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Date Reviewed: December 13, 2018
In Mentoring: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives, Thompson and Murchison provide a thoughtful collection of essays on Christian mentorship. As a whole, this collection contributes to the growing body of scholarly work on mentoring by offering “windows on mentoring that are biblically grounded, theologically informed, communally diverse, and generationally attentive” (3). The book is divided into four parts, with each of the fourteen chapters highlighting the twenty-one contributors’ unique analyses and insights on mentoring and being mentored.
Part 1 surveys biblical perspectives on mentoring. As such, it begins with Brueggemann’s consideration of mentoring practices present throughout the Old Testament and concludes with a posthumous essay by Bartlett on those passages in the New Testament that help to shed light on contemporary understandings of the term “mentor.”
Part 2 examines the nature and task of mentoring from a variety of theological perspectives and methods. Drawing on the fields of pastoral ministry (Currie), homiletics (Long), ethics (Miles), and feminism (Rigby), the authors provide a range of mentoring models and resources that underscore the importance of positive mentoring relationships and practices in the formation of strong Christian leaders. On this Rebekah Miles writes, “Christian mentoring should include discussion of the ways that our professional goals contribute to the larger goals of Christian life” (83).
Part 3, “Diverse National and International Communities of Mentoring,” explores Christian mentoring practices as shaped by particular contexts, including race, gender, and ethnicity. Those who wish to think critically about dominant systems of oppression, such as racism, xenophobia, and sexism, and to foster concrete practices for inclusive mentoring within biblical-theological frameworks will find a wealth of resources in the essays by Pollard, Cannon, De La Rosa, and Kwok. Of particular note is Canon’s proposal that womanist mentoring is a vocational call, “to do the work your soul must have” (123). This section also includes an historical essay by Johnson on mentoring in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Finally, Part 4 contains three coauthored chapters that discuss mentoring as a mutually supportive practice that occurs across generations. Ottati and Hinson-Hasty’s essay, “Mentoring toward a Humane Disposition, Attitude, and Imagination,” describes mentoring relationships between the teachers and student, while Nishioka and Lowry and Wardlaw and Murray’s essays consider youth and cross-generational mentoring, respectively
The book closes with an afterword by Marty that skillfully and poetically weaves together the insights and value of this collection of essays. He writes, “It is impossible to speak properly about mentoring in entirely impersonal and theoretical terms. Mentoring is and is about a profound personal dimension of scholarly and pastoral work” (223).
Those working in theological schools or departments and in Christian ministry will find this collection of essays to be a valuable resource on the virtue and art of mentoring. The strength of this volume lies not only in its biblical and theological reflections on mentoring, but also in the range of everyday lived experiences and perspectives from which the authors write.
In 1998, the movie, You’ve Got Mail, cast an unlikely couple, played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who fell in love over email exchanges. The film brought to the big screen the unforgettable computer-voiced announcement “You’ve got mail.” The scenes were classic and represented many email users who ...
Date Reviewed: September 15, 2017
As diversity initiatives become more prominent in higher education, this volume features the perspectives of faculty on the progress and challenges of a diverse academy. The first-hand accounts shared through these autoethnographies manage to be simultaneously thought-provoking, memory-inducing, and pedagogy inspiring.
Rather than a superficial treatment on numerical diversity when whiteness and its privileges are normative, this collection focuses on difference, but difference in this sense is not presented one-dimensionally. The editor offers, “When we focus on difference, rather than race, class, gender, disability, or sexuality only, we come to understand how each of these characteristics fits into the oppression/privilege paradigm much more clearly” (4).
The book is organized by two overarching themes. In Part One, “Challenging Classrooms,” the authors describe the multiple ways and meanings of having their credibility or classroom authority challenged or accepted. For example, as the first and only professor, your very presence may be triggering for students, resulting in recognition, awkward expression, and then resistance. Student evaluations may indicate “pleasant surprise” that a Black professor “so smart and articulate” (51), and that the student didn’t really listen at first because expectations of a Black person went unmet.
The chapters in Part Two, “Witnessing Protest,” acknowledge that college professors often teach life lessons in addition to the subject matter and that we may undergo transformations ourselves as we guide and mentor students through life situations, and as we bear witness to the experiences of students and colleagues. The contributors not only share their experiences as teachers, they also recall memories of being students themselves, including the impacts of shifting individual and collective identities. They describe resilience in the face of presumed incompetence, unwelcoming classroom environments, and unfavorable course evaluations.
Challenged by their own recognitions, authors allowed their heightened awareness and sensitivity to inform self-reflection. For example, a student’s persistent inquiry about a contributor’s background and the kinds of schools that she attended resulted in the importance of recognizing her own “class privilege.” However, with that recognition came the worry that she “unconsciously wielded” that “privilege in order to combat racial stereotypes.”
Another contributor raised the issue of the reluctance of embracing disability as diversity in the academy, offering that as “abject other,” disability is “viewed through frameworks of pathology and abnormalcy rather than those of identity and human diversity” (115). An accommodation as seemingly simple as making sure that the classroom community angled their bodies so that a student could read their lips created a richer learning environment for everyone.
Throughout the narratives, there are pedagogical recognitions that lead to suggestions and models of small adjustments making meaningful impact. Students come with their own perspectives and should be encouraged to see themselves as “co-creators” of their educational experience (58). In a demonstration of the power and subtleties of language, one contributor instituted the “ouch” rule, whereby an offended person can say “ouch” and then pause for analysis of the offense (61).
Some pedagogical insights arose from the students’ interpretation of and engagement with assignments. For example, in a photography self-portrait assignment, one student proactively cast herself in three stereotypes of Black women that she had often confronted, prompting visible discussions in effort to “redirect misperceptions” (78).
The audience that may be reached by this book is wide-ranging, from graduate students to administrators and board members. All may benefit from the profoundly vulnerable, yet honest viewpoints offered.
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.
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.