1. Cultural Adaptation Processes: La Comunidad Intelectual Adjusts with New
Diana I. Ríos, Graciela Quiñones-Rodriguez, Lilia Falcon, Luis A. Loza &
Melina Fernandez, Cristina Figueroa, Jenna Karvelis, Gabriela Rodriguez
University of Connecticut
Literature on Adapting
Students and Their Adaptation
First Year Students
•“Entering LCI as an incoming freshman, I was expecting a resourceful environment that would function as a
backbone to help me succeed in my new college experience. Growing up in a predominantly Caucasian
community, it never crossed my mind that there would be a space for Hispanics to rekindle with their culture.
Throughout my fall semester I had the opportunity to bond with other students who were interested in Latino
studies, but did not necessarily plan to specialize in these topics. My roommates are enrolled in two different
schools of concentration, yet the three of us can relate to look for a place to call our home within our traditional
perspective towards Latino culture. Although there has been criticism in regards to learning communities
dividing minorities further, I believe LCI has done the opposite for me. Attending the University of Connecticut as
an out-of-state student, fear often plagued my mind trying to find the resources I needed to grow. Without LCI I
would have not identified my key role in a sea where the majority tends to silence the minority.” –First year
student, LCI Economics and Business Administration.
•“I joined LCI out of interest in the Spanish language and Latino culture. I learned a lot about that through our
FYE class and simply through interactions with the diverse Latino diaspora around me. I personally am not
Latina, but I have always felt accepted within the community and my newfound friends have made UConn feel
like home. I feel that living in a community of like-minded emerging intellectuals is empowering, and essential to
finding a place where you truly belong in a large campus like this. It's great to know that there are always people
who support you no matter your differences.”—First year student, Pre-Teaching, Elementary Education.
•LCI has given me the confidence and support to make very important life decisions in just one semester. I
came in as a Biological Sciences, Pre-Med major. I was told early in life, coming from a middle class, Hispanic
household, that going to college to become a doctor would be the best decision for me financially, so that was
my plan. However, adapting to college is not as simple as that. You can’t come in one day and become a doctor
the next. LCI showed me how to deal with the everyday stress through our UNIV course and activities such as
Snack and Chat. These one-on-one interactions with not only with the professors, but other students like me,
helped me make a critical change. It was during those times I realized that it wasn’t just about the money, it was
about me and what I can bring to my community and make it a better place. Now I have chosen a major where I
hope to better the lives of individuals.”
••Coming from an inner city Catholic school, seventy-five in my graduating class, and most them being
minorities, entering the University of Connecticut was a cultural shock. Even though my incoming class had the
biggest enrollment of underrepresented students in the University’s history, it was easy to feel out of place. But
LCI made my adaptation into college life more pleasurable not just because I was still surrounded and reminded
of life back home but it has molded--what I consider a major influence in my every day college life” –First year
student, Human Development and Family Studies.
•“It never occurred to me that being Latino made me different. Entering UConn as a freshman who came from
Bridgeport, CT it was normal for minorities to be the majority. That changed in my fall semester at UConn.
UConn with a student population of 30,000 no longer reflected my home and it would take more than a good
night's sleep to adjust. I tried to find people with similar interests as me, and lo and behold I was drawn to
minority groups because it was all I’d known. LCI allowed me to find my people among the thousands upon
thousands here at UConn. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I am not afraid to be myself. I am proud of where I
come from, even if it makes me different. LCI allowed me to embrace my differences, they are what make me,
me.”—First year student, Marketing, School of Business.
Upper Level Student Voices
•Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations, 29(6), 697–712.
•Fiktorius, T. and Genoveva, A. (2017) Culture Shock. http://www.slideshare.net/teddyfiktorius/culture-shock-
•Gudykunst, W. B. (1995). Anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory: Current status. In R. L. Wiseman
(Ed.), Intercultural Communication Theory (pp. 8–58). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
•Gudykunst, W. B. (1998). Applying anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory to intercultural adjustment
training. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 22(2), 227–250.
•Gudykunst, W. B. (2005). An anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory of strangers’ intercultural
adjustment. Theorizing About Intercultural Communication (pp. 419–457). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
•Kim, Y. Y. (1977). Communication patterns of foreign immigrants in the process of acculturation. Human
Communication Research, 4, 70–77.
•Kim, Y. Y. (2001). Becoming Intercultural: An Integrative theory of Communication and Cross-cultural
Adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
•Kim, Y. Y. (2005). Inquiry in intercultural and development communication. Journal of Communication, 55(3),
•Martin,J. and Nakayama, T. (2007). Intercultural Communication in Contexts. NY: McGraw Hill.
•Mifflin, J. (2009). Closing the circle: Native American writings in colonial New England, A documentary Nexus
between acculturation and cultural preservation. The American Archivist, 72 (2), 344-382.
•Sam, D. and Berry, J. (2010). Acculturation: When individuals and groups of different cultural backgrounds
meet. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5 (4), 472-481.
•Sobre-Denton, M. and Hart, D. (2008). Mind the gap: Application-based analysis of cultural adjustment
models. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32, 538-552.
Cultural adaptation theory explains that an environment is challenging for ethnic
newcomer individuals and groups. La Comunidad Intelectual (LCI) is a residential
learning community envisioned by an interdisciplinary faculty member from social
sciences and further developed, through teamwork, with staff from education fields. It
debuted in 2014 as a small “house” among many other undergraduate “houses” such
as Eco, Human Rights, Business, Engineering, etc. LCI functions as one support
mechanism, among other nets. Pedagogical planning for LCI’s emerging intellectuals
includes First Year Experience/Learning Community program tools such as the college
essay, résumé writing, library digital resources, how to speak with your professor, and
stress management. An original emphasis was on Latino and Latin American Studies
along with information about minoring and majoring in interdisciplinary studies. These
courses are nested in social sciences and humanities. As a result of current enrollment
profiles, LCI leadership must themselves adapt mindset, strategy and pedagogy to also
address needs of incoming STEM students who are adapting to a dynamic university
environment. The goal of this necessarily reflexive examination is to:
1. present how cultural adaptation theory illustrates change processes undertaken by
students who are underrepresented and first generation to attend college;
1. shed light on how social justice and ethnic civil rights are integral to LCI;
1. elucidate how LCI developers strive for effectiveness and must continuously adapt
to unanticipated campus culture changes resulting from academic interests of
diverse students, and new university-wide emphasis in STEM (Science
Technology, Engineering, Math) education and research.
Current 2017 Events: Valentine's Snack & Chat with Human Rights and Action LC on Wed Feb 15. Snack &
Chats on March 8th and April 12th (all at 5:30).
El Concilio is in the process of also being an official student organization (club).
We now have an Instagram account made for LCI.
Future Events: New York to see Ellis Island and the United Nations; We would like to have an etiquette dinner
with the entire community towards the end of the semester.
We also plan to speak at high schools about LCI and the importance of finding learning community type
groups in general.
Future Growth: Given the political environment, something like this LC is even more important to be a support
system for students. A bigger LCI? Bigger with a strong structure, not just course materials, but a solid
Concilio, everyone has to be on the same page.
•Two floors (2x40 = 80 people), would need more meetings, more than just Snack and Chat, would need peer
mentorship “Amigos” pairing up. Upper class people could have an open-door time for first-year drop-ins;
matching up very early in the term by major can be helpful. Bonding is at the beginning of the term before the
workload gets heavier.
•Just because it could be bigger, does not mean it would be more successful. Let’s see how next year 2017-18
1st Year Student Voices
People who transition to a new environment undergo a process of change in order to
survive, thrive and advance. Much literature has addressed this change, which happens
in various degrees and stages. In the current research about LCI, we pose that the
students change toward the culture of the campus and higher education, but also retain
their identities. As well, the developers, who are seasoned academics, must continue to
adapt and reconfigure approaches in order to keep up with needs of new generations of
students and new socio-political-economic realities.
•Acculturation, or cultural level assimilation, toward a dominant norm, describes how
individuals take on characteristic traits, values and language of the larger society in
which they live (Berry, 2005).
•Adaptation is a similar and more encompassing conceptual process, ‘individuals who,
on relocating to an unfamiliar socio-cultural environment, strive to establish and maintain
a relatively stable, reciprocal, and functional relationship with [that] environment’’ (Kim,
•Culture Shock, Anxiety, and Uncertainty Management theories have focused on
newcomer stress and how newcomers regulate, cope with stressors of adjustment. new
locations, new roles, new positions, etc. (Gudykunst, 1995;1998).
•When individuals and groups enter an organization or society, there is a reciprocal
process, cross-cultural, intercultural, phenomenon that has mutual consequences. Martin
and Nakayama (2007) and many scholars (Kim, 1977; 2001; Sobre-Denton & Hart,
2008; Sam & Berry, 2010)) have examined this within domestic and global realms.
Plans & Adapting, Adjusting for Subsequent Years
•“As a 1st generation immigrant and transfer student coming from Community College, LCI was an
essential part in my transition to UConn. I joined LCI in 2015, its 2nd year of development, and I got the
opportunity to meet such a diverse group of people within the Latino community, forming strong
friendships and sharing each other’s culture. We as intellectuals promote a supportive environment for
minorities from different majors and create a sense of security among us. I was born and raised in Peru,
but LCI became my home away from home. We have a strong sense of family in this community and we
serve each other as an emotional and academic rapport.”
••When I came to the US in 2012, I was nervous about which major to choose so I picked
Liberals Arts and Sciences and enrolled in a Community College. I was fortunate to have been
surrounded by a supportive family that supported my decisions. I think there is always pressure from our
parents’ expectations, especially for the children of immigrant parents because our parents did not have
the same opportunities as us. They project their dreams on us for their legacy and goals to carry on us,
but this pressure has helped me in making decisions about my future. I explored my different career
options and tried different classes. That helped me decide to apply to UConn and eventually get into an
Allied Health Sciences path. I finished my Associate’s degree with honors. Now, I am a graduating
senior in May and on the pre-med track.” – Senior Student in Allied Health Sciences
•“As a first generation immigrant, I am bound to high expectations by my family. I made the sacrifice to
leave a comfortable life to reach a higher place in academic society, and this is why I chose engineering
as a major. I want to be able to contribute to society and particularly to this country as it’s the sale of
ideas and international production that brought America to this economic might. My first year was tough
and rigorous to work as I took too many credits, but the small group of students that started this learning
community furnished enough to help me push through. I’ve seen this learning community grow since
then and hope it continues growing in both number students but also in academic achievements as we
see students in many different fields of study.” –Junior, Chemical Engineering/Spanish