NASP Communiqué, Vol. 36, #1
Multicultural Training at
Brigham Young University
Interview by Terry Bontrager, NCSP
The multicultural spotlight for this issue is on the school psychology training program
at Brigham Young University (BYU). The program is featured as a Multicultural
School Psychology Training Program on the NASP website (http://www.nasponline.
org/resources/culturalcompetence/ index.aspx#programs). In this interview,
Dr. Melissa A. Heath and Dr. Tim Smith discuss their program.
CQ: For how long has the training program
at Brigham Young University (BYU) prepared
multicultural school psychologists?
BYU: The school psychology program at
BYU has addressed linguistic diversity
consistently since its inception in the
early 1970s. Above and beyond merely
mastering a foreign language, typically
50% of graduates are fluent in a language
other than English and over 25% have
resided 18 months to 2 years in countries
outside the United States.
Other consistent foci include lifelong
learning and community service. The BYU
mottos of “The World is Our Campus” and
“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve”
highlight the humanitarian emphases
characteristic of BYU. For example,
founder Brigham Young stated: “Our
education should be such as to improve
our minds and fit us for increased usefulness;
to make us of greater service to the
human family” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.
11, pp. 83, 1854–1886). Our school psychology
program grew from this basic
desire: to provide useful service for the
benefit of the human family.
In the 1990s, expanding our program’s
spirit of service and complementing the
strong base of linguistic diversity, several
newly hired faculty began addressing
other multicultural issues. We recognized
the challenge to alter the longstanding
demographics of our profession in which
95% of school psychologists across the
U.S. are European American and less
than 10% speak a language other than
English. In contrast, students of color
comprise nearly 40% of school enrollment
nationally, with over 350 languages
spoken in the United States and 17% of
students speaking a language other than
English in their homes. The BYU school
psychology program actively recruits and
prepares professionals who promote
multicultural practices. More specifically,
our program prepares future professionals
who are capable of delivering
effective services that are not only
research based, but compatible with the
unique needs of those served.
CQ: How does the training program at BYU
define a multicultural school psychologist?
BYU: Our school psychology program is
part of the BYU David O. McKay School
of Education. Our program’s philosophy
regarding multiculturalism aligns with
the School of Education’s official statement, “Valuing Diversity, Aiming for
Unity,” found online at: http://education.
html. This statement emphasizes:
(a) spiritual connections among all people
and (b) moral responsibilities to
promote the welfare of others, including
individuals and groups who are disenfranchised
and historically oppressed.
Furthermore, training within our program
adheres to and aligns with multicultural
competencies and guidelines published
by NASP (www.nasponline.org/
CQ: What is special about your program’s
training that makes it multicultural?
BYU: Our program is especially multicultural
for the following reasons:
We infuse multicultural content in
courses across the program.
We emphasize bilingual assessment
issues and provide a semester-long course
on that topic (in addition to the required
course on multicultural psychology).
We are housed in the same academic
department with one of the few special
education programs across the nation to
offer dual certification in ESL, and our
students benefit from mentoring provided
by that program’s faculty (chairing
We offer an optional course on religious
diversity taught by an internationally
renowned expert in the psychology
of religion (Dr. P. Scott Richards).
We actively recruit and retain diverse
student cohorts. Currently, 41% of students
speak a language other than English,
and 26% are students of color
(African American, Latino/a American,
Asian American, and Native American).
CQ: How do you measure the success of the
training? What impact on the field of school
psychology do you think your training program
BYU: One indication of our success is
recognition at the national level: For the
past two years, a student from our program
has earned the NASP Minority
Scholarship (Veronica Gorgueiro in
2006 and Kaitlyn Dyson in 2007).
All students in the program complete
a “Multicultural Competence Portfolio”
based on the NASP and APA guidelines
cited above. This portfolio includes (1)
documentation of multicultural competence
across 24 areas of awareness,
knowledge, and skills; and (2) self-reported
changes on those 24 areas over time.
All students in the program complete
a “multicultural service learning
project” in which they provide services
to individuals or organizations in the
community (approximately 20 hours
during their second year in the
program). Example activities include
providing interviews at the Utah AIDS
Foundation (serving HIV-positive
clients), working with after-school programs
for Latino/a students, tutoring
children in homeless shelters, providing
respite care for families of children with
severe disabilities, etc.
Each year, our students assist with a
variety of university-sponsored activities,
including a summer program to
assist high school students of color in
applying for college, Black History
Month activities and programs, the
annual BYU American Indian Powwow,
and a variety of other cultural events.
In short, we work with students who
not only understand and appreciate
multiculturalism but who see multicultural
practice as a way of life.
CQ: Do you have any final comments?
BYU: Unfortunately, taking multicultural
competence from the academic world
to the real world may suffer the same fate
as the popular statement, “after all is said
and done, more is said than done.” The
following examples portray “real life”
experiences that prepare our students to
provide multiculturally competent practice
as school psychologists.
Over the past seven years, students in
our program assisted with projects
involving adolescent American Indians’
academic and career issues on the Navajo
Reservation and surrounding communities.
For example, last year nine students
spent three days conducting intellectual
and academic evaluations and generating
normative data for a school district serving
a large population of Native American
students just outside the Navajo Reservation.
Information gathered assisted in
answering questions regarding the efficacy
of standard placement in special education
and ultimately assisted the district
in determining better ways to assess and
meet students’ academic needs.
Four students in our program developed
a website for the BYU School of
Education that provides resources
regarding multicultural education.
BYU faculty model professionalism
and active involvement in organizations
that promote multicultural competence
(e.g., National Association for Multicultural
Education, APA Division 45, Association
for Multicultural Counseling and
Development). Students are mentored
by faculty with national recognition for
their scholarship, such as the APA Division
45 “Emerging Scholar Award” and
APA Division 36 “William C. Bier Award.”
Students are involved in active
research agendas that include cuttingedge
work on multicultural psychology.
Students participate in a wide variety of
research and thesis projects regarding
multicultural issues, such as exploring
refugee children’s transitions to U.S.
schools, Latino/a students’ interactions
with public school teachers, state guidelines
regarding multicultural issues during
disasters/crises (highlighted in the
Communiqué), culturally sensitive crisis
response to assist students and families
from diverse backgrounds, etc.
Students who are fluent in Spanish and
trained in crisis intervention provide
counseling for children whose parents
have been deported/repatriated to Mexico.
Locally, there are opportunities for our
graduate students to serve practicum and
internship in elementary schools with over
50% Spanish-speaking enrollment. Currently,
20% of Provo School District is
comprised of children who speak Spanish
as a first language. Focusing on a specific
incident, one practicum student worked
closely with a third grade male who spoke
only Spanish. This young boy (identified as
legally blind) needed counseling to assist
him in coping with a degenerative eye disease.
His mother was comfortable in working
with this particular practicum student
because of her ability to communicate in
Spanish. The practicum student worked
closely with the child and his family for an
entire school year. The site supervisor
noted the effectiveness of the counseling
intervention and also the strong rapport
based on comfortable communication.
During their second year, students
help to meet the needs of a child with a
severe disability through a required “family
intervention project.” Each graduate
student works in a collaborative effort
with one family struggling to meet the
needs of a child with a severe disability.
Students conduct home visits; identify a
target behavior based on observations and
interviews with the parent/s; and design,
implement and evaluate an intervention
to address the target behavior. This one-on-
one home-based experience provides a
host of learning opportunities for our
practicum students, increasing empathy
and understanding for parents’ and
guardians’ 24-hour job of caring for children
with challenging disabilities. In their
reflection papers, graduate students note
their increased sensitivity to the family’s
needs. This understanding is helpful in
providing a stronger link between the
school and the family, ultimately increasing
collaboration in meeting the students’
Anyone interested in further information about
the program at BYU should contact Tim Smith
(Phone: (801) 422-1311; e-mail: TimSmith@byu
.edu) or Melissa Heath (Phone: (801) 422-1235;
e-mail: MelissaAllen@byu.edu). Inquiries can also
be made to the School Psychology Program, 340
MCKB, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
84602-5093, fax (801) 422-0198.