July 6, 2009

“African American Student Intern in Diversity Education: Brittany Alexander”

BrittanyName: Brittany Alexander
Hometown: North Minneapolis, MN
Education: Minnesota State University Mankato Current Status: Junior, majoring in Mass Communications Public Relations, Double minor in Ethnic Studies and Humanities

 When did you start work at Mayo Clinic? I started working at Mayo in 2008, during my sophomore summer in the Public Affairs department. This summer, I am in the Education department interning for the Office of Diversity.

 How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? I heard about Mayo Clinic through Inroads--- an organization that works with inner city minority youth and assist them with career training and professional development. Also, my dad is a new patient here receiving a kidney transplant.

 What do you do here at Mayo Clinic?  My position at Mayo is to identify materials, record short videos and draft text to refresh the MSHS recruitment site and also to help with initial stages of marketing and research for MSHS. I also help with the education diversity blog located on Mayo’s education web site.

 Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community? No, I don’t participate in any extracurricular activities here in Rochester, MN---although I would love to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald’s house.

 How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Mayo isn’t that different from where I attend college. Both towns are small and not as diverse as my hometown in North Minneapolis, but both places have evident diversity. Just like Mayo, the minority population at my school is increasing and diversity is becoming more noticeable. It is more common in both places to see someone who looks like you. My hometown in North Minneapolis is predominantly of the African- American race, but there are also a variety of cultures and races that makes my hometown unique and diverse. As far as the weather, Minnesota is Minnesota! Hot summers and bone chilling winters is something that I am used too.

 Do you consider yourself diverse? Yes because I am an African American and because I am a woman. Although it is extremely common to see a successful African American woman or African American period, you don’t always see them where you are employed, especially in small cities like Rochester or Mankato. I feel that I play a big role in making Mayo and my school diverse, not only because of my color or my sex, but because of my beliefs and morals. They also play a big role in my diversity.

 What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic?  Receiving an internship at Mayo wasn’t that hard of a fight because they are accustomed to difference in a way. But I will say that because I am a minority, I still have to fight a bit harder to achieve internships and jobs because of set stereotypes. 

 How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? I think that my determination and desire to learn is more helpful in my success than just my diversity. Most certainly my diversity has played a part in my success, but I wouldn’t solely place all of my achievements on it.

 Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN? Yes, I do. Unfortunately, people still live off of stereotypes and treat you based off of those stereotypes even if it is unintentional. That’s just how some people are raised or act. There have been a few occasions where I have felt uncomfortable walking into an office at Mayo and people have just stared or ignored me. I felt awkward, like I didn’t belong there, so I would stay to myself until it was time for me to leave that office.  There have also been times when I have been to the mall or grocery store and have been followed around, but this type of treatment I tend to ignore. I’ve dealt with it all my life and I feel that the more I am able to push past it, the stronger I am able to grow. My parents have always taught my siblings and me to keep our head up, even when we’re down because it will make us stronger, and this is what I do when I feel stereotyped against or ignored. Although I do have negative experiences, I have experienced positive ones too. There has been staff that has made me feel extremely welcome by acting as a resource for me and being helpful in my projects. 

Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving as a professional at Mayo Clinic? Yes I feel that diversity plays a role in everything in life. As far as it being a factor in my internship at Mayo, I definitely think that it has it perks and disadvantages. Being on a predominately Caucasian campus, being diverse can certainly earn you points in a variety of aspects, but the biggest disadvantage is that you still can sense a stereotypical environment at times. 

Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? Yes, I feel that my department is diverse and I think things are fine. Of course, adding more diversity to anything is a great, but I feel that my department is moderately represented well with a variety of minorities and a diverse staff.

 Interview taken by Jessica Silva

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