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The Mentoring Continuum From Graduate School through Tenure
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
An unfortunate font choice limits the value of this otherwise helpful anthology. The font gives the text a strobe-like effect that resulted in my inability to read it in more than short intervals.
On one hand, this is fine. The Mentoring Continuum consists of fifteen essays each of which stands independent of the others. This allows the reader to dip in and out of the collection at will. On the other hand, however, doing so reduces the benefit of reading the essays within the three sections (Origins, Transitions, Dialogues and Reflections) into which they have been arranged. It is especially instructive to read the first two sections as a set of essays on a common theme: “Origins” treats mentoring relationships in graduate school and “Transitions” addresses the period from associate professor to tenure. As “Dialogues and Reflections” is not associated with a particular career phase, this section suffers less from the impact of the font choice.
Glenn Wright, editor and contributor, rightly points to “Graduate Student ISO a Mentor: A Dialogue about Mentoring” by Jan Allen and Kevin Johnson, as a quasi-summation of “many of the book’s main preoccupations, including mentee agency and responsibility, the virtue of peer mentoring, non-academic career preparation, teaching as a critical area of focus, and the key role of administration in providing the impetus, initial frameworks, and ongoing supports for mentoring efforts.” For those new to the conversation about mentoring, this chapter provides a nice introduction to the topic and associated interests.
I expected The Mentoring Continuum to be of interest to faculty, and it is, but I was pleasantly surprised by how appealing this book will be to graduate students. A number of the authors offer detailed counsel to students on how to get the most out of a relationship with a mentor and how to set up different types of peer mentoring programs within their institutions.
In the new market reality, many faculty members will find Paula Chambers’ essay, “Subject Matter Plus: Mentoring for Nonacademic Careers,” particularly valuable. Chambers reassures faculty that they need not be experts in multiple career paths outside academia. She challenges them, however, to follow any one, or better all three, of her recommendations for serving their students well in the current environment. First, “Manage Your Messaging”: Chambers explains why particular academic clichés need to be abandoned or rethought so students will be encouraged to consider nonacademic careers. Second, “Assess the Career Climate in Your Department”; Towards this end, she supplies a multiple-choice questionnaire that can be used to gather actionable information. Third, “Make Referrals to Available Resources”; Chambers provides an ample list to keep at hand.
This chapter, “Subject Matter Plus,” exemplifies one of the distinctive strengths of this collection – the blend of the personal, the practical, and the theoretical dimensions of mentoring. A notoriously difficult concept to define, “mentoring” is given substance as it comes to life through conversations between mentors and mentees, charts and tables, and ample bibliographies.
Mentoring as Transformative Practice Supporting Student and Faculty Diversity (New Directions for Higher Education, Number 171)
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Research literature reveals that effective mentoring has significant and positive impact on student success and persistence for women and people of color. Mentoring as Transformative Practice consists of ten essays concerning effective traditional and nontraditional mentoring strategies for women and underrepresented minorities (URM). The essays presuppose the value of mentoring and also explore its impact on student outcomes and agency.
The majority of essays in this volume are written by women and persons of color who have successfully mentored others or have been the beneficiaries of effective mentoring relationships. Many of the essays employ a nontraditional methodology for analyzing mentoring relationships and effective mentoring methods. For example, a critical reflective and subjective instrument called scholarly personal narrative is used both to analyze mentoring relationships and as a tool to mentor students. Scholarly personal narratives highlight the author’s voice and communicate their perceptions and interpretations of their lived experiences. Such narratives reveal insights and depth of experience in compelling ways. These are not normally found in research works. They also offer a unique method for constructing new knowledge.
Chapter One uses personal narratives to examine significant aspects of mentoring that impact women and URMs in higher education arguing that they often need psychosocial versus academic mentoring. The authors – one with a national mentoring award – reflect on mentoring practices in their personal narratives. They conclude that students need mentors who offer authentic relationships, understand their experiences as minorities, listen without reprisal, and encourage and model vulnerability at all levels. In Chapter Two, an African American female and associate professor at a research university and six of her students analyze data from their scholarly personal narratives, revealing three consistent behaviors that contribute to the development of student agency: (1) perceived and actual approachability allowing for mutual trust and comfort leading to cultivation of student agency; (2) the balance of challenge and support; and (3) assistance and encouragement to develop a scholarly voice, passions, and vocation. In Chapter Four personal narratives are used as a critical pedagogical tool through which students trace and critically analyze their educational development, comparing their experiences with patterns highlighted by social science theories, quantitative data, and relevant social policies.
The book offers several mentoring takeaways in the remaining chapters. One takeaway is that mentoring can become a racialized experience when it takes the form of protecting a traditional canon from nontraditional perspectives brought to the learning experience by women and minority students. Viewed within the context of social justice, mentoring involves conscientization, the valuing of lived experience, and advocating for students. Nontraditional alternatives to proximate mentoring relationships include “mentoring-at-a-distance” through emails, conferences calls, and so forth, and various unexpected “cheerleaders” who become sources of psychosocial encouragement. Online mentoring solutions provide psychosocial support for students in specific disciplines, like STEM. “Pedagogy for Equity” peer mentoring can focus on three levels – personal biography, collaborative sociocultural group context, and broader institution. Intergenerational and near-peer approaches positively impact retention and achievement from junior high through doctoral programs.
I highly recommend this book as a resource for individual or institutional self-reflection about participation (or lack thereof) in mentoring relationships as mentor/mentee and for thinking about and developing effective mentoring strategies for women and URMs.
For our final post, we each cover an overarching reflection or two from the 2014-15 academic year. Look for fresh content from the Wabash Center in the fall. In the meantime, feel free to visit our ongoing blog Race Matters in the Classroom or browse our Wabash Center YouTube channel. ...