EPSILON SIGMA PHI National Commitment to Honor Diversity
We, the members of Epsilon Sigma Phi, commit to moving our Extension profession toward becoming a respectful culturally inclusive educational system in response to the changing face of the nation and the awareness of the added richness, creativity, and resilience that cultural diversity brings to our communities and our Extension programs.
Culture refers to a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns that are shared by a group of people. Diversity refers to differences, particularly as they relate to the core dimensions of gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and physical abilities. Diversity also includes differences in education, income, religion, marital and parental status, work experience, military experience, and geographic location. Thus, cultural diversity is about differing values, beliefs, and norms, manifested in our perceptions, attitudes, assumptions and judgments.
Our commitment involves efforts to:
- Be open to learning more about cultural differences and similarities while building our own skills for working effectively with these differences;
- Encourage, recognize and support our colleagues who "think outside of the box" in their efforts to work within the cultural context of new audiences;
- Recruit and respectfully support adult and youth volunteers who represent the cultural diversity in our communities to become involved in Extension programs; and
- Recognize that we will have successes and failures as we move forward.
In our effort to become a respectful culturally inclusive association, we will initiate the following:
Increase the intercultural competency skills* of our membership and the volunteers we work with by:Recognize the good work of Extension professionals who are already striving to meet the needs of culturally diverse audiences. Encourage that they share their successes and learning about how to work with these groups with others in our profession.
- encouraging our members to participate in intercultural competency training so as to understand personal biases and develop skills to work with new audiences;
- provide intercultural competency training where appropriate at the national, regional and state levels.
- Support Extension professionals who are most ready to begin to reach out to these new audiences. Support includes encouraging risk-taking as well as new and innovative approaches, providing stipends for intercultural competency training where needed, and recognizing that the first steps include building new relationships with new groups of clientele. We understand that building trust with new groups of clientele takes time.
- Support efforts to develop culturally inclusive Extension curricula, program materials, resources, and literature.
- Provide a support network for Extension professionals who come from cultural groups other than the majority group of faculty and staff.
- Assist in helping Extension professionals in communication with traditional audiences and seek ways to address concerns regarding serving both traditional audiences and new culturally diverse audiences.
- Renew our commitment to diversity in our Extension profession by assessing our progress, and reviewing this agreement through the Public Issues committee's annual report to the ESP Board.
We will know that we have become a respectful culturally inclusive organization when we truly represent all of the cultural diversity which exists among us as Extension professionals. We recognize that this is an on-going dynamic process, one that requires our time and patience.
ESP National Board of Directors
Changing demographics throughout the United States has prompted the consideration of a renewal of the mission of the Cooperative Extension Service. Acquiring these professional competencies is essential to creating the most culturally appropriate learning experience for our clientele.
Cognitive (the mind set)
Recognize and understand:
- Your own cultural identities
- The validity of multiple perspectives
- Differing values
- Differing modes of communication
- Differing concepts of time
- The effects of power and privilege
- Class differences
- The importance of rewriting history
Affective (the heart set)
Be open to:
- Seek out and enjoy difference (expand comfort zone).
- Feel empathy (combat "compassion fatigue").
- Commit to lifelong learning.
- Commit to learning about and working with people from varying cultural backgrounds.
- Desire to build relationships of trust and mutual respect with the many different cultural groups who live in our communities.
Behavioral (the skill set)
Be able to:
- Empathize and listen mindfully
- Provide feedback in order to check for mutual understanding
- Reserve judgment when observing a cross-cultural interaction
- Adapt one's communication style to others
- Open dialogue in a non-threatening way
- Avoid mindless stereotyping
- Take mutual perspectives, so as to allow for an integration of both perspectives, and a new perspective to emerge
- Engage with diverse communities within their own cultural context in an effort to learn what their educational needs are and how best to meet those needs.
Document #1--statement in its entirety for handbook and web site: