Dr. Carolyn M. Tucker


UF Department of Psychology

2002-2003 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

Mentoring Style

Because I have personally experienced mentoring as a lifeline for achieving under adverse life conditions, it is an integral part of my teaching, research, community service, and administrative activities. My mentoring style is perhaps best described as empowerment oriented, culturally sensitive, holistic, compassionate, and excellence driven.

A recent interaction with a first-year female Trinidadian student suggests that my mentees have a view of my mentoring style that is consistent with my own, though much more colorful. The student said that she had been told by other students that I work students really hard, am picky about every little detail in letters, thesis, and dissertations, and work really hard myself, but that I really care about students and am always there to support them. She then stated that “it is because you are picky, have a culturally diverse research team, and have high standards of excellence that I have decided to ask you to be my advisor and research chair.” I replied by saying “That’s great! What you heard is true. I will work hard with you every step of your journey here, and we will laugh a lot along the way, as I do have a really silly side.” She smiled and said, “Yes, I’ve heard that too.”

In sum, my mentoring style actively and deliberately involves creating opportunities for culturally diverse students to experience and then learn to engage in culturally sensitive research, teaching, leadership, and community service. It also involves enthusiastically participating in these experiences with students and teaching and empowering them to become the teacher, researcher, counselor, leader, and/or service provider that they choose to become. My mentoring is anchored in my self-empowerment model of achievement (Tucker, 1999) which asserts that the goal of education is to promote self-motivation to learn, self-control in the learning process, self-praise of success efforts and outcomes, skills and experiences for goal achievement, and success behaviors such as asking for the support you want and/or need.

Development of my now federally funded three-year Culturally Sensitive Health Care Research Project and formation of a culturally sensitive research team of seven graduate students and 15 undergraduate students to help direct and implement this Project is an example of how I create opportunities for students to experience and learn to engage in culturally sensitive research, teaching, leadership, and service. I use modeling and coaching to promote this learning. Titling the graduate students Associate Project Administrators and working with them as collaborators and co-supervisors of the undergraduate researchers promote graduate student empowerment and learning. The work of the graduate administrators/researchers includes developing data collection procedures that are appropriate for low income African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Caucasian patients, training health care providers to be culturally sensitive in their health care delivery to minority patients, training and empowering minority patients to respectively request the health care they desire, producing training videotapes, assisting with grant writing, presenting research findings at professional conferences, and teaching and mentoring undergraduate students for these research and training roles. Among the graduate students are a Romanian, a West Indian, an African American, two Caucasians, and two Trinidadians, and among the undergraduates are several Hispanic/Latinas.

I have also created opportunities for culturally diverse graduate students and undergraduate students to actively engage in culturally sensitive community service and applied research with children through my grant-funded Research-Based Model Partnership Education Program for Self-Empowering Minority Children to Achieve Academic and Social Success, which is conducted at a local community center. I have trained and then empowered my graduate and undergraduate students to implement the Program, to conduct culturally sensitive research to evaluate the Program, and to train parents and teachers to use the interventions successfully used in the Program. Currently, five of my graduate students (titled Graduate Research Associates) and eight undergraduate researchers direct and/or implement this intervention, research, and service Program. My primary role in this community-based Program is to observe, support, and praise the work of my graduate students and our mentees – the undergraduate researchers. In my role as Director of the Counseling Psychology Program, I have created numerous opportunities for culturally diverse students to participate in academic training related leadership. For example, I have established a Director Trainee/Advisory Council Program through which graduate students assume leadership roles such as Director of the Research Forum and Director of our Professional Development Program. Minority graduate students have assumed nearly 50% of these roles.

My mentoring activities also include having lunch or dinner with each of my mentees, meeting their parents and friends who visit UF, accompanying students at major stressful events (e.g., surgery, a divorce hearing), and meeting with them in the evenings to problem solve or just to get better acquainted. Such activities represent my holistic and compassionate approach to mentoring.

Evidence of Mentoring Effectiveness

There is much evidence of the effectiveness of my mentoring style including the following: (a) the numerous cards and letters from graduate mentees thanking me for mentoring them; (b) the facts that of the nine students who received their PhD under my supervision since 1997, three received highly competitive CLAS Dissertation Awards, and three received the Landsman Outstanding Student Awards; © the fact that all of these nine mentees have presented research papers at conferences and that all but one have research publications; and (d) the fact that seven of these nine mentees are employed at universities — three are assistant professors, three are psychologists at university counseling/student mental health centers, and one is in a university administration position. All nine of these mentees are engaged in some type of research and community service and have job-related and/or profession-related leadership roles.

Two other strong indicators of my mentoring effectiveness are the extraordinarily large number of graduate students who have chosen me as their Master’s and Dissertation research advisor/chairperson, and the cultural diversity among these students. To date, I have had 26 graduate student mentees to receive Master’s Degrees (eight African-Americans, 16 Caucasians, one Latina and one Asian) and 26 to receive PhD Degrees (10 African-Americans, 15 Caucasians, and one Israeli). Eighteen (56.3%) of the Master’s Degree recipients and 13 (43.3%) of the PhD recipients received their degrees between 1997 and the present. Currently, I am officially or unofficially serving as mentor and committee chair for a culturally diverse group of 12 graduate students (six African-Americans, two Caucasians, two Trinidadians, one Black, and one Romanian), four of whom are doctoral candidates. It is such diverse mentoring experiences that have inspired and enabled me to help define and promote graduate education that embraces scholarship, cultural competence, and cultural sensitivity for teaching, research, leadership and community service in our increasingly diverse world.