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University of Wisconsin Cultural Awareness Essay

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Running head: CULTURAL AWARENESS 1
Cultural Awareness: Self-Reflection
Jessica Baran
University of Wisconsin La Crosse

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CULTURAL AWARENESS 2
Watt (2015) asked “how can higher education intentionally create inclusive environments
where its community members have the possibility of being more fully human?” (p. 25). In order
to answer this question, student affairs professionals must first understand their own cultural self-
awareness and how their cultural self-awareness impacts interactions with students, faculty, and
staff who identify differently than themselves. In order to understand cultural self-awareness,
student affairs professionals should participate in self-reflection that focuses on their own
identities. In the following self-analysis paper, I will reflect upon my cultural background and
early experiences with diversity, as well as how I make meaning of privilege and oppression
relevant to my own identities, the challenges I face in my student affairs practice related to
diversity, and conclusions that I have drawn based on my experiences.
Self-Analysis
Cultural Background
My cultural background begins with my great, great grandparents who emigrated from
Poland to the United States. My dad’s family voluntarily moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in
1889. My mom’s great grandfather voluntarily moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1902 in order
to find a better life with more opportunities. Neither of my parents know much about the
experience my ancestors had, which they assume is due to the fact that each family wanted to fit
in instead of stand out as Polish immigrants. Both families assimilated and left many of their
cultural celebrations behind in Poland. One cultural belief that neither family left behind in
Poland was religion. A strong belief in Catholicism was passed down throughout the generations,
shaping my cultural values, beliefs, and behavioral norms as I was growing up. For instance, I
was taught that marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman. Only after marriage were
a man and a woman supposed to have children. However, as I grew older, I noticed a shift in my

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Running head: CULTURAL AWARENESS Cultural Awareness: Self-Reflection Jessica Baran University of Wisconsin – La Crosse 1 CULTURAL AWARENESS 2 Watt (2015) asked “how can higher education intentionally create inclusive environments where its community members have the possibility of being more fully human?” (p. 25). In order to answer this question, student affairs professionals must first understand their own cultural selfawareness and how their cultural self-awareness impacts interactions with students, faculty, and staff who identify differently than themselves. In order to understand cultural self-awareness, student affairs professionals should participate in self-reflection that focuses on their own identities. In the following self-analysis paper, I will reflect upon my cultural background and early experiences with diversity, as well as how I make meaning of privilege and oppression relevant to my own identities, the challenges I face in my student affairs practice related to diversity, and conclusions that I have drawn based on my experiences. Self-Analysis Cultural Background My cultural background begins with my great, great grandparents who emigrated from Poland to the United States. My dad’s family voluntarily moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1889. My mom’s great grandfather voluntarily moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1902 in order to find a better life with more opportunities. Neither of my parents know much about the experience my ancestors had, w ...
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