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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Strategizing for the Future: Evolving Cultural Resource Centers in Higher Education

  • Author(s): Shek, Yen Ling
  • Advisor(s): Chang, Mitchell J
  • et al.

Cultural resource centers have been an ongoing and integral component to creating a more welcoming campus climate for Students of Color since its establishment in the 1960s. While the racial dynamics may have changed, many of the challenges Students of Color faced on predominantly White campuses have not. Interestingly, cultural resource centers as safe spaces and advocacy spaces have evolved and expanded their missions beyond their traditional student populations. This study utilizes the Multi-contextual Model of Diverse Learning Environments (MMDLE) and organizational behavior theories to understand how cultural resource centers shape and are shaped by their current campus climates. Through an embedded case study design combining survey data, interviews, and document analyses, this study identifies the missions and organizational structures of cultural resource centers, as well as its interactions with the climate. Major findings include centers converging around an educational mission for a broad population with variations by center type in their areas of emphases. A categorization of institutional models emerged from the study resulting in the Taxonomy of Cultural Resource Centers in Higher Education, serving as a basic model to consider of multicultural, intercultural, and race-specific centers. The case studies revealed the importance of understanding institutional models within their context and the interplay of climate dimensions that serve to either support or hinder their ability to meet their missions. Cultural resource centers have evolved from serving their traditional populations yet the organizational structures to support their missions have not necessarily evolved with them. The case studies indicated a variety of approaches including institutions looking at the cultural resource centers in isolation and those that tried to fit the cultural resource centers within an organizational structure to support campus diversity efforts. The organizational behaviors of the institutions reflected the institutional context and approach to overall diversity efforts as well as highlighted the interplay between the dimensions of the climate. Strategizing for the future within conflicting notions of valuing diversity and rendering race invisible thus needs to take into account the evolving cultural resource centers as sites of expertise, education, and empowerment.

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