For 20 years, Cultivating New Voices (CNV) has worked to build a strong community of cultural and linguistic thinkers from underrepresented minorities among teachers of English.
“Community is everything. We are nothing without our community, and this is such a strong community,” says Tracey Flores, a former CNV scholar and now assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education.
The college hosted CNV’s 20th anniversary meeting this week, a program created by the National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE) to provide doctoral candidates and postsecondary faculty of color with support and guidance as they build their careers.
Doctoral students in this program work with a faculty mentor to examine pressing issues in areas such as literacy, teacher education, and cultural studies. In the program’s two decades, they’ve helped more than 120 scholars of color conduct critical research, make great strides in their academic careers, and create lasting relationships with their mentors.
Flores and her mentor, María Fránquiz, give similar testimony about their time in CNV and the important impact it made on their lives and careers. Fránquiz, former CNV director, is currently a professor in curriculum and instruction. When the two became mentee and mentor, Flores was a doctoral student at Arizona State, and Fránquiz was dean of the College of Education at the University of Utah.
“It really made a difference for me,” Fránquiz says. “I’ve been involved in a lot of different mentoring programs and this is the most successful.” The program, she explained, was meant to create new leadership for NCTE and education programs in general.
Scholars of color are sorely needed, she says, as are programs such as CNV, and a lot of work goes into getting and keeping the support provided. On her time as a founder, Fránquiz notes that there’s always a bit of push-back to initiatives like these, but once people see the amazing things that come out of it, they can’t help but support. “Look at this organization and what it’s doing,” Fránquiz says, “[It’s] a source of pride for me.”
“I feel very humbled every time we come together,” Flores says, “None of this is lost on me.”
Each year, CNV invites mentors and mentees to their national conference. There, the fellows have the chance to give presentations and get feedback while they spend time with their mentors.
Though fellows are assigned one official mentor, they meet and interact with many other outstanding people of color in their fields, getting what Flores called ‘unofficial mentors.’ This harmony among the people in the organization creates a much larger community that’s beneficial to someone just starting their career.
When talking about her relationship with Flores, Fránquiz called it, “a beautiful, unexpected circle.” Flores and Fránquiz express their great respect and gratitude for each other and how much their relationship has affected their lives. “María was someone I could turn to for the things they don’t really teach you in school,” Flores explains, “She shows up. And that matters.”