SF BUILD Supports Faculty as Agents of Change

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Contact Info: pjmonahan@sfsu.edu

By Patrick Monahan, SF BUILD

Each participant in the SF BUILD Scholar program is placed in a research lab, and the principal investigators (PI) in each of those labs receive training on how to create supportive environments for their students.

At a yearly celebration for PI’s, all participate in a “stereotype threat” workshop led by SF BUILD principal investigator Letícia Marquez-Magaña. Stereotype threat, a concept introduced by social scientists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson in 1995, refers to the fear of confirming negative stereotypes about one’s race, ethnicity or other group to which a person belongs. To ensure SF mentors understand the program’s vision and mission, faculty at these workshops learn about the negative ways that stereotype threat can affect student performance and concrete strategies for alleviating its effects.

The Near-Peer Mentorship program is another component of SF BUILD’s mentoring approach. This program pairs lower-division science students from the SF State Metro Academy of Science with upper-division STEM students. The program is in its third year, with 18 mentors and 25 mentees participating, and was created as a way for lower division students to receive guidance from students closest to their lived experience and who can understand what it’s like to navigate through college.

“Finding mentors [who] are from communities most similar to them and have gone through the journey that they’ve gone through—we thought that would better contribute to the success of the mentees,” said Near-Peer Mentorship Coordinator Torey Jacques. “They can identify and connect with them on a deeper level.”

Jacques said that by talking through their experiences with other students, mentees can feel validation that “these are emotions I’ve had because I’ve been through a similar thing.”

“You realize that this is normal—I’m not abnormal because I’m the only face here,” Jacques said. “This is all part of the process.”

Mentors also receive training from Jacques throughout their involvement with the program. Using the NRMN “Entering Mentoring” series as a starting point, Jacques developed a series of trainings for mentors that focus on different aspects of developing and maintaining an effective mentoring relationship. Discussion topics include establishing solid lines of communication, power dynamics and assessing mentee’s understanding of important concepts . The mentors are also given the space to share obstacles they’ve run into as they are mentoring, allowing them to work through the struggles collectively with Jacques’ guidance. Pulling from his own experience as both a mentee and a mentor, Jacques uses these trainings to relay the importance of mentoring.

“There's a lot of responsibility in being a mentor… in the aspect that someone's depending on you,” says Jacques. “You can either be the rain or you can be the thunderstorms. It's a very powerful position because you have people that are willing to be molded… You can make someone spurned by science, or you can make them see the joy in it.”

Currently, SF BUILD is working to expand these near-peer mentorship efforts by piloting partnerships with local high schools. By pairing college-level STEM students with high school students aspiring to study STEM, they hope to better connect the pathway through academia for students from all backgrounds.

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.