Interdisciplinary Speaker Series - Idalis Villanueva

February 11, 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. Join the Zoom Presentation

Race re-imaging academic mentoring: An exploration of the complex identities and experiences of womxn scientists and engineers

Academic mentoring, traditionally viewed as a mechanism to support mentees and students considered to be ‘at-risk’, have been used by administrative leaders and directors of programs to minimize the ongoing issues of persistence, retention, and success. However, much of academic mentoring today, both in practice and in research, have been largely devoid of considerations of race and other socially constructed lens. Furthermore, many decisions made around academic mentoring, either loosely connect mentoring to teaching or advising and seldom yield consistently positive outcomes. Compounded to these limitations, the tendency of academic environments to categorize nearly every supportive or developmental relationship as mentoring, the lack of a common definition of the constructs, biased assumptions on the role and traits of a mentor, among others continue to limit the utility of mentorship to the intended student populations.

This work uses a qualitative-dominant convergent mixed-methods design to explore the interactions of gender, race, and institutional role of a group of womxn graduate students and faculty at a mid-Western institution in the United States. One unique characteristic of this study is that an intersectional, identity-based, multiplicative approach combining multiple tools and techniques were used to explore the participants’ experiences in near-real-time. This work identified that three themes: awareness, power, and communication were important considerations for an academic mentoring program. However, we found that within these three themes, issues of race and institutional role resulted in different elicited responses among participants, based on their expressed identities. At the end of the session, we will discuss and reflect upon ways that issues of inclusion, particularly around intersectionality, can inform both research and policy, and the ways that academic mentoring could lead to positive outcomes.


For the past 10 years, Dr. Idalis Villanueva has worked on several engineering education projects where she derives from her experiences in engineering to improve outcomes for minoritized groups in engineering using mixed-and multi-modal methods approaches. She currently is an Associate Professor in the Engineering Education Department at the University of Florida. In 2019, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award for her NSF CAREER project on hidden curriculum in engineering. Dr. Idalis Villanueva has a B.S. degree is in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Soon after, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health in Analytical Cell Biology in Bethesda, Maryland and worked as a lecturer for 2 years before transitioning to a tenure-track in engineering education. Her experiences as a first-generation engineer, Latinx, woman of color, introvert, and mother has shaped the lens and research-informed practical approaches that she uses in her research.