Cultural Competence

As race, sexual orientation and identity continue to be addressed in our media I wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about cultural competence and what we can all to do become more aware of the experiences of those around us. As the newest staff EQUID committee member I have begun gathering resources for our community, many of which are posted below or available in Sage Hall on campus. While our blog typically focuses on F&ES news and updates or issues related to the environmental field, this is an topic that applies to all people in all industries and is something that we want to make sure our community is continually thinking about.

What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is understanding your own cultural identity and and the cultural and community norms of those around you. It is having the ability to understand the differences between social groups as well as the individual differences of those within them.

Why is it important?

All of our social identities influence who we are and how we see the world. We cannot work effectively with others if we cannot recognize that we all have a different experience and perspective.

How to become more culturally competent:

  1. Show up. Engage with other communities and people who aren’t like you. Here at F&ES and at Yale there are may opportunities to do so.
  1. Reflect on what your own biases are. It can be hard to accept but you cannot work to fix them until you understand what they are. Harvard University’s Project Implicit has a collection of online Implicit Associations Tests that can be helpful in recognizing what automatic biases you may have. They can be accessed at
  1. Recognize what your individual privilege is and how it shapes your perception of others. We all have some degree of privilege based on our skin color, gender, religion, economic status, sexual orientation and many more. This article and this video can help explain what privilege is and how to recognize it.
  1. Explore your multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills and set goals for continued growth. Rachelle Pope, Amy Reynolds and John Muller, scholars in the field of multicultural competence in higher education, have compiled this list of benchmarks in awareness, knowledge and skills.