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‘Shades’ encourages mentoring process at ASU

November 13, 2007

Diverse approaches to education and mentoring may be needed to create the next work force of scientists and engineers, according to the National Science Foundation. One of their primary goals listed in the NSF Strategic Plan 2007-2011 is to reach out especially to students that traditionally have been under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

To this end, the ASU Graduate College has launched “Shades, a Multicultural Mentoring Program,” for under-represented students in STEM fields. The goal is an informal, multiple-level mentoring program that will encourage graduate students to network with each other as well as mentor undergraduates.

“Shades” is the brainchild of Sydella Blatch, a doctoral-degree candidate in the School of Life Sciences.

“I think much of the reason minorities and people of color are under-represented in the sciences is because of lack of information, exposure – and, in various ways, opportunity,” she says. “One thing that we can do on a small scale is to increase the amount of information and exposure under-represented people receive.  And there are some things that just go over better when coming from a peer.”

The program is not intended to replace formal academic mentoring, but rather serve as a community of peers with resources, support and information on multicultural and ethnic issues.

“We are finding that the support many students need to be successful can best be provided by those who have recently encountered similar circumstances,” says Andrew Webber, associate vice provost.  “Oftentimes discussion with peers can provide support and encouragement that is not readily available through formal channels. ‘Shades’ will facilitate students finding the peer support they may need, as well allow experienced students to contribute to the success of their discipline.”

Interested undergraduate students and first-year graduate students are being matched with graduate students within the same program of study. At a recent meeting Allex Osborne, a freshman majoring in actuarial sciences, stated his need for a mentor.

“I’m thinking about my future,” he says. “A mentor could help me find the opportunities and resources that are out there.”

“You can never do it alone,” agrees Telpriore Tucker, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry. “I’ve been helped so much and I need to give back and mentor someone else.”

The program’s mentors and mentees gather for lunch meetings every other month, as well as keep informal contact with each other through e-mail and phone. Meetings usually feature panels or guest speakers on topics such as career options in STEM fields, résumé-building and graduate school preparation. A newsletter is planned to announce seminars and workshops of interest, as well as share articles on study tips, and career and professional development.

For more information on the program, contact Debra Crusoe at or Jennifer Cason at The Web site for the program is

Michele St George,
(480) 965-5995
Graduate College