Revealing talent through mentorship and guidance

Carol Carter, Carli Rodriguez and Elise Tran – Global MindED, Denver, Colorado

Feature | Denver, Colorado | 08 September 2021
Carol Carter, founder of Global MindED, is deeply committed to ensuring “first gens” have equitable access to academic and professional success through mentors and guidance. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“Most companies realize that hiring First Gen to college is smart diversity hiring with talent that can overcome any obstacle, bring ingenuity to all that they do and open the doors for others who follow in their footsteps” says Carol about her organization’s work that assists young women and men.

A celebrated author, entrepreneur and speaker, Carol Carter is the founder and CEO of GlobalMindED, an educational nonprofit organization. Global MindED was founded in 2014 with the intention of bringing together first-generation college students with mentors, educators, entrepreneurs, industry and non- profit professionals. The organization also connects with policy makers, to champion access to and equity for academic and workplace success.

Using her business acumen and international work experiences, Carter offers an exceptional outlook on how academia, businesses and various youth development organizations can work in concert to set students up for success regardless of their gender, race, cultural and financial backgrounds.

Fast-forward seven years since the organization’s inception and there has been an impressive roster of collaborators and first gen student alumni success stories.

We sat down with Carli Rodriguez and Elise Tran who are both first gens, alumni of the annual Global MindED conference, and now serve as ambassadors and mentors to other students in the program.

“I’m a student at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado and I currently work as a work study in the advising office. I’m technically on a mathematics degree track but I’m going for environmental engineering,” Carli says as she introduces herself. “And I am an assistant project manager at Swanson Rink,” Elise says. “I graduated from Colorado School of Mines in 2018,” the mechanical engineer adds.

“I feel like I grew up with a lot of responsibility, so it doesn't feel any different, to be honest,” Elise says of her job where she is tasked with managing multiple people in a $500,000 project. She cites being organized, asking for help when needed, and following up with people as key skills needed to perform her job.

While comfortable in those skills, Tran admits that one area she would like to improve and receive training in is Excel programming. “I don't think there's a lot of opportunity for students to really understand how much Excel can do,” she emphasizes. “That's probably one thing that I wish I could have learned more of,” she admits.

Similarly, Carli also states Excel as an area that she too could improve in. “I have tried but I’m just not that great at it,” she says with a grin.

Elise Tran and Carli Rodriguez are both first generation college students, who are alumni of the Global MindED conference. Their unique understanding of being first gen has made them passionate about helping other students thrive in their academic and professional goals. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
Having previously worked in the records and enrolment service department also as a work study, Rodriguez says it “was a very high-strung stressful environment,” in comparison to her current department.

Being in a more relaxed environment has enabled Carli to be more productive in her work and in her classes. She has also been able to develop and strengthen her organization skills and is more comfortable and confident in asking for help when she needs it.

“I’m a lot more productive,” Carli claims with a grin. “I'm taking even more higher-level classes this semester, but I feel like I have a good plan and system for keeping myself organized. I am also more willing to ask for help.”

As first gens, women of color, and knowing the benefits of mentorship first-hand, both Rodriguez and Tran share empathy and a keen desire to help others and promote diversity. Studies suggest that first gens are twice as likely to drop out of school within 6 years and they are also more likely to take remedial classes. So, mentors like Carli and Elise are invaluable assets to their mentees as they navigate their academic and professional journeys, and to the GlobalMindED program.

When asked about the type of management style she hopes to bring to her team in future roles, Carli simply answers “a comfortable one, where my employees feel comfortable coming to me and asking for help,” she elaborates with a warm smile.

“My gift is understanding when people are confused, and I think it’s very useful at work and when dealing with students and their parents. They feel overwhelmed and come to us, so making them see it’s not as bad as they think has a great impact,” Rodriguez underscores, showing her unique ability to help simplify difficult issues as a mentor.

When sharing her thoughts on lifelong learning, Elise reveals that she has a Six Sigma certification allowing for her to “continuously improve” her skills in manufacturing, which she also applies to her growth as a person.

Elise believes she has really embedded this method into her life. “Not only with materials around me but as a person there is always something you can learn and somewhere you can grow. I think that is one of the reasons why I really enjoy meeting people. When you meet people of different cultures, you get a greater insight, into how they think, and I really enjoy that.”

Her passion for people has led Elise to being a mentor that supports underrepresented groups in STEM. “I have mentored close to at least a hundred students,” she says. “And I still continue to talk to them. I want to be a supportive peer that they can come to.” Combining her engineering management track with her passion for people, Tran’s hope is to end up in a diversity and inclusion role in the long run.

Carli says Global MindED helped her develop greater confidence in herself and strengthened her organization skills. She believes that having a team of people always rooting for her as the key advantage. ILO Photos/ John Isaac
“There is always someone rooting for you!” Elise underscores excitedly. “When you talk to these people it feels like you’ve known them forever and they are always there when you need help. Another important thing is that being a first gen, isn't something you can physically see, and there are a lot of misconceptions about what a first gen looks like. Global MindED is making a huge effort to break that stereotype.”

Echoing those same sentiments, Carli adds that another value of the program is the overall resource. “The fact that I am providing the resources that I was able to find in the first place is amazing, humbling and important all at the same time,” she says with conviction.

For Carli and Elise, Global MindED has taught them to lead with understanding, vulnerability, and “paying it forward”. It seems Carol’s vision for Global MindED has brought success and promise in the future of first gen students.

“With mentors who have been through the GlobalMindED program like Elise and Carli, we see that corporate partners are highly invested in creating that diverse talent pipeline through a one-on-one mentorship and professional guidance,” Carol says proudly.