BUILD PODER mentor Allen Lipscomb on mentoring during the pandemic

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By Kirsten Cintigo

Allen Lipscomb, Ph.D. in psychology, serves many roles at Cal State University, Northridge’s campus. One of them is as a mentor in the undergraduate biomedical research training program, BUILD PODER, an NIH-funded initiative. 

As a mentor, Lipscomb not only works with his mentee in a research work-environment but also provides regular guidance as they continue to figure out their after-college plans. However, the ongoing pandemic has posed various difficulties not only to Lipscomb’s research work, but also to his relationship with his mentee.

“It has been a challenge in that I like to meet with my mentee and have them come into my office in-person. I like to give them resources and go over things with them,” Lipscomb said. “I find that virtually, while we can still meet through Zoom, there’s a lot of independence that’s required.”

Nonetheless almost a year into the pandemic, Lipscomb has become better adjusted to doing things virtually. In regards to his mentorship, he’s made the importance of communication very clear with his mentee. He practices this by hosting regular Zoom check-ins with them, and also being understanding and flexible about any stressors they may be facing. 

“I try to be very detailed in what I’m wanting and would like the mentee to work on and then require communication on their part,” he said. “It has been good in the sense that we can track things differently now that we’re virtual. We can record meetings so that if they want to rewatch our meeting back they’re able to.”

Although his research life has been completely flipped around, Lipscomb still manages to stay dedicated to sharing his work with others through virtual conferences and also through his own social media accounts.

“My BUILD PODER research assistant was able to do a virtual research conference with me last fall and it was awesome,” he proudly said. “She helped me with a manuscript and helped analyze some data on anti-racist practices within organizations who serve African American clients and families. It really made me see the benefit of mentorship, especially remotely, because this is where mentees get their experience in doing research.”

Lipscomb also praises his mentee for their dedication to their studies and research work during such a difficult time. According to him, their resiliency inspires him and he finds himself  “at a new level of gratitude,” which has changed his perspective when it comes to the importance of being a mentor. 

“I just really believe in students of color having access to innovative research opportunities that reflect them and reflect the communities they come from,” Lipscomb stated. “That’s why I became a BUILD PODER mentor, and that’s why I continue to have research assistants because I think representation matters."

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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