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Members of halau Unulau, led by Kumu and Hawaiʻi CC Instructor Pele Kaio, who explained mentorship and coaching from a halau perspective to Cohort 1.

Increasing diversity and gender equity across the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges is the focus of a $1-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE program awarded to UH in 2017, to conduct an institutional assessment and implement a mentorship and peer-to-peer coaching program at the UH Community Colleges.

“We are the first ADVANCE grant awarded to study STEM careers at community colleges. Community colleges are important. More than 45% of students enrolled in public higher education are located in community colleges, and community college faculty deserve supportive working environments. It is especially important to increase diversity and expand the representation of women faculty in STEM,” Principal Investigator and UH Mānoa Professor Marina Karides said. “Not only does diversity make for a richer a scientific community and better science, but students are inspired to pursue careers by faculty who look like them.”

Building Relationships to Increase Diversity and Gender Equity (BRIDGE), the UH ADVANCE program, launched the first mentorship and peer-to-peer coaching training in January 2020. Faculty volunteers participated in a three-pronged training on the nuts and bolts of mentorship or coaching; intersectionality; UH policies regarding bias, bullying and discrimination; and the correct offices to which address these concerns. After training for one semester, the cohort implemented its training in the following semester. A second cohort of UH Community Colleges volunteers launched this month. With online platforms to support cross island and campus communication as one of the original goals of the grant, the current COVID-19 context fast-forwarded this need which has become especially important given the growing evidence that women faculty are faring worse than other groups.

“Based on the feedback from our mentors and coaches, the training has been a success. Several faculty who have participated are seeking to take a leadership role to institutionalize the training on their campuses. Registration for a second cohort was filled to capacity within an hour of our call for participants!” said BRIDGE Program Director Karen Harper.

In 2020, the BRIDGE team was awarded a supplemental grant of $150,322 from NSF after requesting to extend the study to UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu. BRIDGE will be recruiting for cohort 3, from these campuses over the summer, with training to begin in the fall. The grant researchers are also collecting survey data across all departments at the UH Community Colleges and the two four-year college campuses. The research team, led by Nathalie Rita, a PhD candidate in sociology, have received almost 500 completed surveys and are in the midst of conducting 30 interviews. That report is expected in summer 2021.