Cultural Competencies of Park and Recreation Professionals: A Case Study of North Carolina


  • Denise M. Anderson
  • Charlsena F. Stone


cultural competency, multiculturalism, diversity.


The U.S. is becoming increasingly culturally diverse. In order for parks and recreation professionals to serve their changing communities effectively, professionals must increase their levels of cultural competence. A culturally competent workforce can prevent the underutilization and premature termination of services. To date, cultural competency of professionals only has been measured among therapeutic recreation professionals. Utilizing Wheeler’s Education and Training Model (1994), this preliminary study was designed to measure the culturally related knowledge, awareness, and skills of park and recreation professionals in North Carolina.

Wheeler proposed that there are four levels of competence ranging from being “unconsciously incompetent” to “unconsciously competent” with regard to diversity issues. Participants in this study demonstrated a relatively high level of cultural competency in the areas of awareness and knowledge but dropped off when respondents were asked about specific skills (e.g., language), suggesting that participants fell between the “consciously incompetent” to “consciously competent” levels of Wheeler’s model. Also, significant differences in competency levels were found between men and women, whites and non-whites, certified and noncertified, and those who had and had not received diversity training in the past 12 months, as well as by education and management levels. The overall findings suggest that parks and recreation professionals perceive themselves as possessing acceptable levels of cultural awareness and knowledge, but not necessarily the specific cultural skills needed to serve culturally diverse consumers. Therefore, results from this sample support Wheeler’s hierarchical model of cultural diversity and support labeling the sampled professionals as falling between the “consciously incompetent” and the “consciously competent” levels. Implications include the necessity of providing diversity skill training programs, and focusing diversity practices on dimensions other than just race, including issues such as gender, disability status of participants, and sexual orientation. Recommendations include, but are not limited to, utilizing culturally sensitive flyers and brochures, offering diversity in program supervision, and increasing the dedication of upper management personnel to increasing cultural competency.





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