Empowering Student Affairs Professionals Through an Action Research Study: Developing Culturally Responsive Competencies to Meet Student Needs

Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2020

Document Type

Restricted Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Anne Grey, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Johnnie Driessner, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Michelle Cowing, Ph.D.


This participatory action research study examined how the iterative process of facilitating culturally responsive competency training for student affairs professionals could increase their competencies to support diverse students. This training model was developed to address the gap of student affairs professionals feeling underprepared in the area of cultural competency impacting their ability to support student retention and success (Bestler, 2012). Eleven student affairs professionals at a 4-year private liberal arts university in Pacific Northwest, participated in the study. The researcher developed the culturally responsive competency training using Sagor’s (2005) action research cycle model: clarifying vision, articulating theories, implementing action and data, and reflecting and planning informed action. Based on the literature, the researcher predetermined three main themes to determine the structure of the training to include training restraints, participant experiences within the training, and culturally responsive competency skill development in the areas of awareness, knowledge, and skills. Findings from the study demonstrated the increase of participant culturally responsive competency based on the iterative process of training through participant feedback in the areas of training content and process. The evidence of this study affirms how the iterative process of training can contribute to increased culturally responsive competency skill development for student affairs professionals and implications for various organizations leading to more skilled employees who are able to serve diverse populations of individuals.

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