Intercultural competency is a journey, not a destination
January 11, 2023
Intercultural competency is the ability to develop targeted knowledge, skills, and attitudes that lead to behavior and communication that are both effective and appropriate in a diverse society.
Latonia Craig, EdD, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at the AVMA, presented the session “Making Your Mark: Intercultural Competency Enhanced” on Jan. 6 at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago.
The highly interactive session explored the concept of intercultural competency and encouraged participants to identify the barriers that often stand in the way of personal growth. Dr. Craig insisted that everyone has a critical role in fostering an open and inclusive environment, and that process starts with practicing active listening and observation.
When entering a space, Dr. Craig suggested “remaining open to meeting with and learning from new people.” Doing so could mean being able to engage in difficult dialogue without shying away from it.
The three pillars of intercultural competence are knowledge, behavior, and attitude. Participants engaged in group discussions about how they could connect their lived experiences with their own value statement and about what the pillars look like in action.
A key to intercultural competency is building intentional relationships, which begins with understanding your current relationships and having a willingness to make new ones that are different than what you may be used to.
Dr. Craig asked participants to make a list of 10 trusted friends and record characteristics such as gender, age, race or ethnicity, education level, and marital status. This activity revealed for many that they surround themselves with a group similar to them.
“You can’t grow if you’re complacent with where you are, especially with relationships,” Dr. Craig said.
Everyone comes to the table with different experiences, so people must have an understanding of each other’s norms, values, and belief systems to build trust across diversity.
Dr. Craig explained that an integral part of making your mark in the veterinary profession is realizing that intercultural competency is a journey, not a destination.
The AVMA, together with Veterinary Medical Association Executives, developed an ambitious diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative called Journey for Teams.
Designed for busy veterinary teams, the monthly DEI learning modules provide a way for workplaces throughout the veterinary profession to facilitate group discussions and participate in relevant activities to further a commitment to DEI.
A total of more than 30 topics will be covered over the next two and a half years, with content developed by DEI experts and topic experts.
“When you put yourselves in positions to learn, there are so many ways to guide our path,” Dr. Craig said.