- Burnett School College of Medicine Faculty News Students
Going into the fourth of six Diversity Lunch and Learn Sessions, faculty, staff and students at the UCF College of Medicine have explored topics like sexual orientation, generational differences and better ways to include people with physical disabilities into the workplace. The latest session on July 29 with Dr. Ketra Armstrong from The University of Michigan took a different turn, with the subject of how mentoring can make a culture more inclusive.
Dr. Armstrong is a nationally-recognized scholar on race, gender and diversity topics. Much of her research involves sport management and the cultural and social issues involved in creating effective teams. She believes mentoring “can harness the genius of everyone in the workplace. It’s essentially a way of sharing knowledge, and when you do that throughout, it creates inclusivity. The process gets people involved who were previously on the margins.”
She explained that some people have rigid views of a mentorship relationship, expecting that mentors and mentees should be paired based on demographics, such as gender and race. But Dr. Armstrong encouraged the audience to look outside those restraints, and remember that the best mentoring relationships are based on compatibility. Mentors and mentees “should have a shared vision, shared values, shared interests,” she said. “And there should be willingness to give and take and share information.”
Dr. Armstrong said cross-cultural mentoring can pose challenges if each party comes in with stereotypes of expectations about the other. She urged mentors and mentees to be open to their differences and learn from each other. “In cross-cultural relationships, our cultural biases tend to define what we think our relationship should be,” she said. “On the other hand, when there’s cultural understanding, it can be so rich because of the cultural exchange that takes place between the mentor and the mentee.”
As Dr. Armstrong addressed the Lunch and Learn participants, she challenged them to think about the most successful organizations. One characteristic they usually share is diversity. “Those organizations tend to be better, because they get the best of human talent, and they don’t care how it’s packaged,” she said. In that spirit, Dr. Armstrong said cross-cultural mentoring relationships allow people with different backgrounds to learn from one another and become more well-rounded employees.
As she closed the session, Dr. Armstrong encouraged participants to think about what they do well, and how they can benefit others in the workplace with those skills. Passing that knowledge along to others helps connect people and improve teamwork. . “What we’re trying to celebrate is cultural inclusivity, recognizing people who are different from us, but celebrating those differences.” Dr. Armstrong said. “The virtue of you all being here to talk about diversity really says something about the culture of this place.”