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Cultural Competency Assessment

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovations to Curriculum and Program

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.345.1 - 13.345.13



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Paper Authors

author page

Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado at Boulder

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Cultural Competency Assessment


Cultural competency is defined as the ability to effectively interact with people from diverse cultures and recognize the importance of cultural differences. These skills will be increasingly important for environmental engineers who work on teams with professionals from diverse backgrounds and design solutions to global problems. For example, these skills are particularly important when engaging in projects for Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and similar organizations. In order to evaluate if curriculum help develop these skills in students, an assessment instrument is needed. A wide variety of such surveys have been developed and validated, although generally for settings outside engineering academia. In this research, the Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale short form (MGUDS-S) was used. It is a written 15 question survey with responses on a 6-point Likert scale. It evaluates universal-diverse orientation (UDO) and has been most widely used in medical school settings. The overall UDO score is composed of three subscales: diversity of contact, relativistic appreciation, and discomfort with differences. The author also added four of the Pittsburgh Freshman Engineering Attitudes Survey (PFEAS) questions and eight self-created questions to the survey, in addition to five demographic questions. The self-created questions were specific to engineering. This survey was administered in three freshmen courses (environmental, civil, and undeclared engineering) and two senior design courses (environmental and civil engineering) in fall 2006. Four of the eight self-created questions were modified and two additional demographic questions were added prior to administering the survey in two freshmen courses (environmental and civil engineering) and an Engineering for the Developing World course for seniors and graduate students in fall 2007. The results from the survey and evaluation of its usefulness are presented.


Cultural competency (CC) has many potential definitions.14,15,17,20,22 In this work CC is defined as the ability to effectively interact with people from diverse cultures and recognize the importance of cultural differences. This is closely related to concepts such as intercultural competence13, intercultural sensitivity 1,2,13, (cross)-cultural sensitivity 2,14,23, and cultural humility 14,22. In general, CC requires self-awareness, awareness of differences in cultures, and reflection on the implications of these differences.

Cultural competency is important for engineers so that they can be effective in working on teams with engineers, scientists, and others from diverse races and cultural backgrounds. CC is also critical to enable engineers to understand the needs of global clients who will use the engineered product, process, or project. Without an understanding of cultural issues, it is impossible for engineers to create appropriate technology solutions to the problems they are asked to solve. Cultural competency is also important in a number of other disciplines including medicine15 and business23. This skill has become increasing important as the world “flattens”. In a survey of higher education institutions, Deardorff8 found that 54% of the 24 participating institutions (33% survey response rate; 54% private, 67% teaching) said they were encouraging cross-cultural development, but did not assess the cross-cultural competence of students in their programs.

Bielefeldt, A. (2008, June), Cultural Competency Assessment Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4275

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