Career Consultants

By Morgan, Joan | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

Career Consultants


Morgan, Joan, Black Issues in Higher Education


DEAR BI CAREER CONSULTANTS:

What are some points that African American faculty and administrators should consider when mentoring students of color?

CLAYTON COBB

Director of Multicultural Affairs Carleton College Northfield, Minn.

The psychosocial factors inherent on college and university campuses tend to impede the ability of students of color to achieve their educational goals, The duration of their academic careers at times may consist of dissatisfaction with the services afforded them, the environment, the curriculum and a lack of diversity and relationships. Supportive services must be provided to create an atmosphere that fully allows students of color to participate in and benefit from their educational experiences. One of those services should be the inclusion of mentoring programs for students of color.

African American faculty and staff are often called upon to perform a kaleidoscope of services to students of color. The roles include advocate, friend, counselor and mentor. These positions are interrelated and yet cannot be viewed as the same. When African American faculty and staff take on the role of mentor to students of color we must understand that these additional responsibilities require an insurmountable time commitment from both parties. These duties require the professional to assess the student's concerns, and let the student know that they have been heard and they have a strong support system on campus. The issue of advocacy and intervention often comes into play when helping the student of color in the formation of a solution. When discussing success through service and the college or university's commitment to educational access, it is important to emphasize helping the students acquire the skills necessary to eventually continue their academic careers independently. The key is to get students involved and connected both academically and socially.

Students of color depend on us to help them with their problems and work with them to succeed. Providing advocacy and active intervention methods to our students on a variety of personal and academic issues can be a difficult task for professionals of color. Often it becomes difficult to clearly understand the boundaries between assisting and enabling the student. The professional who is not well versed in the use of supportive and empowering intervention methods may be unable to assist the student.

These intervention strategies must take into account the following points: an understanding of the student's family, class, cultural and ethnic background; an understanding of the student's personal goals and desires; the student's personal sense of identity, self esteem and power; and the realization that each student is an individual. …

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