Hello! I’m Silvia Mazzula, Counseling Psychologist, Associate Professor at John Jay College and the founding director of the Latina Researchers Network (LRN) – a research-based and multidisciplinary network with over 3,000 members nationwide.
Over the past five years, I have led LRN’s design, incubation and evaluation efforts. The purpose of LRN is to increase the number of historically underrepresented populations, particularly Latinas, in advanced research careers and in the professoriate. For the recent IUPLR Siglo XXI conference, my colleague Josephine Serrata and I presented LRN’s conceptual framework and key lessons that have emerged, that both support and expand existing efforts relevant to workforce diversity and retention and recruitment of under-represented minority (URM) populations.
- Discrimination, institutional racism, and being the “only one” create both personal and professional challenges that impact upward mobility, overall career satisfaction and sense of belonging.
- Culturally responsive and relevant networks are critical to reducing isolation and alienation – both of which are documented to impact mental health and well-being.
- “Sharing” personal narratives and attending to the social, cultural and political realties of URM populations are critical for URMs in predominantly White intuitions.
- Conceptualized as a professional affinity group – that is, groups of individuals who have a shared interest and purpose, LRN targets three overall areas:
- Social capital, as a collective and intentional sharing of resources, knowledge and tools to support others, is necessary to URM’s success. LRN transmits social capital in the way of of knowledge transfer through its programming (e.g., conferences), opportunities for established and renowned members to connect, collaborate and share information (e.g., soft skills such as navigating institutional cultures) with junior members, and opportunities (e.g., regional social hours) for peer-to-peer transfer of social capital, across disciplines.
- Community as a way of uplifting, supporting and validating professional interests and personhood, improves URM’s experiences. LRN provides various opportunities for building community, and also leverages senior members, who serve as LRN’s madrinas(godmothers), to bridge the gap in access to those who “have made it” – which provides relatable faces and expands images of success.
- Access bridges the gap in barriers to upward mobility. LRN includes deliberate attention to improving access to role models, tangible resources and information (e.g., funding, scholarships, etc.). LRN also leverages social media to promote its members’ accomplishments and work (e.g., conference presentations, scholarly papers, awards), and to also increase access and exposure to advanced research and evaluation careers.
The need to develop and retain a diverse labor force of researchers, evaluators and scholars who can inform culturally relevant services, practice and evaluation is widely noted. LRN’s focus on improving social capital, community and access offers a promising approach to increase and support the pipeline, to advance knowledge across disciplines relevant to service needs of the Latino community, and to position scholars, researchers and evaluators to take on key leadership or decision-making roles, particularly Latinas who are grossly underrepresented across leadership landscape.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to email@example.com. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.