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New state law requires Mt. Hood Community College to better understand differences.

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Mt. Hood Community College is striving to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment at the states sixth largest college. Mt. Hood Community College is working to put in place new policies and practices to comply with a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature that requires colleges to implement new "cultural competency" standards.

"Some of these guidelines, we've already been doing. We already have access and (a) diversity council. We look at intercultural competency, we look at lots of different things," Felisciana Peralta, the college's Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion told the student newspaper, The Advocate.

The new work is welcome and needed, she said.

"Mt. Hood is 50 years old, and (has) policies and procedures that are about that outdated. We're in a different place and we need to respond to that, and we need to also be responsive to the different populations we serve," she said in an article in The Advocate.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2864 in June 2017.

The bill defines cultural competency as "an understanding of how institutions and individuals can respond respectfully and effectively to people from all cultures, economic statuses, language backgrounds, races, ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, genders, gender identifications, sexual orientations, veteran statuses and other characteristics in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth, and preserves the dignity, of individuals, families and communities."

Peralta noted, "This is more than just protecting based on discrimination: This is about education and providing professional development and also classes and engaging that into cultural competency within what we do as a functioning college system."

It requires that colleges provide ongoing training that help the faculty, staff and administration to meet cultural competency standards. Schools must also have institution-wide goals to improve cultural inclusion for everyone on campus.

The staff must also make a report every two years on how the effort is going.

Peralta told The Advocate that cultural competency can be as simple as the way teachers welcome students on the first day of class.

"The moment that roll's taken," when sometimes an instructor can't pronounce a name, so they say something like, "'Can you give me another name,' or 'Do you go by another name?' That's taking away that person's name," is one example, she explained.

In the classroom, instructors will be guided to practice culturally responsive teaching.

"How do you effectively teach and engage education that's more holistic around multiple populations versus dominant culture?" she said.

Instructors will work on "being able to be a little bit more thoughtful in engaging within different viewpoints as well as different populations and perspectives."

Peralta said that with constantly changing demographics at the college, it needs to work on being ready for the students, rather than expecting the student to assimilate to the culture of the college.

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