Advisers substantially influence student development and student retention. If we can assume “Academic advisors are crucial in the establishment of a campus climate that creates safe space for our students” (Lantta, 2008), then we need to understand the impact of advisers of color. UC Berkeley is attempting to address the underrepresentation of faculty of color in relation to their roles addressing campus culture, climate, and diversity. Where are similar efforts for staff, specifically advisors of color?
Where do things stand now?
At UC Berkeley, the overall population of staff of color has remained flat over the past 10 years. The more senior the position, the less likely a person of color will occupy it. According to the UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, a significant number of staff, particularly managers, are likely to retire in the next 5-10 years. Given the impending UC retirement issues, how will advisers of color be retained or ascend into higher management with these constraints? Given the low numbers of staff of color in middle and senior management levels, the prospects for advancement for them are limited. If a diverse workforce is an institutional value, how do we remove impediments to their advancement?
What should we know?
In one of the first in-depth studies to focus on minorities who have made it to the top, the factors that helped these minorities be successful were: values, social networks, love of the work, and skill building. (“Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America”, David Thomas and John Gabarro)
Earlier this year, I conducted a UC-wide convenience sample survey of advisers of color that I presented at the 2016 UC Academic Advising Conference, and at UC Berkeley’s Stay Day 2016. Here are some of the results:
- 26% said they work at an institution that does not validate their cultural backgrounds, knowledge and identities.
- 79.2% do not supervise. Many advising offices have a simple structure with limited opportunity for upward movement. So how do lower rank staff train to enter management without institutional support? Some UC Berkeley supervisory training is solely for current managers.
- 44% of advisers of color don’t have a mentor. Thomas and Gabarro note that mentees are validated to the rest of the organization as quality and credible performers.
What should we do?
More research is needed. With that in mind, I am preparing a more in-depth survey that I hope to disseminate in 2017. Notably, being advisers of color cannot be fully understood without understanding their intersected identities. How a dark brown Chicano transman from San Francisco versus a pale conservative Latino from outside the US could be perceived, and shape their experience into advising could have differing impacts on students. They may differ in their staff experiences in resources and perceptions of credibility. To leave out the influences of gender, ability, class etc. would be naive and incomplete. Research needs to define the advisers of color’ unique contributions versus their counterparts.
In addition, students’ opinions about the impact of advisers of color have not been investigated. Questions along these lines would be great to add to surveys like the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES).
I hope that this begins a conversation and further exploration. Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section below.
Note: To read the original in-depth article that this post was pulled from, click on this link: berkeley.box.com/v/tara-young-wisdom-cafe-article