Cultural Competence

Culture is defined as the shared traditions, beliefs, customs, history, folklore, and institutions of a group of people. What is cultural competence? It is acknowledging and validating who people are by increasing one's knowledge, understanding and acceptance of them. Lack of it can lead to conflicts, mistreatment and more. How can you improve your cultural competence and inspire others to improve theirs?

" Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Looking Back:
A Self-Reflection

Think of a situation in which some of your negative first thoughts about a person's group might get in the way of your building an effective relationship with that person.

Check out our worksheet.

Quiz Ideas

  • Are you aware of your cultural beliefs or behavior? Take this cultural diversity self assessment to find out more about yourself.
  • Have you examined your own cultural competency? This quiz will help you get thinking about cultural competency and your personal knowledge, experience and attitude. Take it now.

Moving Ahead:
The Challenge

Serve as an advocate or ally when you witness oppressive language or actions toward others.

Check out our worksheet.


  • Cultural Competence - DANCE AS IF NO ONE'S WATCHING
    • Rebecca A. Walter, M.A., Assistant Director, Multicultural Research & Resource Center, Faculty Partnerships & Curriculum Development
    • Dennis Webster, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Director, University Life, Multicultural Research and Resource Center

Campus Resources

  • Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education
    ODIME engages the Mason community in awareness and exploration of the diversity of the campus community, identity development, and global and cultural competencies. They offer services, resources, and experiences that assist students in recognizing, cultivating, and actualizing their potential to thrive and succeed and interact with people with different identities than their own and co-create an inclusive and welcoming campus environment.
  • Compliance, Diversity and Ethics
    Compliance, Diversity and Ethics is committed to creating a welcoming, respectful and inclusive educational environment that values integrity and a culture of shared responsibility. They want to have the most difficult conversations, hear the least heard, and sustain an accessible inclusive environment that empowers all members of the campus community to achieve their highest potential.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
    CAPS provides a wide range of free services to students, which are provided by a staff of professional clinical psychologists, social workers, counselors, learning specialists, and psychiatric providers. They offer individual counseling, group counseling, workshops, and outreach programs, as well as other resources.
  • International Programs and Services
    International Programs and Services educates, celebrates, and serves the Mason community by inspiring cross-cultural understanding by emphasizing global issues and themes, providing quality service and resources to assist with cultural adjustment and compliance and recognizing individual achievements and milestones, as well as celebrating the richness of community, holidays, festivals and traditions.
  • Peer Empowerment Program
    PEP provides peer support to Mason’s students through drop-in support, educational programming, supportive services, and workshops. The staff consists of a diverse group of students who work collaboratively with other offices on campus to provide service to the Mason community.

Additional Resources

  • American Psychological Association
    The APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA is the world's largest association of psychologists, with nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members. They offer articles on cultural competency and respecting cultural differences.
  • National Coalition Building Institute
    NCBI is a nonprofit leadership training organization based in Washington, D.C. Their proactive approach begins with a corps of community leaders who are taught effective bridge-building skills to combat inter-group conflicts.
  • National Center for Cultural Competence
    The NCCC provides national leadership and contributes to the body of knowledge on cultural and linguistic competency within systems and organizations. They provide training, technical assistance, consultation, contribution to publications, and more.