For minority students, finding mentors can be a challenge. Here’s how they can overcome barriers.

By Tori DeAngelis

 

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/04/finding-mentors.aspx

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Jeanett Castellanos, PhD, was just glad she’d made it to college. Neither of her parents—both Cuban ­refugees—had graduated from high school, and they were exuberant about their daughter’s success. “I thought I would just get a BA. I didn’t think there was anything further,” Castellanos says.

But that changed when a friend sought to introduce her to a professor who, she told Castellanos, “is going to change your life,” Castellanos recalls. He was Joseph L. White, PhD, now professor emeritus at the university and renowned for his life-changing mentoring of many students. As soon as Castellanos walked into his office, she was greeted by “this charismatic, personable man” who helped her sketch out her educational trajectory on his wall-to-wall chalkboard.

Castellanos fulfilled the vision they outlined that day, which included a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a doctorate in higher education. She went on to become director of UCI’s Social Science Academic Resource Center, where she helped numerous undergraduate students secure the tools they needed to be ready for grad school. Today, she’s a tenured faculty member with her own research mentoring program, and she and White are co-authoring a book on mentoring.

Castellanos’s story speaks to the power of this vital academic relationship—how connecting with the right people at the right time can vastly influence a student’s school and career trajectory. Yet for first-gener­ation students and many minority students, finding good mentors and getting the most out of these connections can be daunting. That’s because in many cases they’re not versed in the culture of academe, says White.

“These students are entering a new way of life, and they have to understand that it’s more than just the academic side of college or grad school that’s important,” he says. “They need to get connected to the decision-makers in the field.”

The obstacles to finding mentors and otherwise gaining a strong foothold in academe can be psychological as well, says Kevin Cokley, PhD, professor of counseling psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research shows that graduate students of color are more likely than white students to experience the “impostor phenomenon”—the belief held by some high-achieving people that they’re frauds and will be seen as such. This phenomenon takes on added significance for students of color because they may internalize stereotypes that they’re in school simply because of affirmative action, says Cokley, whose results are in press at the Journal of Counseling Psychology.

“So when you combine that with what most grad students feel about imposterism,” he says, “it becomes racialized.”

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome such challenges and find great mentors who can help students achieve their highest potential. Here’s advice from students and psychologists versed in this valuable relationship:

Know that you need them. Mentors aren’t a luxury—they’re a necessity, says Andy Choi, a fourth-year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and member of the APAGS Science Committee. “A lot of the training and socialization that happens in our field is very interpersonal, and those elements aren’t necessarily structured into your coursework,” he says. So students should recognize that they need others who are more advanced in the field to guide them, he says.

Seek many mentors. The complexity of grad school and crafting a career trajectory means that one mentor is not enough. To succeed, students need mentors to help them gain skills in a range of relevant areas, whether it’s in academia, research, networking or other.

University of Missouri psychology professor Lisa Flores, PhD, for instance, recommends that students have one mentor for their research development, one for networking and finding service opportunities, and another for navigating the world of practice. She also encourages students to seek mentors at different career stages—not just full-fledged faculty or professionals, but peer mentors as well. “Each person has something different that they can contribute to your career,” she says. Students should also ask others to recommend people who can guide them, such as advisors, faculty members and fellow students.

Students in research-oriented programs are particularly likely to need more than one mentor—faculty who can address different aspects of the science they are studying, whether in content or methodology, says Choi.

Choose thoughtfully… Students should think about the types of mentors who can best round out their experiences, says Jasmín Llamas, PhD, an assistant professor at Santa Clara University. When she entered grad school, she spent her first year figuring out the kinds of training she was already getting and what she needed to fill in. By her second year, she was prepared to chat with her advisor about her direction and possible mentors who could help get her there. “It’s really smart to get a feeling for what you need before you dive in,” she says.

For many minority students, it can also help to find at least one mentor with whom they have a strong interpersonal connection. Llamas felt fortunate to have had an undergraduate professor who took strong interest in her academic success and helped guide her into the world of research. It was also a plus that she was, like Llamas, Latina. “We are both quite petite, but the way she carried herself really modeled for me that, ‘OK, you can have something to say,'” ­Llamas says.

…and speak carefully. In a related vein, consider what you want to learn before meeting with your mentor, recommends Joelle Taknint, chair of the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, which works to promote a psychology pipeline that represents the nation’s ethnic diversity. “Be clear from the beginning about what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and find out what they’re willing to give,” she says. When mentoring relationships don’t work, it’s often because there’s a mismatch in expectations concerning the scope of the mentoring relationship, she says. “Clear expectations upfront can help both mentor and mentee figure out what is most important for the mentee to get out of the relationship, whether it’s networking, research mentoring, preparation for clinical work or other,” Taknint says.

Leave your comfort zone. Students shouldn’t limit themselves to mentors within their own departments. Going outside the psychology department can provide a more neutral sounding board for students’ academic concerns, goals and desires. And for students pursuing interdisciplinary research, going outside the department is, for obvious reasons, a necessity.

In Choi’s case, a positive experience with a research mentor from his university’s department of education blossomed into a decision to gain an extra master’s degree in quantitative methods—an expertise he knows will be valuable in his future research and when he’s seeking an academic position. “The takeaway for me is to be open and flexible about finding mentorship outside your immediate field,” he says.

Transcend your own stereotypes. While it might make sense initially for students to seek out mentors who share their ethnic or racial background, doing so isn’t necessary for success, says Flores. In fact, a 2011 study in the Journal of Social Issues by Stacy Blake-Beard, PhD, of Simmons College, and colleagues found that while minority students may prefer mentors with similar backgrounds, students with different-group mentors have the same academic outcomes as peers with same-group mentors. What’s more, it can be hard to find faculty mentors of color because they are few in number and often swamped with mentorship duties.

In Flores’s case, most of her mentors have been white, and all have been essential in guiding her career trajectory, she says. Many have been white women who themselves have experienced discrimination in academe. Some also come from low-income backgrounds, a further impediment to academic success.

“These relationships challenged some of my own stereotypes about mentoring”—including that white faculty tend to come from privileged backgrounds and hence might be difficult to relate to. When that proved untrue, it was a valuable lesson, and it’s a good one for psychology students in general, Flores says.

Get out there. Students can also connect with new mentors by volunteering or applying for teaching or research positions, Taknint suggests. When she was considering graduate school but wasn’t sure whether her application was competitive enough, she took off a year after college and volunteered in the Marquette University lab of Lucas Torres, PhD, who studies Latino health disparities. One day Torres asked her to stick around after a meeting, and he spent the next hour encouraging her to apply to grad school. “He told me he thought I had what it takes, and that he wanted to do whatever he could to help make that happen,” Taknint remembers. “That was huge for me, and it gave me the little kick I needed to give grad school a shot.”

Students should also get involved with APA, APAGS, their state psychological associations and relevant ­ethnic-minority psychological associations—great places to find professional and other kinds of mentors, Taknint advises. “Any way to get involved in professional communities is a plus,” she says.

Give back. Mentoring is often seen as a one-way relationship, with mentors giving and mentees receiving. Instead, students should think of it as reciprocal, and consider ways of giving back, Flores recommends. A particularly valuable way is simply sharing your achievements, both personal and professional. “Don’t be shy. Mentors have invested in you as a person and a professional, and they want to be able to celebrate your successes,” she says.

Another important way to give back: Become a mentor yourself, including by mentoring peers in earlier stages of graduate study within your program or lab. When Castellanos told White that she wanted to repay him for everything he’d done for her, his answer was always the same: “Pass it on.”

by Kristin Houser on June 29, 2017

The Public Doesn’t Trust Science. It’s 2017. We Need to Fix This.

Living in a Post-Truth World

In this post-truth world plagued by fake news and alternative facts, a massive divide has emerged between the science community and much of society, and the problem isn’t limited to just one issue, either.

Despite scientists telling them otherwise, a significant number of people still believe genetically modified foods are unsafe to eat, others are worried that vaccines do more harm than good, and an alarming number of people aren’t convinced that climate change is a man-made phenomenon.

[Still Writing] Expert: The Public Doesn’t Trust Science. Here’s How We Could Change That.

“The public is nervous. They worry, ‘Are scientists trustworthy? Can industry be trusted?’,” Arthur Caplan, Founding Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University, explains to Futurism.

Thankfully, Caplan believes the scientific community has the power to regain the public’s trust.

Communication Is Key

According to Caplan, rebuilding trust starts with better communication. Scientists can spend years or even decades dedicated to one field of study, and their work can be extremely complicated. Not every research project lends itself to snappy headlines and easily digestible results, so the science community needs to focus on finding people the public can trust to explain its work instead of relying on the press to act as the middleman.

“We have to have more scientists learn how to communicate better,” asserts Caplan. “We don’t have many good spokesmen. Out of hundreds of thousands of scientists, we have roughly six that can communicate.”

Having more charismatic, trustworthy science ambassadors like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku who can explain scientific facts and breakthroughs in a relatable way is especially important when it comes to areas of science in which ethics are a concern. Caplan cites gene editing as one such example.

“Many people don’t understand what the technology is all about,” he explains. “They fear it’s going to be used by bad people to do bad things, and they don’t really understand the upside or the benefits.” The public needs to see that scientists aren’t egomaniacs trying to “play God” with genetics, but regular people who see ways the technology could save lives.

The Next Generation

By focusing first on building better lines of communication, the science community has a chance to regain the public’s trust, and the implications of that would be extraordinary.

For example, addressing the issue of climate change would be much easier if an additional 37 percent of the public believed it was primarily caused by man (bringing the rate in line with that of the science community in the Pew Research survey). If politicians wanted to be re-elected, they’d be forced to write legislation addressing the issue, and an additional third of the population would be more likely to make changes on an individual level to address the problem, such as transitioning to electric cars.

Even more important than regaining the public’s trust, however, might be building it from the ground up with future generations, particularly in regards to controversial areas of study. Today’s youth may not have the established biases of older generations, and currently, the science community does little to connect with them.

“We need some serious ethical and science-related discussion related to [these topics] in high school. After all, it’s the next generation that will answer many of these issues, and most of them don’t get any discussion of these topics even though they’re keenly interested in all of them,” says Caplan. “We neglect high school, and if you produce an illiterate population with respect to science, you suffer the consequences.”


This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Taken from Lisa Quast, Contributor

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2017/03/06/why-grit-is-more-important-than-iq-when-youre-trying-to-become-successful/#3d127bb07e45

You attended the party of a long-time friend and ran into a lot of people from high school that you hadn’t seen in years. During chit-chat over appetizers and drinks, you could feel the friendly competition heating up.

While comparing career accomplishments, you were shocked to learn that the kid from school with the genius IQ, the one all the teachers thought would be spectacularly successful, had struggled with his career. How could this be, you wondered. This was the person everyone thought would invent something that would change the world.

It turns out that intelligence might not be the best indicator of future success. According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t talent. Instead, it’s a special blend of persistence and passion that she calls “grit.”

Duckworth has spent years studying people, trying to understand what it is that makes high achievers so successful. And what she found surprised even her. It wasn’t SAT scores. It wasn’t IQ scores. It wasn’t even a degree from a top-ranking business school that turned out to be the best predictor of success. “It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special,” Duckworth said. “In a word, they had grit.”

Being gritty, according to Duckworth, is the ability to persevere. It’s about being unusually resilient and hardworking, so much so that you’re willing to continue on in the face of difficulties, obstacles and even failures. It’s about being constantly driven to improve.

In addition to perseverance, being gritty is also about being passionate about something. For the highly successful, Duckworth found that the journey was just as important as the end result. “Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.”

What her research demonstrated is that it wasn’t natural talent that made the biggest difference in who was highly successful and who wasn’t – it was more about effort than IQ. Duckworth even came up with two equations she uses to explain this concept:

• Talent x effort = skill

• Skill x effort = achievement

“Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them,” Duckworth explained.

As you can see from the equations, effort counts twice. That’s why IQ and SAT scores aren’t a good indicator of someone’s future success. It’s because those scores are missing the most important part of the equation – the person’s effort level or what Duckworth calls their “grittiness” factor (their level of persistence and passion).

What does that mean for you? It means that it’s OK if you aren’t the smartest person in the room or the smartest person in the job. It means the effort you expend toward your goals (perseverance) and your dedication throughout your career journey (passion) are what matter more than how you scored on your SAT or an IQ test.

Why? Because grit will always trump talent. Or as Duckworth notes, “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

Lisa Quast is the author of Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach: A Foolproof Guide to Getting the Job You Want. Every Time.

Application submission period:  September 3 – October 3, 2017

PRAT is a 3-year competitive fellowship program at NIH for postdocs to pursue research in a lab under an NIH preceptor of the applicant’s choosing. The program emphasizes training in all areas supported by NIGMS, including:  bioinformatics, biological chemistry, biophysics, cell biology, computational biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development. This program provides excellent laboratory experiences, networking, mentorship, and professional and career development opportunities.

Click here for additional information:  https://www.nigms.nih.gov/Training/Pages/PRAT.aspx