2019 Mentoring Grants to Support Junior Researchers of Color

Three research grantees and four William T. Grant Scholars have been awarded grants to support their development as mentors to junior researchers of color. The awardees will mentor promising doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows in enhancing their methodological skills, publication records, and career networks.

The mentoring grants program is designed to help Scholars and research grantees hone their skills and abilities as mentors and help researchers of color reach higher levels on the career ladder. The award encourages grantees to be strong mentors attuned to the career development challenges disproportionately faced by their junior colleagues of color.

Applicants to the program assess their current strengths and weaknesses as mentors and propose goals for improving their mentoring skills. They and their mentees also assess the mentees’ strengths and weaknesses and design a mentoring plan that will strengthen the mentees’ potential for a successful research career.

This year’s mentoring grantees are:

Jessika Bottiani, University of Virginia
Jessika Bottiani is a research grantee who has mentored six graduate-level researchers in the clinical psychology program and two undergraduate interns in the Youth and Social Innovation major at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. While in her professional work she has addressed issues of bias, disparities, and cultural insensitivity, she recognizes that her social position as a White woman has facilitated her success in academia and she wants to use this grant to learn how to initiate and sustain difficult dialogues about how race and racism affect her students. She also wants to enhance her ability to recognize and respond to racial and gender-based microaggressions in academia, and, with the support of her own mentors, to contribute to broader institutional equity for faculty of color. Finally, she wants to improve her skills in group-based mentoring, co-mentoring, and brokering additional mentoring relationships. This award will support her mentee, Lora Henderson, an African American postdoctoral fellow at the Curry School of Education. Henderson’s research interests include reducing inequality in mental health access and outcomes for marginalized youth and increasing agency and practitioner capacity to use research evidence in daily service delivery.

Rachel Farr, University of Kentucky
Rachel Farr is a second-year William T. Grant Scholar who has mentored over 100 undergraduate and 20 graduate students, including numerous students of various racial-ethnic identities who also identify as LGBTQ+. She notes that while being LGBTQ+ is an identity she shares with many of her students, and that having LGBTQ+ mentors has been deeply significant to her, as a White woman, she has much yet to learn about career development issues faced by people of color and how to address them effectively as a mentor. With this award, Farr would like to develop cultural competencies that will help her tailor her mentoring to be more helpful to the unique needs of students of color, particularly their professional development and networking. She would also like to integrate discussions of work-life balance and developing one’s identity as a scholar into her regular mentoring meetings with students. Her mentee, Kyle Simon, a third-year multi-racial, LGBTQ+, and first-generation student in the Psychology doctoral program at the University of Kentucky, will aim to investigate outcomes for LGBTQ+ Asian American and Pacific Islander youth and families when intersections of racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic status, or sexual identities do not “align” with traditional cultural expectations surrounding development and family choices.

Seth Holmes, University of California, Berkeley
Seth Holmes is a third-year William T. Grant Scholar who has informally mentored dozens of M.D./Ph.D. social science students through the Society for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Medicine, and who serves as primary advisor for several students of color and multiple students from immigrant families. As a White man, however, he recognizes the need to learn and train in mentoring across difference. Holmes will use this award to develop skills in hearing, acknowledging, and responding to experiences of racialization, racism and anti-immigrant prejudice. Second, he seeks to build his abilities to foster and broker networking with other scholars of color. Third, he wants to gain skills in group mentoring to foster effective “vertical” and “horizontal” mentorship within and among his mentees. This award will support Holmes’s mentees: Fabián Fernández, a Latinx second-year student on the M.D./Ph.D. track in Medical Anthropology, and Carlos Martinez, a third-year Latinx Ph.D. student in Medical Anthropology, both in the Joint Medical Anthropology Program of the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco. Fernández’s research interests include the well-being of Latinx youth, families, and communities, and Martinez’s work explores the intersection between deportation and well-being among immigrant Latinx youth and seeks to advance our understanding of the structural vulnerabilities impacting transborder and undocumented Latinx youth.

Simone Ispa-Landa, Northwestern University
Simone Ispa-Landa is a second-year William T. Grant Scholar who has had success in mentoring graduate students of color as well as women. However, she recognizes that balancing sustained attention and care to graduate students with other professional obligations can be an obstacle to achieving trusting bonds with mentees who do not share her background as a White woman, and that she also could develop stronger skills in providing useful and relevant critical feedback to her mentees. She seeks to improve her mentoring in two ways. First, she will develop work routines that facilitate strong, trusting ties with graduate students of color in more structured, intentional, and planned ways. Second, she hopes to learn strategies for communicating with students of color around challenging and sensitive issues, including conversations about the quality of the mentoring relationship. The research interests of Ispa-Landa’s mentee, Christopher Leatherwood, a third-year African American doctoral student in the department of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, center on how mathematics classrooms influence marginalized students’ identities as learners, as well as ways to increase Black students’ sense of mathematical self-efficacy and ability to learn from errors.

Alicia Modestino, Northeastern University
Alicia Modestino is a research grantee who has mentored ten undergraduate and eight graduate research assistants since joining the faculty at Northeastern. Despite mentoring experience that spans the past 15 years, she seeks to continue stretching her mentoring skills to be more structured, strategic, and deliberate. As a White woman, she also seeks to enhance her own cultural competency in terms of addressing issues of race by attending workshops and training at the MassMentoring Institute, which will enable her to develop a structured mentoring program that can be implemented at her own institution. Modestino will work on stepping back and allowing mentees to be more independent by giving them more leadership responsibilities on various strands of her research projects. Modestino’s mentee, Urbashee Paul, a second year South Asian doctoral student in the Department of Economics at Northeastern University, has focused her research on economics, poverty, and income inequality issues in the U.S. and internationally, and through this award will work with Modestino on her major research grant investigating how summer job programs can help reduce inequality among youth.

Robert Smith, Baruch College, The City University of New York
Robert Smith is a research grantee who has extensive experience mentoring at all levels, from high-school and undergraduate students to doctoral students, junior faculty members, and community leaders. Most of his mentees are people of color, with many also being foreign born, LGBTQ+, and women. He acknowledges, however, that as a White, straight, non-immigrant man, he enjoys a general presumption of legitimacy in the academy that is not shared by students and junior scholars who do not share these identities. Smith has identified three learning goals related to mentoring. First, he wants to be more intentional about mentoring across difference, particularly learning about the specific challenges underrepresented faculty face in the academy. Second, he seeks to be more aware and structured in his approach to mentoring students in order to reproduce successful mentoring practices and refine others, and to take a more proactive approach to mentee challenges due to structural discrimination or underrepresentation in academia. Third, he will work on bringing these insights into institutional settings and practice for greater impact throughout CUNY. This award will support Smith’s mentee, Andrés Besserer, a second-year gay Mexican doctoral student in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center. Besserer’s research focuses on how immigration, trauma, victimization, and interactions with law enforcement impact the civic and political engagement of undocumented immigrant youth and youth with undocumented family members.

Pamela Wisniewski, University of Central Florida
Pamela Wisniewski is a second-year William T. Grant Scholar who has mentored over 20 Ph.D. students, 10 master’s students, and 50 undergraduate students on research projects in the last 4 years. Currently she is advising 7 Ph.D. students and more than 20 research assistants. Many of these mentees are women and belong to other underrepresented groups in STEM fields. As a mixed-race woman in the interdisciplinary field of Human Computer Interaction, Wisniewski has faced professional and personal challenges managing an ambitious, time-sensitive, and impactful research agenda, and she wants to use this grant as an opportunity to acquire stronger resources and skills to model for her students. She also seeks to achieve a work-life balance that prioritizes her health, family, and the societal impact of her research, while also learning to provide the scaffolding that students, particularly students of color, need to become strong, well-networked researchers. Wisniewski’s mentee, Karla Badillo-Urquiola, a third-year Latina doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Central Florida, examines online safety from sexual predation among adolescents in the foster care system and seeks to co-design with youth effective socio-technical interventions that can protect them from sexual risks online.

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