Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves


In recent years the terms diversity and inclusion have become major buzzwords across industries and fields of study. Within the field of education broadly, and higher education in particular, a shifting student demographic can be seen across the country. Issues of equity and inclusion have become central complexities for present day educational strategists, and organizations committed to cultivating a culture of inclusion must do so with intentionality. In the context of higher education, this often requires the intentional development of professionals within a particular college or university. There has been a great deal of research concerning the development of cultural competence in traditional aged college students, but far fewer studies address development in higher education professionals. This project seeks to fill that gap.

This study explores how higher education professionals develop and demonstrate cultural competence in their professional roles. Through a mixed methods case-study approach (Jupp, 2006), the current study generally addresses how perceived levels of cultural competence in higher education professionals is shaped by participation in an extended diversity training program. Additionally, this study addressed implications for individual career trajectories as a result of program completion and implementation of new learning.

In-depth interviews were conducted to explore how participants of an extended diversity training program at a large urban institution conceive of their development of cultural competence. The objective of the program was to prepare participants to facilitate diversity education workshops across campus for their peers. One-on-one interviews explored ways in which participants’ individual development and application of cultural competence skills fits into the context of Social Cognitive Career Theory (Creswell, 2007; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002). Additionally, secondary data analysis was conducted to assess participants’ perceived levels of cultural competence throughout the training experience.

Study findings indicate that participants anticipate lasting effects from the training experience. The training introduced and ignited a reconfiguration of what it means to engage and work in spaces where institutional and organizational commitments are aligned with personal commitments. Following training, all participants expressed deep commitment to intentionally and actively cultivating a sense of belonging and inclusion in the workplace through shared language, shifts in policy, and more thoughtful interpersonal interactions with colleagues and peers.


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