Session: Promoting Academic Mentoring and Peer Support Among Doctoral Students of Color (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

63 Promoting Academic Mentoring and Peer Support Among Doctoral Students of Color

Friday, January 17, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Treasury, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Race and Ethnicity (R&E)
Jonathan P. Edwards, MSW, M. Phil., CUNY Graduate Center/Hunter College, Ovita Williams, MSW, M. Phil., City University of New York, Cindy Bautista-Thomas, MSW, M. Phil., Columbia University and Kanako Okuda, DSW, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College
Although it is expected at the graduate level that supportive mentoring relationships flourish organically, students of color often experience more isolation and less access to mentors and role-models than their white peers. This could be attributable to lack of institutional support for students of color and first-generation students who do not feel a sense of belonging on campus or feel like impostors or unwelcome in higher education settings. Moreover, doctoral studies can be especially daunting after coursework has ended and students are suddenly on their own with less structure and support.

Research shows that Black students have the lowest cumulative ten-year degree completion rate in doctoral education and one of the lowest degree completion rates in the social sciences. This has a detrimental effect on students' lives and their morale. Further, students of color may isolate because they do not feel a significant connection with many of their white contemporaries due to differences in cultural background and access to financial and social resources. In predominantly white institutions, isolation can be more pronounced and contribute to feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy for students of color for whom racial microaggressions from white students and faculty create less than supportive environments.

This roundtable, comprised of students of color, will discuss some of the structural barriers to identifying academic support; these include maintaining full-time jobs to optimize professional advancement, caring for their families, and minimizing stress. The presenters offer perspectives on, and share numerous ways by which, social support, such as academic mentoring and peer support, result in empowering conversations and actionable steps to inspire progress. These include informal student meetings, study time and casual conversations; collaborating on projects, critiquing each other's assignments, sharing information related to research foci, and providing encouragement and emotional support. In addition to sharing how they build community and forge pathways to defending the proposal and moving closer to completing the dissertation, presenters offer information on web based support groups, blogs, and platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which also serve as important and readily accessible spaces where doctoral students of color can support each other and share resources authentically and in real time.

Cultivating these opportunities and spaces for peer support among doctoral students of color can lead to a more empowering academic experience, result in higher degree completion rates, stimulate ongoing connection, networking and resource sharing, and ultimately contribute to reducing racial and economic inequality.

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