When someone is kind, they support the dignity of another person. When mentors are kind, they convey a sense of safety, which is good for learning, retention, and attention. NORDP conference attendees will learn more about the benefits of kindness and tips to bring new perspectives on kindness to our work.
“Kindness affirms inclusion,” says Dr. Mica Estrada, Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Nursing. She will be the NORDP 2022 conference plenary speaker at 11:00 a.m. eastern time on Thurs., Apr. 28, discussing “Why Kindness Is Important when Mentoring in an Interconnected World.”
As a social psychologist, Estrada studies how people integrate into their field. “We look at how quality mentorship helps students feel they can do the science, develop their identity as scientists, and how they share community values,” she explains.
Estrada says kindness has always been at the forefront of her scholarship. “At about four years old, my first memory was when a US ship went into Chinese water. I remember thinking, will there be a war, why do we hurt each other?” She continues thinking about that later question in her research, and chooses to focus on how people connect to each other, and specifically on kindness as the solution.
She compares her passion for kindness in mentoring to tending a garden. “Instead of spending time pulling weeds, I decided to put effort into growing what we want to reduce the space for the things we don’t want to grow,” she says.
Estrada will share findings from her years of research with NORDP conference attendees, highlighting results that are relevant to mentoring students and faculty or working with other research development colleagues.
“We’ll be talking about ‘quality mentorship’,” she says. The first focus is on instrumental support, or the “nuts and bolts” activities, such as how to access physical spaces or scholarly journals. This will differ in each situation. The second focus is on psycho-social support, such as empathy, listening, and emotional presence. Again, the details will differ based on the relationship, but the concept is important.
Estrada’s research is well funded by the NSH, NIH, and HHMI. She says she finds grantwriting to be a creative, labor-intensive challenge as she explains what she wants to explore while being concrete and persuasive. She draws upon past experiences with non-profit groups and work with development officers. She is also engaged in community-service roles, serving on the National Research Council Committee’s Roundtable on the Future of STEM Education; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus study on Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Organizations; and a NASA Minority University Research and Education Programs advisory committee.
Estrada focuses her research and time on understanding how to increase inclusion and equity in our education system. Her research methods identify educational interventions that facilitate integration into a community and increased engagement in the normative behaviors of that community for all students. She encourages us all to amplify what we want within our academic and professional environment, and she sees ample opportunity to do this.
“We’re at an interesting time in history,” she suggests. “COVID has shaken up the way we work. There’s an opportunity to not go back, but to go forward in a way that serves us as human beings.”
NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.