Black Psychology Graduate Students’ Lives Matter: Using Informal Mentoring to Create an Inclusive Climate Amidst National Race-Related Events

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Abstract

Informal mentoring, or unstructured mentoring focused on both career and psychosocial development of trainees, has received far less attention in the literature than more formal, structured mentoring or advising focused predominantly on career development. The aim of this article is to describe the critical nature of informal mentoring for psychology doctoral students, particularly in light of recent national race-related events (e.g., killings of unarmed Black people by police, hate crimes following the 2016 U.S. presidential election). Using our experiences as a case illustration, we detail the varied experiences of Black graduate students in our Department of Psychology, as well as the departmental response and the specific actions of Black faculty and others, to foster a climate in which difficult discussions can occur in and between groups and individuals. Also, the role of White students and mentors in such discussions is presented. Finally, we outline several recommendations for graduate programs in psychology, designed to increase informal mentoring for all students around difficult race-related topics.

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