News: Developing cultural competencies
Story by Senior Airman Kari Giles
ST. PAUL, Minn.— The 133rd Airlift Wing’s Human Resource Advisor and Wing Culture Council, held a special brown bag lunch and guest speaker in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 23, 2014.
More than 20 airmen from the Wing took time out of their day to listen to Andre Koen, a diversity trainer in Minnesota, who presented an informative and interactive program on developing cultural competencies.
“This is a great workshop for anyone who manages, leads or works with people who have different ideas, thoughts or experiences than their own,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kristin Von Eschen, the 133rd Airlift Wing’s human resource advisor. “This workshop helps foster growth in leadership, mentorship and relationship skills by looking at diversity in the workplace and community and understanding differences.”
Koen spoke of the diversity challenges that face our society today. He stated the importance of stopping, dissecting, analyzing and making meaning of these issues, without blame, fault or guilt. He spoke of the concept of what happens when we stop seeing people as people and look at them as things, that human equality can be lost.
“Emotion plus thoughts, dictates people’s behavior. If bigotry is an emotion and prejudice is a thought then discrimination is a behavior,” stated Koen.” “Why do we still have discrimination? If we look at society and use this equation, the government says we will take care of people’s behavior, but who‘s responsibility is it to check how they think and feel, if we do nothing about how they think and feel the behavior can’t change.”
The base is implementing multiple opportunities to educate airmen on such matters as these. The Leadership Challenge Program I and II and the Diversity Leadership Program are 2 1/2 day courses designed to develop airmen's leadership and diversity competencies. The base is currently providing six courses to enlisted and officers within the 133rd to participate in Diversity Leadership Challenge programs. More courses are in the works as well as the addition of quarterly speakers like Koen.
“Increasing self awareness to lead effectively through diversity and resilience challenges is key to what makes our Minnesota Air National Guard members who they are today and how they will lead successfully into the future,” said Von Eschen.