Cultural Brokers

Today I came across the work of Vikki Katz (Ph.D., University of Southern California) an Assistant Professor in the Communication Department of the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information.  Her research in the area of communication challenges faced by Latino immigrant families is fascinating.  In the video below, Dr. Katz discusses how children of Latino immigrants access the Internet as well as digital media.

A lot of her research also focuses on the concept of “brokering” which describes the process of how Latino children often have to facilitate the communication process for their parents – not as translators but as doers.  I can certainly relate to this concept.  Enjoy.

Is it Just a Piece of Paper?

Michael Staton writes that the value of a college degree (the actual diploma) will lose much of its value in the coming years.  Due to the onset of technology, certifications, and online learning, he sees an unbundling of higher education.

The value of paper degrees will inevitably decline when employers or other evaluators avail themselves of more efficient and holistic ways for applicants to demonstrate aptitude and skill.  Evaluative information like work samples, personal representations, peer and manager reviews, shared content, and scores and badges are creating new signals of aptitude and different types of credentials.

For my experience as a nontraditional student, recruitment manager, and an instructor, I can appreciate his point.  As a college student, I arrived to the classroom with almost seven years of work experience.  While I didn’t have any certifications or badges, I did arrive with many of the competencies usually developed over four years of college.  My academic credentials were spotty at that point, but my ability to understand real world concepts was far beyond that of my peers who had just entered college.  Once I graduated with my four year degree, I was at a decided advantage when it came to soft skills — work ethic, office politics, and time management.  One of the best compliments I received was from a manager at my first “real job” who thought I had been with the organization for many years.  He was shocked when he learned I was there only a few months.

I see the same situation and many of the same types of students in my classrooms, particularly those in the military.  Given their experiences and backgrounds, military students are able to grasp leadership concepts much faster than those that have minimal work experience.

The Trust Factor

I’ve often been asked whether race or ethnicity plays a role in the recruitment of Latino talent.  In most cases I would suggest that it doesn’t hurt to have Latinos in front of potential Latino talent. From an organization standpoint, placing Latino representatives in front of potential customers makes perfect sense.   This goes a long way in helping to build trust in the Latino community.  However, when placing Latinos at the forefront is not possible, what is the next best thing?  This recent study by Harris Interactive suggests that people who are able to build relationships, understand culture, and engage with  Latino communities are as effective in building trust.  According to the study:

When asked if it was important that their advisor understand their culture, only about one-third (31 percent of Hispanics and 36 percent of African Americans) said it was.

Graphic by Harris Interactive

Complexity and Complexions

The complexity of Latino identity is examined in the documentary, Negro— A Docu-Series about Latino Identity.  The film explores the African and Latino history in the United States, specifically Afro-Latinos from the Caribbean region. Identity, race, history and latinidad are discussed from a number viewpoints.   Ryan Hamilton discusses his perspective below – all videos can be found here.

One is the Loneliest Number

The Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility (HACR) shared results of its 2013 Corporate Governance Study, and the report were dismal.  Latino representation on Fortune 500 boards was 3 percent – Latinas 1percent – with only 10 Latinos holding CEO positions.

Additional details can be found here – but be forewarned, it’s bloody.

Big kudos to HACR for trying to alter these results.  The organization’s challenge is astounding. The goal to increase Latino representation from zero to one reveals the true depth of the inequity. Below is a video of their latest efforts to help turn the tide.

Still Looking for Access

A USC study reports that Latino high school students (in California) who graduate from top schools still attend community colleges.  Regardless of the state, the barriers remain the same.

According to the study:

Previous research has found the concentration of Latinos in the public two-year sector to be attributable to many factors, including the relatively low cost, geographic accessibility, and curricular and program flexibility of community colleges.

Previous posts on this topic here, And so it goes…..

Reality Check: Working for the .GOV

Yet another look at the federal workforce, which has been covered quite a bit over the years on MAC.com. In this installation, The Atlantic presents thoughts on the satisfaction rates of federal employees and why it’s hard to work for the government. The news is not good as these numbers have been decreasing recently. As for Latinos, whom comprise about 8% of federal workers, their overall satisfaction hovers around 61%, a bit higher than the average.  The full report by the Partnership for Public Service can be found here.

Graphic via The Atlantic

Living in a Bubble

I spent the K-12 years of my education surrounded by other Latinos. Diversity, as I understood it then, occurred when a non-Latino student attended our school. On occasions when a “White” student arrived, I clearly remember the challenges he or she faced in their new environment: different neighborhood, people, culture, language, and school. In many ways, it was like attending school in a different country. Being kids and/or teenagers at the time, I’m sure we didn’t make their transition any easier.

My college years in El Paso paralleled those that came before. The college and city was well over 70% Latino. Many students were Mexican Nationals who crossed the border from Cuidad Juarez daily. I was enclosed in a bi-national campus packed with other Latinos. Every cultural facet of being Latino could easily be found, but I was living in a bubble.

The bubble burst when I accepted my “first college job” and moved to Dallas. Everything changed. The fast-track management development program included only one or two other Latinos and a handful of African Americans. Gone was the familiar cultural safety net which provided support, acceptance, and confidence. The sureness that propelled me through college in less than 4 years evaporated. I suddenly felt like the new “white” students did so many years ago. I lasted only 18 months.

Karma is a bitch.

My story is not new. It’s experienced by Latino and non-Latino students every day. However, experiences like these are rarely captured and documented, especially not on film. I came across this article in The Atlantic today which focuses on the documentary, American Promise. The independent film captures the experiences of two African-American boys, Idris Brewster and his friend Seun Summers, who enter a prominent private school of mostly white students. Spanning over 13 years, the film captured the cultural and educational challenges of the two boys. More importantly, it examines how diversity has evolved to mean different things to different groups of people.

The author makes this point:

I’d argue, though, that parents of color aren’t compelled by “diversity” as much as they are by reality. Independent school administrators may be invested in preparing white students for an increasingly multicultural future (or multicultural present, since children of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white children). But parents of color like the families in American Promise are more concerned with ensuring their kids’ success in the still predominantly white spaces of the present. The job market is obviously strained for everyone, however, it continues to be remarkably stratified by race