Rehana Seepersad

Dissertation Proposal: Island Diasporas: Perceptions of Indo-Caribbean Protégés regarding their Cross-Cultural Mentoring Experiences in the United States 



Miami, Florida 






Rehana Seepersad


I propose to the Major Professor and to the Committee Members a study of the following topic to be conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Adult Education and Human Resource Development: ISLAND DIASPORAS: PERCEPTIONS OF INDO-CARIBBEAN PROTÉGÉS REGARDING THEIR CROSS-CULTURAL MENTORING EXPERIENCES IN THE UNITED STATES.

Mentoring as a learning relationship requires a lens that can be adjusted to various relational dynamics, an understanding and ability to compromise without being patronizing, and an appreciation of another’s beliefs, identity and culture (Zachary, 2000).  Mentoring is defined as an intensely caring relationship where an individual with greater experience works with another who has less experience to promote the latter’s personal and professional development (Caffarella, 1992).  A mentoring relationship lends itself to “unity between theory and method, flexibility and invariability…individual and culture, thinking and learning, intellect and affectivity” (Nicola, 1990, p. 40), thereby enhancing adult development and adult learning (Merriam, 1983).

The high rates of migration to the U. S. (Camarota, 2007; Nieto, 2002) has resulted in cross-cultural mentoring relationships where mentor and protégé are from different ethnicities or cultures (Cheng, 1990; Kochan & Pascarelli, 2003; Redmond, 1990).  Through cross-cultural mentoring mentors and protégés may learn more about each other so as to understand the challenges that can arise, while they interact with each other for the purpose of personal and professional development.

Although demographics and migration patterns in the U. S. have changed, mentoring studies continue to focus on European Americans (Blake-Beard, 1999) and African Americans (Barker, 2007; Brathwaithe-Gardner, 2006; Schilling, 2008).  Fewer studies explore mentoring of Latin Americans (Bond, Gray, Baxley, Cason, & Denke, 2008; Cavazos & Cavazos, 2010), Asian Americans (Henderson & Chan, 2005; Lew, Chang & Wang, 2005), and Native Americans (Branley, 2008; Portman & Garrett, 2005).

In existing studies, Caribbean protégés are typically referred to as African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Blacks or Caribbean Blacks, based on the color of their skin, racial heritage, and native origin (Rong & Brown, 2001; Rumbaut, 1994; Vickerman, 2007).  Caribbean immigrants are also referred to as Latin Americans (Awokoya & Clark, 2008; Boswell & Jones, 2007; Gilkes, 2002) when they have migrated from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, places whose history, culture, and traditions are closely linked to Spanish settlement (Henke & Reno, 2003).

As a result, research and the mass media have supported the myth that Caribbean immigrants are of either African or Spanish descent when in fact people of numerous races, ethnicities and cultures exist in the Caribbean (Rong & Brown, 2001; Rumbaut, 1994; Vickerman, 2007).  As a result, there is a gap in the literature regarding the experiences of Indo-Caribbeans since they are obscured from adult education research despite their rich socio-historic trajectories and culture. 

The researcher was not able to locate any studies that explore the cross-cultural mentoring experiences of Indo-Caribbeans in the United States.  Indo-Caribbeans are natives of the Caribbean, and descendants of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent who were taken to plantations throughout the Caribbean to serve as indentured laborers from 1838 through 1917 (Tinker, 1974).  Many Indo-Caribbeans have migrated to the United States in search of personal and professional achievement since the U. S. promises far more opportunities for professional development, education, and an improved quality of life (United Nations Secretariat, 2006).  The 2008 American Community Survey performed by the U. S. Census Bureau (2008) shows a total Caribbean population of just over 2.5 million.  Over 336, 000 of the Caribbean immigrants in the U. S. are from Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad, where the Indo-Caribbean population totals 50%, 37% and 40% respectively (The CIA World Factbook, 2009; U. S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore the perceptions of Indo-Caribbean protégés regarding their cross-cultural mentoring experiences in the United States.  The primary research question is: How do Indo-Caribbean protégés in the U.S. perceive their cross-cultural mentoring experiences? Secondary research questions are:

  1. What factors do Indo-Caribbean protégés report that facilitate their successful cross-cultural mentoring relationships?
  2. What challenges do Indo-Caribbean protégés encounter within their cross-cultural mentoring relationships?
  3. What mentoring strategies and practices do Indo-Caribbean protégés believe will help to enhance their professional development?

Conceptual Framework

Mentoring is often considered “a slippery concept” (Daloz, 1986, p. ix) because of multiple definitions which revolve around caring, understanding, nurturing, interaction, appreciation of another’s beliefs, social learning, identity and context (Anderson & Shannon, 1988; Bandura, 1977; Merriam, 1983; Noddings, 2005; Zachary, 2000).  Mentoring relationships build intrinsic value for both mentor and protégé in the form of relational development and understanding that occurs through constructivist, socio-cultural and psycho-social frameworks. These frameworks will serve as a lens for the researcher to examine Indo-Caribbean protégés’ interpretations of their thinking and development within cooperative learning scenarios.

The constructivist framework informs mentoring experiences through which protégés internalize new processes and construct their own knowledge and understanding, to try out ideas, skills, and roles with minimal risk (Kaye & Jacobson, 1996).  Piaget’s constructivism (1950) describes internalization of knowledge through accommodation, where we reframe what we already know, and assimilation, where we align new learning, within our existing frameworks. Meaning-making is mediated and constrained by the self-other relationship, which reflects the interdependence of the self within social contexts (Dirkx & Deems, 1994).

The socio-cultural framework emphasizes that “the world about us defines who and what we ought to be as adults” (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 118).  The protégé’s world includes social supports, assistance, guidance and interactions with peers, experts, and teachers; that is, physical contexts (Shi, Mishra & Bonk, 2004).  Learning and human development results from learners’ external social worlds, and continues to emerge through social and cultural contexts which bring learners toward full participation through social and guided processes (Lave & Wenger, 1991).  Cultural traditions and contexts, practices, social tools, beliefs and values are parts of the learning process in all cultures, and influence the human development, thinking, reasoning and problem solving that takes place (Rogoff, 2003; Rogoff & Chavajay, 1995).

The psycho-social framework is the internal value which develops through ongoing interpersonal dialogue, collaborative critical thinking, planning, reflection, and feedback (Galbraith & Cohen, 1995) between mentor and protégé.  By modeling, encouraging and supporting new behaviors, providing safe and trustworthy counsel, and through mutual interaction, mentors may enhance protégés’ sense of competence, identity, and effectiveness (Kaye & Jacobson, 1996; Kram, 1988).  Effective mentors, empathetic to protégés’ challenges, may enhance learning by helping the latter overcome personal resistance that emanates from unconscious, internalized dimensions, lack of empowerment and feelings of inequity (Brinson & Kottler, 1993; Zachary, 2000).

Phenomenological Method and Procedures

Phenomenology is used to explore the lived experiences of several participants, regarding a specific concept or phenomenon (Creswell, 1998).  The meaning of lived experiences surrounding a concept or phenomenon “as they present themselves to consciousness” (Van Manen, 1990, p. 9), “the study of essences” (p. 10), and the “attentive practice of thoughtfulness” (p. 12) is examined by the researcher.  Phenomenology serves to have those who have experienced the phenomenon being explored, articulate their experiences so that the researcher can uncover underlying essences and meanings, so as to interpret and arrive at his or her own understandings of the phenomenological interaction being studied (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Creswell, 1998).  This method allows exploration and understanding of Indo-Caribbeans’ perceptions and perspectives within cross-cultural mentoring experiences.

Snowball and criteria sampling methods will be used to identify and select Indo-Caribbeans for this study.   A minimum of 15 participants, who meet the selection criteria, will be selected for the study.  To meet the criteria of this study, participants must (a) be Indo-Caribbean, (b) have ancestors who served as indentured laborers in the English-speaking Caribbean, (c) have lived in the United States for 3 years or more, (d) have completed a baccalaureate degree or beyond in the United States, and (e) have had a mentor from a culture different from their own for a minimum of 1 year.

The primary form of data collection will be via a semi-structured interview guide.  The semi-structured interview guide consists of open-ended questions related to cross-cultural mentoring relationships.  Open-ended questions encourage participants to speak at length about their experiences, and hence provide rich responses to the researcher (Patton, 2002).  Two types of questions will be used: (a) main questions, and (b) probing questions (Rubin & Rubin, 1995).

Creswell’s (2007) simplified version of Moustakas’s (1994) revision of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen Method of Analysis of Phenomenological Data will be used to analyze the data as this provides the “most practical, useful approach” (Creswell, 2007, p. 159).  The purpose of the data analysis via transcribed interviews and field notes is to analyze Indo-Caribbeans’ perceptions regarding their cross-cultural mentoring experiences in the United States.

Strategies to enhance the credibility of this study include: (a) member checking, (b) peer reviews, (c) engaging in epoché, and (d) maintaining a researcher journal.  To achieve transferability rich, thick descriptions, and textural and structural descriptions of participants’ experiences with the phenomenon will be provided.  To achieve dependability, an audit trail, reflective journal and peer review process will be used.  An external auditor will review the research process, interview transcripts, textural/structural and composite descriptions, the researcher’s journal, and the data collection instruments for confirmability.


This study will make contributions to the frameworks that support cross-cultural mentoring as it will help adult educators, trainers and human resource development practitioners understand the values, beliefs, attitudes and culture of a less visible immigrant population within various learning environments.  As a result, our knowledge of the constructivist, socio-constructivist and psycho-social dimensions of cross-cultural mentoring may be expanded to incorporate more representative cultural contexts of immigrant populations in the United States. 

The study will also extend the research on cross-cultural mentoring among individuals of diverse cultures since understanding the cultural worlds of immigrants influences etic views and interpretations of their cultural identity (Perez, 1998).  The findings of this research should also foster increased understanding regarding cross-cultural mentoring of a less visible immigrant group so that decision makers and proponents of diversity may be able to enhance multicultural integration and responsiveness in organizational and academic settings (Rodriguez, 1995). 

Examining the cross-cultural mentoring experiences of protégés from less visible cultures creates a more holistic and in-depth understanding of mentoring (Scandura & Pellegrini, 2007) that may enhance mutual support, community, socialization and development in academic and professional spheres.  Understanding the attitudes, beliefs, values, communication styles and behaviors (Lee, McCauley, & Draguns, 1999) that influence immigrant cultures can enhance interaction within learning relationships. This is particularly important since immigrant cultures in the U. S. are increasing exponentially due to globalization (Kochan & Pascarelli, 2004). Through this study adult educators and practitioners may help learners and professionals from less visible cultures build a more authentic and productive life in the United States.


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