Programs in Human Environmental Sciences Form Plans to Address Cultural Competence

The innovative STEAM lab encourages toddlers and preschoolers enrolled in the Jean Tyson Child Development Student Center to tinker, design, construct, create and represent their ideas.
Tabitha Hudspeth

The innovative STEAM lab encourages toddlers and preschoolers enrolled in the Jean Tyson Child Development Student Center to tinker, design, construct, create and represent their ideas.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cultural competence is crucial to interacting with people who may have different values, beliefs and feelings, and the U of A's School of Human Environmental Sciences is focusing on efforts to bridge gaps in several areas.

Faculty members in School of Human Environmental Sciences, part of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, are increasing cultural understanding through several initiatives.    

Fashion show "seams" to solve several problems

The apparel merchandising and product development program is part of the school, but students are sometimes surprised to learn it and the school are part of Bumpers College. In addition, seniors tend to focus more on future careers and designers often do not engage in design as scholarly research.

The annual Enclothe fashion show addresses all three issues. Students design a garment, use computer-aided design to create a one-of-a-kind pattern and write impact statements regarding their design. More than 600 students, parents, industry partners and members of the community attended the 2018 show.

"Students remain more engaged, the show draws attention to the program, prospective students become more aware, and students strategically design garments with social, environmental and intercultural diversity in mind by focusing on textile waste, size adjustability and other issues," said instructor Stephanie Hubert. 

Intercultural competence on dietetics education

Due to the global impact of nutrition in a multicultural marketplace, it is imperative for human nutrition and dietetics majors comprehend cultural differences.

In the Nutrition Education and Counseling course, students complete the Intercultural Development Inventory to measure competency with feedback provided in one-on-one meetings.

"Identifying and addressing potential bias, the potential for discrimination, and general lack of awareness and knowledge is an integral step in developing future generations of nutrition professionals who will care for our continually changing population," said Mechelle Bailey, clinical instructor and director of the didactic program in dietetics. "Understanding cultural competence will shape the approach, understanding and interventions in the realm of nutrition and dietetics across cultures and throughout a professional career."

Nutrition courses and evidence-based information

Nutrition misinformation is prevalent, even among nutrition students. Through regular attendance of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, and studying current research by experts, subject areas have been added to the curriculum for human nutrition and dietetics, and food, nutrition and health:

  • Medical Nutrition Therapy I and II
    • Genetic Testing in Nutritional Evaluation: Clinical Utility and Challenges
    • Going Green: Use of Medical Cannabis in Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Fundamentals of Nutrition
    • Academy Fellows Making a Global Impact (malnutrition in Guatemala)
    • Putting Heart into Nutrition for Collegiate Athletes
  • Special Topics in Nutrition Assessment
    • Patient Simulation and Use in Dietetics Education
  • Future topics:
    • Combatting the Short Bowel Demons (nutritional implications of Short-Gut Syndrome)
    • When to Initiate Parental Nutrition in the Hospital and at Home

Steam lab: rainbow workshop

In 2018, an "innovative tinkering space" was created with available room in the Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center, which is used for academics and research in early childhood education while providing quality care and education to more than 100 children. The space better serves children and their families, the U of A, the local area and beyond.

Technically a STEAM lab, it was renamed by children the "Rainbow Workshop." Children tinker, design, construct, create and represent their ideas with a section for infants/toddlers and one for preschoolers.

"The Rainbow Workshop has been a selling point for potential families," said clinical assistant professor and JTCDSC Executive Director of Education Shelley McNally. "The innovative concept that infants, toddlers and preschoolers can all benefit from experiences in the space is appealing to families looking for childcare. It has also been transformative for birth through kindergarten licensure students working at the center. The space also has potential for a variety of research topics and summer camps."

Modeling best practices for childhood development

Learning and development by young children is rooted in attachment and driven by play. Research indicates the importance of quality attachment, and young children benefit from open-ended, exploratory and active play, enabling development of self-regulation, social-emotional, language and creative problem-solving skills. A decline of play-based learning in educational settings has created a problematic situation.

Clinical assistant professor Laura Herold represents the U.S. on an international team of early childhood education researchers studying social and emotional experiences of young children and their families during the transition from home to early childhood education settings and beyond. The team includes representatives from Scotland, New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, Samoa and Australia.

Herold and an interdisciplinary campus team, including members from birth through kindergarten, STEM education, communication disorders, and curriculum and instruction, helped develop the Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center STEAM lab, which will be used to research effects of play on development along with teacher attitudes toward play.

"My international and interdisciplinary work is aimed at increasing our understanding of attachment and play in early childhood," said Herold. "Through these twin initiatives, I can defend childhood by modeling and advocating for loving and playful care in early childhood education."

Multicultural influence on hospitality program

College is an opportunity to expose students to different cultures. The hospitality industry depends on building relationships and working with people from various backgrounds.

Meeting and exchanging goods, skills and knowledge have been a foundation of progress through the years, and many goods exchanged have been food, spices, herbs and cooking practices.

"The Cultures and Cuisines hospitality management course matches teaching and learning through multicultural foods," said instructor Lobat Bayyari. "Lectures, presentations and cooking methods blend together through Pineapple Café, the lab portion of the class where students plan, prepare and serve food from countries such as Greece, Italy, Mexico, Korea, Spain, Germany and the U.S. to campus lunch diners."

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences


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