Professor Phillips on The Importance of Cultural Competency

Understanding the complexity of human development and culture can be daunting. According to Associate Professor of Liberal Arts, Gay Phillips, those complexities are broken down to three basic needs: safety, security, and community.

“I tell my students in all my classes that we are pack animals. It is kind of an odd way to say it. Because of those social connections, we need each other. What we do to each other, how we communicate, how we understand each other, all those things matter,” Phillips said.

As the United States becomes more diverse and culturally manifold, the competitive workforce increasingly requires and searches for employees who are culturally competent and well equipped to handle diverse populations. Grasping the importance of cultural differences and human development is more crucial now then ever.

Through her own personal and professional experiences, Phillips unveils these basic human needs through the various courses she will be teaching this fall.
Her fascination for sociology and human behavior occurred in her early years.

“I grew up in west Texas, in the oil fields with my father, and we traveled a lot. That probably peaked my interest the most about traveling through the nation, and getting to the different areas and different people,” Phillips said.
Being exposed to a diverse array of places and people, this broadened her perspective on humanity and the aspects that related us to one another.

“I have always been interested in how we are similar as humans, how we are different as humans, how culture is created, how it is shared, and how we influence cultural changes.

As well as the reasons behind why humans do what they do, all those combined helped me fall in love with sociology and it became my primary discipline,” Phillips said.

Beyond her childhood adventures, Philips’ personal, professional, and teaching experiences deepened her capacity to understand and connect with people, especially her students. “For me, it is sort of a combination of my life experiences, including social work, human services, and psychology that helped make those connections,” Phillips said.

“I watch out for how my students are doing. In many of my courses I try to talk about how human development is something we do over our lifespan, and when you do not have basic needs like attachment bonding, and have experienced trauma, which almost everyone does, you will not have the foundation basis of a secure environment. It is much harder to deal with that trauma. Showing concern alone can provide the foundation necessary for restoring a sense of security and significance that every individual craves.

This approach helps open students up to understand communication and connection through experience, which reinforces the core message Philips teaches in her courses.
Professional preparation is prioritized as Philips strives to equip her students to meet the demanding needs of the diverse workforce. Employers are looking for employees who are skilled in dealing with diverse populations.

“If you are not comfortable with dealing with diverse populations, you will not make it far. You have to be able to understand beyond surface explanation,” Phillips said.

As a student and future professional, understanding and developing cultural competency cross-culturally is an essential life skill and professional necessity.

She has several courses planned for the fall semester. All her courses are centered around human development. Her courses include Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Marriage and Family, as well as the recently revised “Social Equalities” now called Diversity and Inclusion.
Some of the courses will be taught online and others located on the Metro Campus. Phillips can be contacted by email at

Bitania Solomon

Bitania Solomon is the Editor - Northeast Campus for the TCC Connection. You can reach her via her e-mail: