“After 13 years of regular school, four years of college, and two semesters of graduate school, I’ve never felt like I’ve learned more, become more accepting of people through religions different from me, than in the last two days,” said student Sarah Shepard of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, during the Tent City experience in May as part of a two-week graduate seminar in Cultural Competence.
The two-week seminar for Master of Science in Criminal Justice in Forensic Psychology students consists of a week of immersion experience and a week of lectures, readings and discussion with the end goal of exposing students to cultural differences.
“The main focus is to learn by doing and interacting with persons of a different culture,” said Dr. Elizabeth Athaide-Victor, Professor of Forensic Psychology.
During the week of cultural immersion, according to Victor, students visited the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities art studio, learned about disabilities, alternative religions such as Wicca, classical music, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, civil rights, homelessness, and heard from TU’s GLASS (gay, lesbian, and straight supporters).
“It was cool to see different aspects of the religions, but to also see how they are similar too,” said student Karolian Kristof from Cleveland, Ohio.
“I noticed many things about different cultures and religions,” said participant Manjuparna Raychaudhuri from Eastern India. “I kept comparing them to my religion.”
Students enjoyed the foods of various cultures. They served food at the Toledo, Ohio, Cherry St. Mission, and lived in their own ‘Tent City’ for a night while fasting to help them understand homelessness.
“I’m going to become more culturally sensitive toward diverse groups,” said student Destanny Couch of Westerville, Ohio.
Students also learned about the cultural competence federal mandates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Affairs.
Samantha Hager, also of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, said, “It’s changed my opinion a lot. I’m more culturally aware, it’s opened my eyes.” “Anytime I interact with clients, I’ll be more open to their background,” Shepard added.
“It is a unique class, and in my opinion, a direct way of walking in someone else’s shoes, which is more realistic than reading about it or seeing it on TV,” Victor said.
“This class teaches students to compile what they learn and build a culturally competent agency that complies with federal mandates. They are also required to journal their experience and tie it into their academic study during the second week of the seminar. I know students come away with a much deeper understanding of the struggles of others from the class.”