Nearly two years ago, I started collaborating with an international group of researchers interested in enhancing mentoring for scientists within academic settings. Last week, we published a paper that details one of the essential approaches that we’ve identified through a scan of 27 career development, leadership, and mentoring programs worldwide. That is: multi-mentor networks rather than relying exclusively on an individual mentor (often an adviser or supervisor). We also recommend this structure be invested in and developed across training stages, to support a more diverse pool of scientists as they progress through their careers.
As I noted in the press release that my university issued about the paper:
“A boss or adviser is not automatically a mentor,” Garramon Merkle clarifies. Rather, mentors are people who commit to the professional growth of their mentee, regardless of whether this benefits the mentor.” The authors note this mindset can be challenging, as mentors may not have the same life experiences, goals or professional requirements as their mentees. For example, most UW students will not become academics or even teachers. “We have a huge responsibility: Advisers and instructors should be able to teach and advise students toward the careers and civic lives they desire,” Garramon Merkle says. “We can do this if we help each other.” ~UW press release
The perspectives in this paper are especially relevant for my institution, as we’re embarking on our necessary, cyclical processes of updating our strategic plan and our general education programs right now.
We have an opportunity to embed effective mentorship methods across campus, building on approaches that are demonstrated to work and meet long-standing needs in career development and support.
As an example, Garramon Merkle highlights UW’s own Learning Actively Mentoring Program (LAMP) from the Science Initiative. LAMP connects a cohort of UW and community college faculty and graduate students to a team of mentors for an entire year. The resulting long-term relationships are more feasible because mentoring is shared across the team. This, in turn, leads to a diverse group of people trained in teaching that is more effective. ~UW press release
P.S. I was especially delighted to be part of this team because of the wide-ranging nature of my co-authors’ perspectives. They come from institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Deanna, R., B.G. Merkle, I. Baxter, K.P. Chun, R. Zuo, L.M. Diele-Viegas, P. Geesink, V. Aschero, D. Navarro-Rosenblatt, A. Bortolus, P.A. Ribone, E. Welchen, M.J. de Leone, S. Oliferuk, N.H. Oleas, M. Grossi, A. Cosacov, S. Knapp, A. López-Mendez, G.A. Auge. 2022. Community voices: The importance of diverse networks in academic mentorship. Nature Communication 13, 1681: 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28667-0
If you hit a paywall at that link, contact me – I’m happy to email you a copy of the full article.