Webinar Review: Culturally Aware Mentorship

Over the course of the semester, our trainees are reviewing webinars in their given fields and preparing abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

Culturally Aware Mentorship

Sherilynn J. Black, Ph.D. and Angela Byars-Winston, Ph.D.

May 27, 2020

NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences

Watch on the NIH Website >>

Taylor JorgensenAnalysis by Taylor Jorgensen:

This webinar was hosted by the NIH, and featured two main speakers, as well as a question and answer session. The primary focus is to present evidence supporting the importance of cultural awareness in mentorship, as well as how this can be implemented. While this webinar was recorded at the height of COVID in 2020,  the lingering effects of the pandemic certainly keep this video relevant.

Effective mentorship is not only a productive research relationship, but also includes career and psychosocial support for students. This type of mentorship is research backed, being an important predictor of academic persistence and success. It is important to recognize that at all levels successful mentorship is a learned skill that can be developed both in new and seasoned mentors. Evidence shows that STEM students, specifically those from underrepresented groups, want to talk with mentors about race/ethnicity and associated barriers. However, many mentors up to this point either operate from a “colorblind” perspective where they only focus on their science, or only focus on others’ cultures and not the impact of their own.

Specifically in the time of COVID-19, students (and graduate student mentors/professors) have felt increased anxiety, loss of productivity, and uncertainty for the future. It is important to acknowledge that students from underrepresented backgrounds may feel these stressors to a greater extent.  Biases are heightened under stressful conditions, so as mentors we need to make conscious decisions to foster diversity and inclusion in our labs. The webinar gives many helpful tips to improving cultural awareness in the research setting, but some of the most impactful points include: validating the experiences of others, not making assumptions about the lived experiences of others, and being authentic with our own limitations.

I think that this webinar is a valuable resource for any mentor aiming to broaden their understanding of culturally aware mentorship. Developing  diverse, equitable, and inclusive lab settings and programs is a mission that certainly can’t be achieved by viewing one livestream recording, but this is certainly a great supplement.