Excerpt from:
Global Perspectives on Mentoring
Transforming Contexts, Communities, and Cultures

Frances K.Kochan, Auburn University
Joseph T. Pascarelli, University of Portland

Pages ix-xv11. Copyright 2003 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

Frances K. Kochan and Joseph T. Pascarelli

Global Perspectives on Mentoring: Transforming Contexts, Communities, and Cultures is the second volume in a series of books focused on examining mentoring from a broad range of venues in order to understand its meaning, structures, outcomes, difficulties, and benefits. Mentoring has become a worldwide phenomenon that has been acknowledged as beneficial for both mentors and mentees (Gallimore, Weisner, Bernheimer, Nihira, & Guthrie, 1992; Gehrke,1988; Kochan, 2002; Mullen, Cox, Boettcher, & Adoue, 1997). Research indicates that mentoring has many benefits: improving achievement and retention rates for students at all educational levels (Campbell & Campbell, 1997; Klein, 1996; McGowan, 1999); providing sociological and emotional support (Bey & Holmes, 1990; Campbell & Campbell, 2000; Kochan & Funk, 2000; Pascarelli, 1998); enhancing skills and professional growth (Alexander, 2002; Holloway, 2001); and fostering career advancement (Gardiner, Enomoto, & Grogan, 2000; Serlen, 1989); among others.

Volume 1, The Organizational and Human Dimensions of Successful Mentoring Programs and Relationships, examined mentoring for diverse populations including school-age children, university students, teachers, administrators, women, and minorities. The book described mentoring programs and relationships in schools, universities, communities, and other agencies, and in business settings. A data analysis of these programs and relationships resulted in the creation of a new definition of successful mentoring as "having two or more individuals willingly form a mutually respectful, trusting relationship focused on goals that foster the potential of the mentee, while considering the needs of the mentor and the context in which they both must function." The book proposed three dimensions and six elements required to develop a successful mentoring relationship and three dimensions and nine elements necessary to create successful mentoring programs.

The first book concluded by presenting five unresolved issues related to mentoring. One of these was, "What is the correct balance between guiding mentees to maintain the status quo and encouraging them to create change and transformation?" This second volume presents examples of programs and relationships in a variety of cultures that seem to have found that balance. It contains examples of mentoring programs and relationships involving individuals from Australia, China, Israel, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, South America, and the Caribbean. Thus, we believe that the book provides an expansive view of mentoring as it is being interpreted and implemented in a variety of places around the globe.

This volume also seeks to discern whether and to what extent culture makes a difference in how mentoring is perceived and defined. Like the term mentoring, there are numerous definitions of the concept of culture (Kuh & Whitt,1988). Culture implies a set of beliefs, assumptions, norms, traditions, and mores that are incorporated into the lives of those in the group and/or viewed as "normal" (Geertz, 1973). It is "holistic and context bound" (Kuh & Whitt, 1988, p. vi). Culture exists in countries, ethnic and racial groups, and in organizations and institutions and within each of these there may be subcultures that have their own set of beliefs and values. Thus, a mentoring program in a particular country may be influenced by the culture of the nation, a subgroup within a nation, the socioeconomic, ethnic, or racial group to which one belongs, the organizational or institutional culture within which one operates, and/or the cultural background of those involved in the mentoring relationship.

The way one views the "self" differs across cultures (Triandis, 1989), which can also impact the mentoring experience. Triandis (1989) posits that these views of self are strongly related to the complexity of the society. The more complex a society is, the more possibilities there are for subcultures to exist within it. Likewise, complexity in culture brings greater movement in the culture toward individualism and away from notions of the collective. There is also more confusion about one's personal identity and goals in complex cultures.

Context is closely related to culture. Like culture, it is social, not individual (Fullan, 2001), and is defined as structure, framework, environment, situation, circumstances, and ambiance. Changing the context can have powerful effects on changing the beliefs and behaviors of those who are functioning within it (Miron & Elliott, 1994). If mentoring programs and relationships are to be successful, it is vital to consider the context within which they are occurring and modify the context if it is serving to hinder the expected benefits or achievement of the established goals.

There is not a great deal available in the literature on issues of culture and context related to mentoring. However, there are some studies that give insights into the possible connections between the way mentoring programs and relationships should be conducted. We present those we think are most applicable to the issues we are addressing in this book.

In the United States, the whole issue of culture, ethnicity, and race in public schools is being examined more closely as part of a move away from the "melting pot" concept to a recognition of the value of a "multicultural" view. As an example, Hollins (1990) suggests that schools in the United States must examine culture on a very broad scale. While stressing the vital importance of having white teachers understand and empathize with the increasing number of minority students in public schools, Hollins states that schools will be better able to achieve that reality if all preservice teachers examine their own culture and background. Hollins posits that we (a) need to move beyond the belief in a "monolithic white American culture" and examine the differences as well as the similarities; (b) be cognizant of the cycles of power, poverty, and oppression in individual families and groups throughout history and different cultures around the world; (c) recognize that groups and individuals have taken many actions to be included, but for people of color this is often not an option; and (d) use family histories and individual life experiences to foster multicultural learning and understanding.

Since most universities and many schools lack enough faculty of color to meet the mentoring needs of all ethnicities and races, it is vital that they be sensitized to the experiences of students of color and to faculty from minority groups. For most individuals, achieving such sensitivity is a developmental process. Helms (1997) proposes that there are five stages that European Americans pass through in becoming more racially conscious. He labeled these as contact, disintegration, reintegration, pseudo-independence, and autonomy. Ponterotto (1988) suggests there are four stages: pre-exposure, exposure, zealot-defensive, and integration. Of course, not all individuals move through all stages, nor does everyone begin at the same point.

A number of authors have examined the mentoring relationship in the United States with an emphasis on issues related to race and culture. Cultural differences in African American and European American perspectives related to mentoring suggest that while the African American view perceives the community as central, the European American view sees communalism as dependence (Harris & Smith, 1999). Harris proposes an Africentric Mentoring Paradigm to serve as a model for implementing mentoring programs for African Americans that focuses on holism, comentoring, and is consistent with Africentric principles of unity, self-determination, self-confidence, collaboration, and faith.

It has been suggested that it is vital for adult black males to serve as mentors to African American males at the elementary school level in order to inhibit the rising levels of violence and imprisonment in the inner cities (Spencer, 1996). Taylor and Hiatt-Michael (1999) emphasize the value of having African American females mentor adolescent African American females to motivate them to seek high aspirations for themselves and help guide them in their life choices. Watts, Erevelles, and King (2002) used a similar approach when developing mentoring programs for middle school children in a rural school setting. Thomas (1990) found benefits to same-race relationships, while others found no such differences (Davidson & Foster-Johnson, 2001; Mertz & Pfleeger, 2002; Wilcox, 2002). It appears that research findings on the necessity of having mentors and mentees matched by ethnicity, race, or gender is inconclusive (Kochan, 2002).

McAdoo (1997) emphasizes the need to consider socioeconomic status in addition to race and culture when working with women and girls. Likewise, family circumstances and the cultural ideas related to female roles, the value of education, and the extent to which females are encouraged or discouraged from acquiring higher levels of education are factors to be addressed. Warren-Sams (2001) likewise suggests that culture, race, disability, and socioeconomic status must all be considered in mentoring relationships, processes, and programs. She further suggests that since females tend to value relationships, group mentoring may be more appropriate for them than one-on-one relationships. However, she notes that "one size fits all" programs, based on gender, are inappropriate.

Davidson and Foster-Johnson (2001) stress the importance of mentors cultivating an understanding of the experiences of students from various cultural backgrounds when trying to mentor students from a racial or ethnic group that differs from their own. They suggest that graduate schools adopt the strategies that Battaglia (1994) has found successful in the corporate world. These include (a) improving cross-cultural understandings, (b) increasing intercultural communication, (c) enhancing facilitation skills, and (d) increasing flexibility and adaptability. Davidson and Foster-Johnson state, "What is really important is to discover what happens in successful same-race relationships and to try to generalize the best of those dynamics to all mentoring relationships" (p. 553).

Warren-Sams (2001) examined mentoring of girls and young women from varied cultures in the United States. Her research on mentoring programs for Native American girls found that mentoring programs that maintained cultural ties, increased career awareness, and involved relatives were the most beneficial for them. Studying Hispanic mother-daughter programs focusing on career success, she discovered that it was vital for mothers to share the cumulative nature of their success, the setbacks they had encountered, and the support systems they had engaged to help achieve their success. Her research also indicated that those working with immigrant girls must continually consider the complexity of their experience and the profound effect of leaving one's homeland.

Looking at research at an international level, Parsloe and Wray (2002) found a difference between "American style," career-oriented mentoring, where the emphasis is on having a mentor in a position of professional influence, and "European style" developmental mentoring, where the primary focus is on the mentee's personal growth and learning. Such differences could impact the purposes and goals of mentoring programs in both the United States and Europe.

Darling, Hamilton, Toyokawa, and Matuda (2002) studied mentoring among Japanese and American youth. They discovered no differences between participants in Japan and the United States in a number of areas. Both groups ascribed mentoring functions more to adults than to their peers. However, Japanese students identified twice as many mentors in their lives as students in the United States, suggesting that the Japanese culture may value more the transmission of information and understanding to youth than the culture of the United States. These authors found no gender differences between these groups related to mentoring

McGowan (1999) discovered that African Caribbean boys in South London receive much less mentoring than students in the mainstream. This could be an indication of a difference within the African Caribbean culture or a lack of concern for the needs of this population within the broader cultural context. Pollock (1999) found that it was essential for mentors in North London to be aware of cultural differences in the mentoring situation as they worked with black and Asian students. Pollock also noted the importance of the context within the school in terms of accepting or rejecting various cultural mores and its impact on mentors and mentoring.

In addition to culture, ethnicity, and race, this book addresses the degree to which mentoring can be transformative not only to individuals but to cultures and context. This is a critical issue and one that has received little attention in the literature. Cline and Necochea (1997) suggest that while mentoring is generally conceived of as being transformational, it is often designed to perpetuate the status quo. When dealing with mentoring to create school reform, they state, "Herein lies the major dilemma with sustaining systemic change: The individuals who are being asked to lead the transformation are being mentored to perpetuate the status quo" (p. 141).

Writing about transformation and gender, Gardiner and colleagues (2000) caution that mentoring in educational leadership in the United States was designed to keep the dominant while male in power and therefore may not be suited to women and minorities. They add a cautionary note that the ways in which women are mentored may lead to marginalization and the maintenance of power and privilege in the hands of the "good ole boys." They state that it is within the "possibilities for mentoring that pressure for change can be applied" (p. 198). They suggest that mentors can be transformers by seeking leadership in those who differ from them, thus expanding collaboration beyond a one-on-one relationship and grounding the relationship in an "ethic of care." They challenge the mentee to move the mentoring relationship to foster transformation by working with a varied number of mentors, disengaging from relationships that are not facilitating their development or forcing them into a traditional mode, and engaging in developing self-knowledge to become their own advocate when necessary.

McGuire and Reger (2003) recommend that the whole model for mentoring be changed for women. They posit that the traditional concept of mentoring, in which one individual, usually someone considered older and wiser than the mentee, is based on a hierarchical model grounded in male concepts of competition and objectivity. They argue that a new model based on feminine values of cooperation, development, and egalitarianism, in which co-mentors foster and sustain growth in one another, is a more appropriate model for women and other underrepresented groups in academia. Thus, these authors view mentoring as a tool for transformation as well as suggest that the traditional model for mentoring must be transformed.

It is obvious that there is much to be learned about the relationships between mentoring and culture and context. This book presents examples of mentoring programs and relationships from varied cultural perspectives that expand on what we know about these relationships with the added dimension of examining programs from varied cultures and contexts. The conflict between transmitting the status quo or bringing about transformation, as well as the challenge of restructuring or creating new systems as a result of mentoring programs, are common threads that run throughout the text, bringing what we hope will provide interesting insights, dialogue, and action in the mentoring arena.

In addition to this introductory chapter and our final conclusion, the book is organized into five sections. Each section begins with an overview that describes the primary themes of the chapters within it, along with a brief synopsis of each chapter. The reader is strongly encouraged to read these introductory statements as a means of acquiring a conceptual framework for each section. The chapters in Part I, Building Nurturing Contexts for Youth Through Mentoring, deal with programs that attempt to enable those being mentored to have new visions and opportunities for their lives. Chapters in Part II, Rebuilding Cultures for Equity and Access, describe programs that proactively seek to change cultures to make them more openand fair. The third section, Reshaping Professional Cultures, like Part II, looks at changing cultures, but here the focus is on the professions rather than on the mentees. Part IV, Fostering Learning Communities, describes programs that foster collaborative learning across time and space. They introduce us to the world of e-mentoring, creating learning and mentoring communities that circumvent culture and context. These chapters set the stage for Volume III of this series, which will feature mentoring programs that use technology and thus extend the study of culture and transformation within the framework of mentoring. The chapters in Part V, Mentoring as Personal and Transformational Growth, differ from those in the rest of the book. They return the reader to the heart of mentoring—the personal relationships that provide growth and transformation through caring and reciprocity. We choose to end with them to emphasize the point that in its essence, mentoring touches the heart, mind, and spirit and brings the promise of new beginnings and altered tomorrows.


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