NASAA Notes: August 2019

August 5, 2019

NASAA Completes First Mentorship Program for People of Color

As I know you’re aware, NASAA offers a growing portfolio of programs and services* that support state arts agencies’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Our goal is to equip state arts agency (SAA) staffs and councils with resources, training and support systems to advance DEI at their agencies and effect meaningful change. One of our new services, a mentorship program for SAA people of color, just completed its inaugural year. While there are many ways for an organization serving diverse constituents to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, NASAA launched this mentorship program with a deliberate focus on race equity out of recognition that people of color in most sectors (the arts included) face unique barriers to career advancement, such as implicit bias in organizational structures. A mentorship program is one strategy available to reduce race related barriers.

We envisioned the program as a means to open a window on middle management and executive level careers with state arts agencies, so that more of NASAA’s members of color are welcomed and equipped to chart a course toward those roles and successful tenures in our sector. We designed the program to provide professional development for individual members of color as they enter, sustain and advance their careers with state arts agencies. Advancing their inclusion within state arts agencies and across the NASAA membership must be an important part of our work.

Everyone has something to gain in mentor-mentee relationships. Mentees increase their networks and support systems; they receive guidance and are better able to navigate developing their careers. Mentors learn plenty as well; they better understand how our field is evolving and are fulfilled by supporting newer colleagues. I wouldn’t be at the helm of NASAA today if it weren’t for the sustained encouragement of my own mentors, so I was honored to join our inaugural program in their honor, and as part of our first cohort of NASAA mentors.

Our mentees and mentors reported that the program provided a very rewarding and valuable experience for them. Mentees felt supported and respected. Some were inspired by being connected to influencers and change makers in our sector. Mentors also appreciated the experience, and most are open to mentoring others in the future. Several mentorship program pairs reported that they’ll continue to be in touch with each other after their formal program connections end. Both mentees and mentors overwhelmingly recommend participation in the program to other colleagues. With positive results and constructive recommendations for the future from program participants, our team at NASAA will improve the program and roll out the mentorship opportunity for a new cohort of SAA members. Please stay tuned for updates through NASAA Notes and related e-mails.

I offer my deepest gratitude to all 2018-2019 mentorship program participants. It’s not always easy to volunteer for or trust something new, which is why I’m particularly delighted the program was fruitful and valuable for participants. Thanks as well to SAA leaders who supported their staff and council member participation in the program. And certainly not least, I’m grateful for program co-coordinators Susan Oetgen and Connie Souto Learman, who developed and managed the initiative with grace and sensitivity. Great job!

* Stay tuned for an update of our log of DEI Activities at NASAA in coming weeks.

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