Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Career Consultants

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Career Consultants

Article excerpt

DEAR BI CAREER CONSULTANTS:

How can people of color establish and maintain networks within perdominantly White institutions without being viewed as separatist?

DR. DIANN W. MCCANTS,

Associate Director African and African-American Studies Stanford University

In any job situation, it is important to consider the factors that promote success. A healthy work environment is one that inspires confidence, provides a supportive environment and enables opportunities for continued professional growth and development.

In many predominantly White institutions, the work environment is not one that is favorable to most African Americans and other people of color. Instead, it is fraught with subtle opposition and stress, ranging from negative peer perceptions to denial of tenure or promotions. It therefore becomes necessary to develop and pursue avenues to maximize opportunities for survival and Success.

Unfortunately, participation in African-American professional, social and political organizations can be perceived as being separatist to White co-workers. There is a perceived threat to the established orthodoxy, or disdain for the "non-White" organization.

However, when we talk about separatism, we must be clear on what we really mean. One definition of a separatist is " ... a person who advocates separation or withdrawal from an organization, usually political or religious, especially one who secedes." Generally, most African Americans and other individuals of color who have chosen to work in a predominantly White institution are seeking avenues of achieving success within that particular environment. This mandates a proper understanding of the work culture and wise utilization of available resources.

Developing networks among other people of color is one way of achieving this balance, while maintaining confidence in one's abilities and ideas.

Communication is a key component. It is critical for each individual to know the "why" behind involvement in a particular group and to be able to coherently express that to co-workers. It must be stated that the intention is not to "secede" from the institution; rather, the networking enables additional ways to "succeed" within the institution.

DR. NELL IRWIN PAINTER

Professor, American History and Director African-American Studies Program Princeton University

I think the most interesting way is to create networks around subject matter rather than the people you want to meet. …

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