Dubuque Diversity: Cultural Competency

Hala Al Khoury knows how to perfect a recipe. Now, she’s sharing her secrets with her new neighbors,

“We will make Syrian fattoush.” The Al Khoury family moved to Dubuque two months ago.

Khoury exclaims, “The people in the Midwest are very, very nice!” The warm welcome is more than just Midwest hospitality. It’s a direct result of the city’s proactive efforts to be more culturally competent.

Professor of Sociology Rick Anderson states, “As a society, we are lacking cultural competence… period.”
Through training sessions, city leaders are working to shed light on the cultural blind spots in our community.

“We all have culture… Even those of us in Iowa, even those of us who are white, even those of us who don’t even think about things like culture, have culture… and some make it plural, have cultures,” Anderson explains.
City of Dubuque Training and Workforce Development Coordinator André Lessears elaborates,
“Diversity is not simply race, gender, sexual preference or religion; it’s all those things, and many, many, many other things… it’s our life experiences. And that’s in essence what culture is.”

Culture shapes our language and perspective… but sometimes what we think is right or polite is actually hurtful. “Being able to identify, ‘Are there some areas where I might have a blind spot?’ So that a good decision might not be good for all people,” Lessears elucidates.

Anderson exhibits some of the most common blind spots through role play in cultural competence training. Those frequent blind spots include assumptions about same-sex couples, gender roles and ethnic origin. Lessears offers advice to overcome cultural blind spots,
“You have to be intentional in the questions you are asking, the method that you’re applying, and the conversations that you’re having.” Anderson adds,
“Allow yourself to take a risk, hold back immediate reactions, and work towards something deeper than that. Grant people the benefit of the doubt and hope they do the same for you.”

That sounds like a recipe for a successful community.

For more information on the Cultural Cooking Nights or the Intercultural Initiative, visit:


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Makaila is a senior at Loras from Des Moines, IA. She has acted as reporter, anchor, and Associate Producer for various LCTV programs. Makaila is currently a sideline reporter for Live Sports and the Social Media Manager for LCTV. She has obtained previous internship experience with iHeart Media in Des Moines, the Iowa Events Center, and Country Music Television (CMT) in Nashville. Makaila loves sharing stories that matter and working with one of the best collegiate television stations in the Midwest.

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