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Incorporate Cultural Awareness into Your Mentoring with CAM Trainee Dr. Tiera Coston!

By May 22, 2018No Comments

Interview by Sarah Gluck

Describe your personal journey as a scientist: What inspired you to pursue science? Where are you in your career?

I entered Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) as a premedical student, but after my first semester in general biology, I knew that I wanted to discover new things the way Gregor Mendel did with his pea plant experiments. My academic advisor (shout out to Dr. Kenneth Boutte) explained to me what a Ph.D. was and how to pursue a research career. I went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology. My career eventually took me in a different direction where I became focused on mentoring and how it could support the success of our students. This is now the subject of my research and my work.

How did you get involved with NRMN?

Because XULA is one of the 10 institutions awarded the BUILD grant, Chris Pfund visited XULA in 2015 to introduce us to NRMN and the tools and resources it offers. Also, as BUILD institution, Janet Branchaw served as the NRMN liaison to our institution. I have worked with Chris, Janet, Paige Cooper, Harlan Jones and others in NRMN in a variety of capacities.

What was it about NRMN that initially caught your interest?

NRMN offered so many of the resources that were critical for me to design, implement and continue to improve XULAs mentor training program, Preparing Mentors and Advisors at Xavier (P-MAX). The amazing level of support (resources, training, mentoring and guidance, etc.) that was available to us whenever we needed it definitely gave me a strong affinity for NRMN.

Which of NRMN’s programs did you participate in?

I participated in the NRMN Train-the-Trainer workshop in Minneapolis, MN, which is a two-day workshop that presents the resources and skills necessary to design, implement and facilitate mentor training at your institution. As a participant, I learned about all the resources available, and I also played mock roles as a facilitator and a participant in simulated mentor training sessions. This process was an amazing confidence booster for me. I also participated in the NRMN Southeast Training Hub (SETH) Institutional Planning Workshop in Atlanta, GA. During the workshop, I was guided by facilitators on how to strategically consider resources and opportunities to achieve the mentoring-related goals at my institution. I took selected ideas back to my institution, some of which have been implemented. I also completed the six-week NRMN Synchronous Online Mentor Training Course facilitated by Chris Pfund and Amber Smith. I participated in the course, and it became both a reference and learning tool for P-MAX and P-MAX ONLINE (online mentor training program that is currently in development).


How has your experience with NRMN changed the way you approach your career in the sciences?

My participation in NRMN has facilitated a change in the trajectory of my career. It has helped to shift the focus to studying the understanding of what mentoring practices are effective in what contexts and how those practices can be used to and through their careers.

If someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” how would you respond?

There are so many beneficial reasons for to become involved with NRMN, but I will present three that I believe to be truly compelling. First, it provides evidence-based information and resources that can really help to improve your mentoring. All of the programs are open access, so there is no charge for participation. Second, joining My NRMN can open up many social connections that are otherwise not available to you and have the potential to bring information and opportunities that can enhance career success. Finally, by joining My NRMN, you can act in the role of mentor, mentee or both. This provides the opportunity to provide career guidance to a budding scientist and receive career guidance as you work to reach your own career goals. In my experience, both processes make you a better mentor.

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