Intersecting Identities: Mentoring Contributions and Challenges for Black Faculty Mentoring

Aug. 01, 2011

Source: Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 19, No. 3, August 2011, 319–346
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author explores how Black faculty mentors make meaning of their engagement with Black undergraduates at an elite US university, while also discussing impediments to establishing mutually beneficial relationships between faculty and undergraduates.

Critical Race Pedagogy
The author used the intersection of critical race theory (CRT) and education, termed critical race pedagogy (CRP) (Jennings & Lynn, 2005; Lynn, 1999 ) to frame the experiences of faculty who engage in the mentorship of Black students.
CRT acknowledges the experiences of people of color who have encountered oppression, and states that the consequences of racial oppression are linked to gender- and class-based bias.

Research Questions

The author addressed to two research questions:
1. How do Black faculty at an elite predominantly White institution (PWI) make meaning of their mentoring of Black undergraduates?
2. What challenges do Black faculty at an elite PWI face as they mentor Black undergraduates?

The author employed a qualitative, phenomenological research design, utilizing data collected from two samples of Black faculty at one US predominantly White institution over a three-year period.

The author conducted twopart semi-structured interviews with each participant.
The participants were Black faculty and Black undergraduates at a highly selective college in the northeastern United States.


The findings present the perspectives of faculty and their interactions with Black undergraduates.
The findings suggest that Black faculty at an elite research-intensive institution approached the role of mentor to Black undergraduates in different ways, according to faculty rank, age and gender.

The application of a CRP analysis detail how Black faculty work with Black undergraduates in a racialized consciousness.
However, the work of mentoring allowed these faculty to guide and direct a new generation of Black scholars, as they simultaneously sheltered their protégés from racial micro-aggressions while weathering these harms.

The author found that senior faculty reflected on their mentoring of students by recalling letters and mementos much like a parent.
Junior faculty experiences echo the need for tenure reform as articulated by the American Council on Education (2005) and the American Association of University Professors.

The faculty engaged in the process of developing a new generation of scholars should be rewarded as those who advance the field via publications and research.
In the interim, however, greater transparency about the professional obligations of faculty needs to be communicated to Black undergraduates.
Furthermore, the benefits of alternate forms of mentorship, such as helping students not only through relating similar experiences on a personal level, should also be communicated to Black undergraduates.

The author additionally exposed the troubling consequences of stereotyping on the experiences of Black men and women mentor professors.
The men in the sample expressed concerns about hyper-surveillance and perceptions, both from students and colleagues, that their relationships may be inappropriate.
The women discussed enhanced expectations for nurturing and psychosocial support from colleagues and students.

Age and rank factored heavily into these stressors, with young Black men and women challenged to dismiss stereotypes about their ability and trustworthiness, while older professors appearing to be somewhat armored with the advantages of age and rank.

The author concludes that even under the constraints of the current system of promotion and tenure, deans and senior faculty can demonstrate the importance of mentoring undergraduate students.

American Council on Education. (2005). An agenda for excellence: Creating flexibility
in tenure-track faculty careers
. Washington, DC: Office of Women in Higher Education.

Jennings, M.E., & Lynn, M. (2005). The house that race built: Critical pedagogy, African-American education and the re-conceptualization of a critical race pedagogy. The Journal of Educational Foundations, 19(3/4), 15–32.

Lynn, M. (1999). Toward a critical race pedagogy: A research note. Urban Education, 33(5), 606–626.

Updated: May. 06, 2013