Mentorship for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse School Psychology Graduate Students

By Malone, Celeste M.; Jacobs, D'Andrea et al. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, November 2010 | Go to article overview

Mentorship for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse School Psychology Graduate Students


Malone, Celeste M., Jacobs, D'Andrea, Sullivan, Amanda L., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Editor's Note: This article was written by active members and contributors of the African American Subcommittee, under NASP's Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC). The MAC is dedicated to advancing the diversity goals laid out in NASP's strategic plan by increasing the cultural competence, responsiveness, and cultural and linguistic diversity of school psychology.

Mentoring is an essential component of graduate education. Although it may include academic advising, effective mentorship is more comprehensive and personal than the advisor relationship, providing insight on how to successfully navigate the training program and/or profession, guidance through major milestones and transitions, modeling of professional values and skills, and opportunities for increased professional competence (Bigelow & Johnson, 2001). Benefits for students include increased satisfaction with the graduate school experience and professional career, improved professional identity development, publication and presentation opportunities, and increased access to jobs and other career opportunities following graduate school (Bigelow & Johnson, 2001; Forehand, 2008).

"While all graduate students can benefit, mentoring is especially important for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students who may experience a number of challenges as they transition into and navigate their graduate programs, such as lack of culturally responsive role models, limited faculty awareness of their needs and concerns, andlack of a CLD community and professional networks (Granados & Lopez, 1999), leading to feelings of disconnect and isolation from others in their program and profession. Mentors can play important roles in increasing students' sense of belonging and connection to the profession (Davis, 2008), and may increase the number of CLD students entering and successfully completing school psychology graduate programs, thereby increasing the diversity of our field.

FINDING A MENTOR

Typically, graduate students look to their academic advisor and other professors in their program to serve as mentors. However, school psychology graduate students should also consider faculty in other educational fields, practicing school psychologists, advanced graduate students, and program alumni as potential mentors. For example, a program's alumni database can serve as a good resource for identifying mentors who would be especially familiar with the program and community. All graduate students should approach the task of finding a mentor thoughtfully and purposefully. CLD graduate students have some special considerations in mentor selection which may make their search more difficult. For example, some CLD students want a mentor who is bilingual or shares a similar ethnic background and may be able to locate potential mentors through local chapters of ethnic minority psychology associations such as the Association of Black Psychologists, National Latino/a Psychological Association, Society of Indian Psychologists, or the Asian American Psychological Association. Further, NASP resources such as the online Communities and Interest Groups, the Multicultural Affairs Committee, and the mentorship program at the annual convention can be used to connect with students, faculty, and practitioners with similar backgrounds and interests.

The racial and ethnic homogeneity in the field of school psychology could make the search difficult. While this may be perceived as a setback, it is important to recognize that CLD students can still experience fulfilling and successful mentorship relationships with non-CLD mentors. Brown and Davis (1999) sought to debunk the myth that ethnic minority graduate students can only be mentored by ethnic minority faculty members, arguing that all faculty members have the responsibility to support these students with their adjustment to both the academic and nonacademic aspects of graduate school. Moreover, some students may find that their needs are best met by multiple mentors, such as a program alum, school psychologist from the surrounding community, and peers or practitioners of similar background because each could provide unique guidance related to different aspects of training, scholarship, practice, and self-care. …

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