic trends within the department or organization.
Michael D'Andrea, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii, talked about the importance of organizational endorsement of multicultural competencies and emphasized that organizational advocacy for such competencies is the only real way to make progress toward the goal. He added that when students become fully aware that their future ability to earn a living in psychology will depend on their cultural competencies, they will begin to create the kind of bottom-up pressure for change that is needed.
Speaking from the university administrator's point of view, Thomas Parham, PhD, an assistant vice-chancellor at the University of California, Irvine, emphasized the need for accountability from all parties if multiculturalism is going to be infused into psychology education.
"The challenge we face is not simply from professional colleagues who actively resist implementation of the competencies but from those others and allies who passively comply with competency progress but fail to understand that endorsement is different than advocacy," Parham said.
Parham recommends that departments do two things: First, review their mission statement. Multiculturalism should be a part of every department's mission statement, Parham said. Another test of a department's commitment to multiculturalism is how often it is discussed. Review minutes of your department meetings for the last year, Parham suggests. How often were multicultural issues discussed?
"You have to be able to have the difficult dialogues; not just at the summit every two years," Parham said. "Want to know why progress isn't happening? Because nobody wants to talk about it."
Parham called for moving past "simplistic yardsticks of diversity." What should replace these outmoded yardsticks?
"Real diversity for me is not a frequency distribution," he explained. "Real diversity says, 'Do the policies and practices of our institutions or agencies change as a function of changes in their demographics?'"
According to Parham, real diversity progress requires cognitive and emotional pledges of support, sound programmatic planning, and accountability both individually and across systems.