Good mentoring is one of the key determinants of persistence in science. Mentoring that is culturally responsive fosters inclusivity, respect, and understanding in the mentor-mentee relationship. By acknowledging and appreciating the cultural backgrounds and experiences of their mentees, mentors can provide more effective support. This leads to a more significant and meaningful experience, promoting both personal and professional growth for all involved.

One of the stated objectives of the ROOT & SHOOT RCN is to promote culturally aware mentorship through education and training. As a first step, we have formed a Working Group charged with developing a curriculum and training program. We expect that training will be offered to the first cohort starting in September 2024, and we will begin recruiting for this cohort in July and August 2024. 

Formation of the Culturally Aware Mentoring Working Group

Applications to join the Mentoring Working Group (MWG) closed on January 10. We received 48 applications and selected 24 participants, 22 of whom are committed to full participation (2 hours/week). 

Applicants were asked if they had any experience in helping to create or improve a mentoring program; why they were interested in participating in this working group; what specific experiences and leadership they could help bring to this important work; and, in their view, what are the most pressing problems we need to address to create more equitable and inclusive plant science mentoring programs and how could we better prepare mentors to be more culturally responsive.

The MWG facilitators reviewed each application and also considered institutional and demographic diversity when making the final selections. While most of the participants selected are based in the United States, four members are international (two from the United Kingdom, one from North Macedonia, and one from Canada). 

We recognize that service in this Working Group may be outside of the participant’s current position, so compensation will be provided for the time and efforts related to this project. In the past, ROOT & SHOOT has elected to use a “tiered stipend” approach for compensation, acknowledging that some professional stages have this type of service built into their contracts and others do not. We will implement a similar structure for the MWG. 

Career Stage MWG Members Stipend Amount
Undergraduate students, Graduate students, Postdoctoral or Research Associates/Assistants 15 participants $600 each
Non-Academic PI, Non-PI Government or Industry or Society, Lab or Field Technicians 3 participants $600 each
PUI/MSI Faculty (at all levels), Assistant Professors, Associate professors, Adjunct Professors, Academic Advisors 3 participants $400 each
Full Professors, Associate Deans, Deans 3 participants $200 each


First Meeting

The MWG met for the first time on January 30. The goal of this meeting was to introduce everyone in the group to each other and reiterate the charter of the Working Group. We also talked about working collaboratively and through consensus, and introduced fist-to-five voting. 

To prepare for the meeting, participants were asked to fill out a brief Google Form to get their thoughts on potential small group topics and what specific topics or challenges they would like to devote their time to. Over the next few weeks, these groups will be finalized and their scope clarified. 

  • Group A: Impacts and history of racism and systemic biases
  • Group B: Culturally aware mentoring
  • Group C: Active learning and practice of mentoring skills
  • Group D: Intersectionality and identity 

Next steps

Before our next large-group meeting, which will be scheduled for late-February, the small groups are expected to:

  • Decide on a small group meeting/work plan and assign facilitator/note-taker/timekeeper roles
  • Draft a fuller description of the scope of the subgroup
  • Draft a list of topics for the subgroup to research…assign responsibility
  • Make a list of potential experts to seek out
  • Begin an annotated resource list/gap list for the subgroup
  • Make note of questions for the subgroup to resolve
  • Make note of questions for the full working group to resolve
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