Szu-Yu Chen, Dareen Basma, Jennie Ju, Kok-Mun Ng
Distance counselor education has expanded educational opportunities for diverse groups of students. To effectively train and support global students in counseling programs, the authors explore some unique challenges and opportunities that counselor educators may encounter when integrating technology in the multicultural counseling curriculum. The authors discuss pedagogical strategies that can enhance distance learners’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies. Through an intersectional, social construction pedagogy, counselor educators can decolonize traditional multicultural counseling curricula and foster an international distance learning environment. Additional innovative approaches and resources, such as online multiculturally oriented student services, online student-centered multiculturally based organizations and workshops, and office hours for mentoring online international students and supporting distance learners’ needs, are described.
Keywords: distance counselor education, multicultural, international, online education, social justice
The growth in distance learning has led to an integration of technology in the curriculum over the past two decades (Allen et al., 2016). Counselor educators now can deliver distance learning courses internationally via videoconference systems, such as two-way audio and video software programs, for students to attend classes either synchronously or asynchronously (Snow et al., 2018), and many programs are moving toward distance education (Benshoff & Gibbons, 2011; Reicherzer et al., 2009). This shift in educational platforms allows both domestic and international students to receive counselor education and training remotely without having to commute or leave their home countries. For example, the counselor education program at the institution of the first three authors currently has over 300 students from the five most populous continents in various stages of counselor preparation. Distance education has expanded educational opportunities, targeted underserved groups of students, and given space for the formation of a more globally diverse student body (Columbaro, 2009; Gillies, 2008).
With the dramatic increase of diversity and attention to racism and other forms of human oppression in the United States, by the early 2000s, the issues of multiculturalism and social justice had come to the center of the counseling profession (Arredondo, 1999) and were recognized as two sides of the same coin (Ratts, 2011). As a result, multicultural education in the profession has been aimed at enhancing students’ awareness of cultural diversity and social justice in counseling relationships and implementation of advocacy competencies as they grapple with power, privilege, and oppression at the individual and systemic levels (Ratts et al., 2015). More recently, the Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC; Ratts et al., 2015) has integrated a social justice and advocacy component into the framework of multicultural counseling competencies developed in 1992 by Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis, and highlighted the intersection of identities and the role power, privilege, and oppression play in the counseling relationship. The American Counseling Association (ACA; 2014) has also asserted that “counselor educators actively infuse multicultural/diversity competency in their training and supervision practices. They actively train students to gain awareness, knowledge, and skills in the competencies of multicultural practice” (F.11.c). Yet there seems to be a lack of attention in the literature to how online training programs can address global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies given their non-traditional modes of learning delivery. With the emphasis on the helping relationship in the counseling profession, instructors who teach online face additional challenges because of a lack of in-person contact with students and may feel skeptical about the effectiveness of creating a safe and interactive space virtually, especially in relation to addressing challenging and complex topics (Hall et al., 2010).
It is worth noting that many counselor educators have not received formal pedagogical education and training on integrating technology into their curriculum and developing effective online courses (Cicco, 2012). This impacts educators’ feelings of discomfort or lack of preparedness when developing and delivering an online international multicultural counseling course, as well as facilitating discussions about multicultural issues and developing global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling training and competencies through an online medium. Consequently, when considering the development of an online multicultural counseling course, educators have to not only grapple with the complexity of designing a nuanced curriculum, but also negotiate delivery of a curriculum on an evolving learning platform in which international students who do not reside in the United States are integrated into the learning experience. As such, there are several opportunities and challenges to consider when facilitating multicultural and social justice counseling training on an online platform.
To effectively retain and support global students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles in distance counseling programs, herein we explore challenges and opportunities that counselor educators encounter when integrating technology in the multicultural and social justice counseling curriculum. Specifically, we want to discuss pedagogical strategies that we have found valuable to enhancing global learners’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies. With the movement toward internationalizing the counseling profession, we believe that counselor educators can decolonize the traditional multicultural counseling curriculum and promote global students’ multicultural and social justice advocacy competencies through an intersectional and social construction online pedagogy and further cultivate an inclusive global learning environment. Additionally, we want to share innovative approaches counselor educators can use to support global students’ needs and enhance student retention in online counseling programs.
Internationalization of Multicultural Counseling Education in the Virtual Classroom
In international distance education, each student may differ in experiences of culture, cultural identities, and developmental level of multicultural counseling and social justice competencies. To address the increase in a globally diverse student body, the counseling profession is transforming from a Western-based to a global-based practice (Lorelle et al., 2012). Historically, textbooks and journal articles in the United States regarding diversity are typically monoculture in nature, focusing primarily on social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and social class that are commonly found in U.S.-based diversity discourse (Case, 2017). Students who live abroad may find these materials and foci disconnected from their contexts and not applicable to their practice. Consequently, these students can become less engaged in the learning experience.
The movement toward internationalizing the counseling profession over the past two decades has highlighted the need to extend multicultural competencies in ways that are relevant to mental health services beyond U.S. borders. Relatedly, Harley and Stansbury (2011) asserted that the multicultural movement needs to take place at two levels. On the first level, it requires our diligence to recognize, learn about, and appreciate the cultural diversity that exists on U.S. soil. The second level requires us to develop a global perspective that recognizes other cultures and sociopolitical forces that impact the lived experiences of people in other countries. Other scholars (e.g., Bhat & McMahon, 2016; Knight, 2004; Ng et al., 2012) also acknowledge these two dimensions in efforts to internationalize the counseling profession and emphasize the need to address the underdevelopment of cross-national multicultural competencies.
To date, systematic discourse related to international students’ learning experiences and perspectives in online training programs remains limited. To respond to this shift in distance counselor education, we propose adding a third dimension—the internationalization of counselor education—to the two levels of multicultural education proposed by Harley and Stansbury (2011). This third multicultural dimension requires a conceptualization of cultures and ways of being into a counseling curriculum that maintains a global and international perspective. Thus, learning is comprised of training activities and programs designed to prepare students to provide culturally responsive counseling services and advocacy that are simultaneously informed by both a local and global perspective.
Counselor educators are aware of the enormity of some of the challenges associated with the movement toward internationalizing counselor education. There have been encouraging but limited developments by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), ACA, and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) toward this cause. For example, to advance global mental health training and services, NBCC trains and collaborates with international counseling organizations to promote counselor professionalism as they develop their training requirements to the needs of their specific populations. ACA and ACES offer international counseling students and faculty interest networks in which counselors and counselor educators have space to facilitate discussions about challenges and solutions when providing global counseling services and preparing culturally responsive training curricula for students. However, the effect of these advocacies on internationalizing counselor education has not been widely evaluated yet. It appears that the counseling profession recognizes the benefits of this endeavor but is sorting out opportunities as well as resources necessary for implementation. We view contributing to the dialogue on internationalizing multicultural counseling training through an intersectional and social construction online pedagogy as a privilege.
Intersectional and Social Construction Online Pedagogy
An area of dissonance for international counseling students involves differences in cultural worldview. Marsella and Pederson (2004) posited that “Western psychology is rooted in an ideology of individualism, rationality, and empiricism that has little resonance in many of the more than 5,000 cultures found in today’s world” (p. 414). Ng and Smith’s study (2009) highlighted that international students, particularly those from non-Western nations, may struggle with integrating Eurocentric theories and concepts into the world they know. Their findings indicated that international trainees tend to experience more difficulties in areas related to clinical training and worldview conflicts in understanding mental health treatment compared to their domestic peers. International students can find that materials learned in Western-based counselor education have little relevance and applicability to the local demographics in which they work (Ng et al., 2012).
Ng and colleagues (2012) indicated that the goals of internationalizing counseling preparation curricula are to better equip students with required knowledge, awareness, skills, beliefs, and attitudes and to train students to become social change agents who actively resolve global mental health issues and inequalities. Herein lies the opportunity for counselor educators to intentionally search for appropriate pedagogies and to critically present readings and other media that help inculcate a multicultural perspective (Goodman et al., 2015) that is relevant to local contexts while appreciating a global perspective of lived experience and civilization. Social constructionism demands that we take a critical stance toward ways of understanding the world (Burr, 2015). It emphasizes the need to acknowledge the context and extent of subjectivity infused into what we know and invites us to critically examine the knowledge we have gained based on the culture and society surrounding the time period in which we exist. This lens helps us recognize that our knowledge is rooted in historical and cultural relativity and is socially created (Young & Collin, 2004). We need to be mindful that the knowledge created in the classroom has a social, cultural, and political impact on society. Thus, to internationalize distance counselor education, we consider it crucial for academics to recognize the social construction of the knowledge they carry and communicate in the virtual classroom setting, including the construction of their teaching methods for delivering knowledge (hooks, 1994).
Over 30 years ago, Crenshaw (1989) and hooks (1984) postulated that individuals hold a set of multiple and simultaneous identities. Crenshaw introduced the term intersectionality to describe individuals’ complex identities as opposed to categorical generalizations. Traditionally, multicultural courses tend to focus on one aspect of social identity and related oppressions separately from other social identities. The intersecting complexities among social identities and structural oppressions and privileges are often neglected. Collins (2000) provided a pedagogic conceptual framework to include both advantaged and disadvantaged identities. Although the intersectionality theory has been integrated within multiple disciplines, such as women’s studies, sociology, psychology, and law, instructors often do not incorporate intersectionality into diversity courses (Dill, 2009). Scholars, therefore, have called for an intersectional approach to transform higher education (Berger & Guidroz, 2009) and move beyond single-axis models.
To move beyond the individual and monocultural level, Case (2017) proposed that educators and students can address issues of culture, diversity, and advocacy in a diverse classroom through an intersectional pedagogy. Case emphasized an effective intersectional pedagogy that includes the following main tenets: Instructors (a) conceptualize intersectionality as a complex analysis of privileged and oppressed social identities; (b) teach intersectionality across a wide range of institutional oppression; (c) aim to explore invisible intersections; (d) include aspects of privilege and analyze power when teaching about intersectionality theory; (e) encourage students reflection about their own intersecting identities; (f) reflect the impact of educators’ social identities, biases, and assumptions on the learning community; (g) promote social action; (h) value the voice of marginalized students; and (i) infuse intersectional studies across the curriculum.
We believe that using an intersectional perspective that couples with a social construction perspective in multicultural education curriculum development can be valuable in the context of distance international counselor education, particularly in multicultural and international online education that contains a globally diverse student body. By implementing an intersectional and social construction pedagogical design in multicultural and social justice online counseling courses, instructors focus on examinations of social locations concerning privilege and oppression (Cole, 2009) and avoid overemphasizing any single characteristic of individual identities (Dill & Zambrana, 2009). This approach also provides instructors and worldwide students with a critical framework for analyzing structural power and oppression, examining the complexity of identities, and discussing action plans for empowerment and advocacy (Dill & Zambrana, 2009; Rios et al., 2017). Chan et al. (2018) also supported embodying an intersectional framework in developing multicultural and social justice courses within the counselor education curriculum. Counselor educators who teach beyond multicultural counseling knowledge and skills can enhance students’ critical thinking, case conceptualization skills (Chan et al., 2018), and cultural empathy (Davis, 2014) toward marginalized groups. Moreover, students are likely to see beyond the prescriptive counseling approach that addresses a limited set of cultural values (Chan et al., 2018). This perspective also can engage students in analyzing issues of privilege, power, and global oppression, and systematically reflecting on their own experiences.
Wise and Case (2013) noted that intersectional pedagogy is an inclusive approach that helps students reduce resistance when engaging in examining privileged and oppressed identities. This approach validates worldwide students’ various experiences and includes exploration of invisible interactions when discussing personal privilege. Considering that issues related to multiculturalism can evoke various emotions in the classroom, such as frustration, shame, guilt, and defensiveness, intersectional pedagogy provides an outlet to engage all students in this learning process (Banks et al., 2013; Wise & Case, 2013). Creating a safe space for learners in virtual classrooms to bravely experience and address these challenges requires thoughtful learning strategies. Accordingly, we illustrate intersectional and social construction pedagogy and strategies that counselor educators can consider integrating into online curricula to facilitate and assess global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies, as well as provide supports for students in a diverse online learning environment.
Internationalizing an Online Multicultural Counseling Course
The master’s counseling program at the first three authors’ institution offers online or residential format options. The online counseling program provides domestic students and international students who live abroad opportunities to receive counselor education and training. Given the high ratio of international students and students with diverse backgrounds at the authors’ institutions, we believe that structuring the virtual multicultural counseling course from a global perspective and grounding it in a socially constructed, intersectional framework can facilitate student understanding and appreciation of multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice. Additionally, a successful integration of technology entails careful consideration of course content, the instructor’s role in the teaching and learning process, and students’ access to and comfort with the technology (Zhu et al., 2011). The following is an example of how an online master’s-level multicultural counseling course is delivered through an intersectional and social construction pedagogy that includes an international perspective, and how global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies are assessed.
Our online multicultural counseling course focuses on creating a critical space where students can actively and transparently deconstruct their socially constructed knowledge, beliefs, and biases about differences and others. Rather than focusing on attending to specific cultural groups, which historically has been the norm for multicultural counseling classes, we focus on internationalizing the counseling profession and emphasize the need to address cross-national multicultural competencies. This course aims to develop students’ consciousness about the system of oppression that significantly impacts both dominant and marginalized groups’ well-being. Thus, the intersectional and MSJCC frameworks are used to structure our online multicultural counseling course in that knowledge, awareness, skills, and advocacy are at the core of each of the assignments, readings, and synchronized and asynchronized discussions.
Readings assigned for the class include both a clinical counseling textbook that attends to assessment, counseling, and diagnosis from a multicultural lens, and supplementary readings from the fields of multicultural and social justice education. Instructors use a learning management system to facilitate asynchronized online discussion board activities and readings and provide written, audio, or video feedback on students’ assignments. In addition to asynchronized learning, instructors and students meet in an interactive synchronized virtual classroom weekly for 1.5 hours over an 11-week course. Research shows that online models can be effective, with synchronous online programs being the most promising (Siemens et al., 2015). Students also have opportunities to do live multicultural role-plays in which instructors provide immediate feedback.
Instructors can face unique challenges in teaching and discussing some sensitive and controversial issues with students, which is an inherent part of multicultural and social justice advocacy training. It is recommended that educators foster positive relationships with students and establish a safe and trusting learning environment to engage students in constructive conversations and self-reflection (Brooks et al., 2017). Yet teaching a multicultural counseling class in a virtual setting can add additional barriers to fostering a safe learning environment. For example, in a virtual classroom, instructors are only able to see a student’s face amidst many other digital faces. As a result, some of the challenges of teaching this course virtually include effectively noting students’ nonverbal communications, sensing their emotive responses or reactions to the discussion content, and attending to topics that students may be having a difficult time speaking about in front of a large group. Moreover, many videoconferencing platforms allow students to engage in both private and public conversations with other students via chat boxes. Consequently, establishing virtual classroom ground rules is essential. Examples of ground rules and strategies that ensure a safe and respectful online learning environment may include: (a) turning on the camera to allow instructors and classmates to observe others’ nonverbal communication and address immediacy, (b) using headphones to respect classmates’ sharing, (c) turning off the private chat setting to avoid side conversations among students, and (d) providing options for students to share their thoughts and feelings in the chat box. It also is important to facilitate a discussion with students about ways to share their airtime with classmates in a virtual classroom and provide their classmates with understanding and support by observing virtual verbal and nonverbal communication.
To assess global students’ cross-national multicultural and social justice counseling competencies, we developed three major assignments and assessments for this class. Virtual classroom discussion is an essential assessment. To socially construct students’ knowledge of power, privilege, and oppression and reflect students’ learning experience, students are encouraged to actively share their reactions to the learning materials and how these materials are related to personal experience and counseling implications in their countries. Students’ level of participation and self- and other-awareness can be assessed in breakout rooms as well as in a large discussion group. However, considering students may have various ways to engage with the materials, instructors encourage students who struggle with verbally participating in the virtual classroom to collaboratively identify alternative concrete methods to evidence participation with instructors, such as reflective journals.
The second assignment is a group presentation that attends to manifestations of oppression within systems. The purpose of this assignment is to increase global students’ knowledge and understanding of how racism and oppression are produced and reproduced across generations, institutions, and countries. Although oppression impacts all institutions, this project encourages student groups to focus on dynamics in eight mutually reinforcing areas: housing, education, immigration, the labor market, the criminal justice system, the media, politics, and health care. Students are also asked to create a vignette based on the presented topic and facilitate role-plays. This experiential activity facilitates students’ understanding of intersecting identities in the counseling relationship and enhances cross-national cultural empathy by attending to clients’ experience. This assignment increases global students’ awareness of the complexity of mental health issues and transgenerational trauma that can ensue as a result of systematic oppression. It also challenges unconscious biases and beliefs that students may have around marginalized populations being impacted by these systems in their countries.
The last major assignment, the resistance project, is a quarter-long individual project and targets an increase in awareness of self. For counselors, awareness of self in the context of culture is one of the more challenging parts of our work and is a process that is ongoing and constant. This assignment focuses on attending to both conscious and unconscious biases to groups of people. Initially, students are asked to identify three specific cultural groups to which they identify resistance in their countries. Students can express significant struggles around this part of the assignment indicating feelings of guilt, shame, judgment of self, denial of bias, and confusion around their biases. Normalizing and validating these feelings is crucial in fostering a space for critical reflection, as well as providing non-judgmental feedback regarding their initial explorations. The next part of our resistance project asks students to select one of the three identified groups to explore in greater detail throughout the quarter. Students are asked to begin looking for numerous academic sources, social media sources, and immersion experiences that they can engage in throughout the quarter that would encourage them to very directly examine their biases. Significant levels of discomfort appear here among students, particularly regarding individual and group experiences they have engaged in. Students are asked to reflect on and lean into that discomfort in order to better understand it. In addition, they are asked to critically examine their internal process and connect their reactions back to their identified resistance.
Supporting Globally Diverse Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom
As counselor education focuses on further developing multicultural online pedagogy, there is a need to evaluate programmatic effectiveness in demonstrating sensitivity to the concerns of globally diverse student populations. Just as it is critical for instructors to attend to creating culturally relevant curricula, program administrators need an understanding of the challenges that characterize distance students from global communities and be intentional about addressing some of those challenges. This section discusses ways that institutions can walk the walk in their application of the principles espoused in curricular pedagogy by creating an environment in which worldwide students feel welcomed and supported.
According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2016), approximately 32% of students enrolled in counseling programs are from racially diverse heritages. Kung (2017) reported that “in the 2015–2016 academic year, over 1 million international students were reported as studying at U.S. colleges and universities” (p. 479). Currently, there are no official statistics on the number of students enrolled in distance counselor education programs by race, ethnicity, or country of residence. Although specific data is lacking, the statistics above provide an indication of the potentially significant presence of an international student population in distance learning programs. It is critical to examine the criteria for determining a university’s effectiveness in supporting worldwide students outside the virtual classroom. “Exemplary institutions” in recruiting and retaining minority students of color have the characteristic of being successful in increasing enrollment of minority students of color and retaining students through to graduation (Rogers & Molina, 2006). While an institution’s effectiveness in providing needed support does not necessarily equate to its ability to retain students and achieve high graduation rates, one can surmise that some unsupported individuals will choose to drop out. Although there are numerous ways that an institution can provide a sustainable environment for global students outside of the virtual classroom, we will focus on six key approaches, namely technology, field experience, multiculturally oriented student support services, mentorship, student-centered multiculturally based organizations, and multiculturally based events and workshops.
In an online education format, access to reliable technology is imperative to students’ success in the program. Level of access to proper computing devices or to the internet by various social identity groups can create a digital divide, which disadvantages one group over another (Bolt & Crawford, 2000; Clark & Gorski, 2001). International students from developing and underdeveloped nations experience frequent disruption when accessing virtual class meetings and course contents because of political causes or technological deficiency in their regions. For example, a student from the Central African Republic is sometimes unable to log in to class meetings when she is unable to turn on generators in a remote village for fear that this could alert guerilla gangs and prompt additional warfare. A student in Peru who does her internship in rural areas is unable to submit her assignments on time because of a lack of internet access. Students in Beijing experience tight internet firewalls preventing them from accessing sites such as Google, Gmail, and YouTube; this problem intensifies during the week of the governmental National People’s Congress annual meetings. Therefore, Clark and Gorski (2001) urged educators to critically analyze the use of the internet as an educational medium and examine ways technology “serves to further identify social, cultural, educational ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’” in educational settings (p. 39).
As a partial solution to the problem of Chinese students’ difficulty in accessing web-based course content, our institution has purchased a VPN with a reliable server based in Hong Kong. Given that there are approximately 30-plus China-based students in matriculation at our institution each year, this becomes an institutional business decision. Additionally, academic advisors encourage Chinese students to approach their instructors at the beginning of each term to discuss a plan for accessing course material and timely submission of assignments. Instructors and administrators also have a responsibility to be proactive in collaborating with these students in finding alternatives by inquiring and learning about students’ potential challenges regarding technology. Educators need to discuss a plan to accommodate students’ needs within reason.
Issues with cultural worldviews and contextual differences become prominent during students’ process of searching for practicum opportunities and experiences of participating in clinical training in their home countries. Specifically, students and educators have encountered these obstacles in three aspects. First, the philosophical understanding of the purpose of internship and supervision of interns are different. Next, the integration of Eurocentric theories and implications with their clients’ cases might not be applicable. Last, there is a lack of regulatory infrastructure to guide and oversee the helping profession. A case example is students in China, where many native organizations expect to benefit financially from placement of interns. They do not seem to consider that student interns are capable of counseling clients under proper supervision. Thus, many mental health agencies do not permit trainees to provide counseling before graduation. Supervision is considered more of a business arrangement than a supervisory and mentoring relationship.
The first three authors’ institution offers an online practicum course each academic term for students residing and doing an internship overseas. This strategy aims to provide a weekly forum where students receive additional support in applying counseling concepts and approaches to their cultural context. This also serves as a supportive distance environment in which instructors and students collaboratively conceptualize and explore treatment approaches that are culturally and contextually relevant to their client populations. The second purpose for the dedicated practicum course is to navigate students’ dual legal and ethical milieus. A lack of regulatory oversight for the counseling profession in China and other countries has created legal and ethical challenges for intern placements. This reality has added confusion and inconsistencies in what is permissible based on U.S. regulatory and accreditation boards, as well as common practices in students’ home countries.
Multiculturally Oriented Student Support Services
Student services offices in institutions generally provide a wide range of services. To meet distance learners’ needs, it is necessary to implement some student services via an online format. First, institutions provide tutoring services to help improve the English writing skills of speakers of other languages. Students from immigrant and refugee communities as well as some international students fall into this category. Students from non–English-speaking countries enrolled in counseling and related disciplines tend to experience challenges related to English proficiency (Ng, 2006). As such, one-on-one tutoring is available at our institution for students who struggle with editing and American Psychological Association (APA) style writing. This service is critical because many foreign countries do not utilize APA format, and therefore international students do not have familiarity with this style of writing.
Second, tutors at the first three authors’ institution are doctoral students from the psychology department who have opportunities to provide services for students from marginalized communities. Through collaboration between the office of student services and the counseling department, this strategy serves as an excellent service learning experience in working with individuals from globally diverse communities. With an intentional design, the writing skills tutoring service complements classroom pedagogy on multiculturalism by presenting experience with real-world problems, providing opportunities for students to grapple with their beliefs and biases and involve action-oriented solutions.
Mentorship is a substantive resource for supporting worldwide students from diverse communities. Rogers and Molina’s (2006) study found that nine of the 11 psychology programs and departments that were successful at recruiting and retaining students of color had established mentoring programs. In general, ethnic minority students tend to prefer and report more satisfaction with mentors who share a similar racial background (Chan et al., 2015). Figueroa and Rodriguez (2015) posited that mentoring is social justice work that “is a racially and culturally mediated experience instead of a race-neutral, objective interaction” (p. 23). It is an unfortunate reality of counselor education that there exists a significant underrepresentation of minority faculty. The disparity is prominent among Hispanic/Latinx demographics, where student enrollment (8.5%) is almost double the number of faculty (4.7%) from Hispanic/Latinx heritage among CACREP-accredited programs (CACREP, 2016). Black student enrollment is 18.3% and only 12.7% of the total faculty members in CACREP-accredited programs are Black. Chan and colleagues (2015) suggested that in the absence of same-race mentors, the presence of cross-cultural support in the form of multiculturally sensitive mentoring can be beneficial and even critical to the success of international students from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
To support the unique needs of international students in the residential and online cohort, the first author designed weekly office hours for online international students to provide advising and mentorship. The virtual office hours aim to provide a space where students and their peers can not only share challenges, struggles, and concerns about their learning experiences in the program, but also support each other. Additionally, the third author and a colleague have served as international and distance directors of clinical training, which can provide specific mentorship regarding practicum experiences for international students.
Student-Centered Multiculturally Based Organizations
The presence of student-centered organizations is another effective way to provide a sense of belonging and an environment that facilitates peer support among those with shared interests on campus (Rogers & Molina, 2006). Some culturally and social justice–based organizations active at the first three authors’ institution serve this purpose well. One of the university-wide organizations, Diaspora, serves students, staff, and faculty in the community who are interested in learning about and advocating for mental health issues relevant to the Black diaspora. Members of Diaspora aim to raise the community’s awareness of psychosocial and environmental factors that impact the Black community’s well-being. Another organization at our institution, the Latinx Task Force, was formed with a Unity grant award from our university president’s office for faculty, students, and staff to join forces across programs to implement projects that serve the Latinx/Hispanic community on and off campus (Latinx Task Force, n.d.). Furthermore, the Latinx Task Force initiated a Spanish clinician course that introduces students to essential clinical vocabulary, clinical skills, and cultural considerations required to work with Spanish-speaking clients. The Latinx Task Force also conducts a mentorship series that brings Latinx professionals in the field to offer career mentoring support to students.
Multiculturally Based Events and Workshops
Delivery of multicultural education and inclusion of diverse students should not be limited to the virtual classroom. Institutions can be intentional in hosting events and workshops that complement and reinforce classroom pedagogy on multiculturalism while actively supporting individuals from various communities. In recent years, the first three authors’ institution has hosted a rich array of workshops with topics such as “LGBT Psychology,” “Asian Americans and Suicide,” and “Risk and Resiliency Among Newcomer Immigrant Adolescents.” In addition, a “Women of Color Leaders in Psychology” event celebrates the contributions of women of color in psychology and social justice. When the workshops occur in our physical venue, they are often made accessible via videoconferencing platforms and are recorded for later viewing at a convenient time or by those in a different time zone.
Multicultural counseling education and support of the globally diverse student population are ongoing, interrelated endeavors that extend beyond the virtual classroom walls. Intentionality in hosting extracurricular events and creating a supportive environment are ways an institution makes multicultural pedagogical concepts come alive for students. They also are a way of sustaining worldwide students to graduate with a strong foundation from which to launch their counseling careers.
Discussion and Future Direction for Research
The multicultural counseling course in counselor education programs is one of the critical spaces where global students actively engage with the core components of the MSJCC. Given the complexity of teaching this course in a distance learning format, it is crucial for educators to thoroughly think through the varying foundational components, including structure, content, pedagogy, and the various challenges that can arise in virtual classrooms.
We have used our experiences in integrating technology into the multicultural counseling curriculum to discuss online pedagogical framework and virtual course development while exploring unique opportunities, challenges, and solutions. Given the movement of internationalizing the counseling profession, we postulate that multicultural counseling distance education must extend beyond U.S. borders, class meetings, and the curriculum. It is critical that counselor educators provide multicultural and social justice counseling training through systemic modeling by internationalizing the curriculum and training environment and collaborating with training programs and institutions to advocate for, attend to, and support the needs of globally diverse students in distance education.
Currently, the literature on training and online delivery of international multicultural counseling education remains limited. To explore the best online pedagogy for internationalizing multicultural counseling education, more research is needed. As such, future research could focus on examining the outcome of incorporating intersectional and social construction approaches in online counseling curricula, including global students’ multicultural and social justice counseling competencies in their home countries. Future studies also might investigate different course structures and online pedagogy to understand the best methods for multicultural distance counselor education. There is a need to explore counselor educators’ experiences of conducting online multicultural counseling education with globally diverse student populations and their perspectives on receiving multicultural counseling distance education. Supports needed for global students in the online environment may differ from traditional students. Therefore, research on how the academic support of counseling programs and institutions impacts global students’ counseling practice and retention in distance counselor education can be valuable.
Conflict of Interest and Funding Disclosure
The authors reported no conflict of interest
or funding contributions for the development
of this manuscript.
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Szu-Yu Chen, PhD, NCC, LPC, RPT, is an assistant professor at Palo Alto University. Dareen Basma, PhD, LPC-MHSP, is a core faculty member at Palo Alto University. Jennie Ju, PhD, LPC, is a core faculty member at Palo Alto University. Kok-Mun Ng, PhD, NCC, ACS, LPC, is a professor at Oregon State University. Correspondence can be mailed to Szu-Yu Chen, 1791 Arastradero Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94304, firstname.lastname@example.org.