Mentoring Focus 1: Culturally Aware/ Race Conscious Mentor Training

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Contact Info: christa.reynolds@nih.gov

Diversifying the research workforce involves recognizing the role of institutional racism and historical oppression in shaping today's world. Three BUILD sites help to dismantle racist structures with difficult discussions, workshops and programs. 

Prompt: How do you bring cultural awareness and race consciousness into your mentor training?

 

BUILD PODER

Our faculty mentors are trained in mentoring through cultural humility based in Critical Race Theory (CRT). All BUILD PODER mentors go through annual trainings, the first a 16-hour training by “Jones Inclusive” where faculty members learn about cultural competence, microaggressions and stereotype threat, White privilege and unconscious bias.
Each year, faculty mentors participate in a follow-up training. In year 2, we asked faculty about the implementation of CRT in mentoring, focused on their specific concerns, and role played possible mentoring changes that include concepts learned in the entry training. In year 3, faculty deepened their understanding of CRT by tying structural and historical racism to their mentoring. For example, the training examined “The Single Story,” the natural tendency to see students as far less complex than they really are, and how to overcome this tendency by listening more closely to students and their experiences. Learning more deeply about racial dynamics challenges faculty mentors to disrupt their “dysconsciousness” about race to think more critically about health inequity.

In year 4, faculty mentors were immersed in a hands-on experience called the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” created by Brazilian theatre artist Augusto Boal. Mentors were challenged to apply their CRT knowledge to student-related mentoring responsibilities through theatrical role playing. Mentors engage in physical and problem-focused role playing, participating in reflective ice-breakers followed by real student stories of science “push-out.” Through theory and application over a course of four years, our mentors expanded their critical thinking and are now more prepared to work with students who continue to face structural and historical racism on their road to scientific achievement.

 

SF BUILD: 

Each participant in our SF BUILD Scholar program is placed in a research lab, and the principal investigators in each of those labs receive training on how to create supportive environments for their students. At a yearly celebration for principal investigators, all participate in a workshop led by SF BUILD principal investigator Letícia Marquez-Magaña, ensuring they understand SF BUILD’s mission.

The workshop focuses on the phenomenon of stereotype threat, a fear of confirming the stereotypes people have about you, which can affect student performance. Participants learn what stereotype threat is, how it can affect student performance, and concrete strategies for avoiding situations that can trigger it. The workshops combine case studies, personal stories and a synthesis of research. The material is a little different each time, depending on the audience – for instance, for research-minded faculty members, Márquez-Magaña explains the large body of research on the triggers of stereotype threat and how these effects can even be seen in people’s bodies. See more about Creating Agents of Change in STEM.

 

UAF BLaST: We recognized that within our training program, we needed to provide space for difficult dialogues, like those about cultural competency and racial equity, while also reaching our students in remote locations throughout Alaska. To best support all of our students, we incorporated numerous academic positions into a single position unique to the BLaST program. This is the Research, Advising, and Mentoring Professional (RAMP) position. RAMPs holistically mentor undergraduate students and serve our student population through their efforts of connecting with rural and Alaska Native/Native American students. They offer comprehensive advising, tutoring, and research support and also facilitate undergraduate professional development workshops where students can discuss and explore a variety of mentor-related topics.

 

These efforts are valuable in increasing the success of those who may not have otherwise entered into the biomedical and research fields in Alaska or from rural communities within our partner campuses.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.