Midwest Women's Caucus Mentoring Program
Pursuant to our mission of promoting equity and networking opportunities for women in the discipline, the MPSA Women’s Caucus will continue with its second year of the mentoring program for 2014. Our former President, Lori Poloni-Staudinger founded this mentor program at MPSA 2013. Senior (tenured) scholars are paired with untenured scholars in a mentor-mentee relationship. While many of us have mentors within our home departments or from our graduate departments, the networking opportunities available outside of these two venues are sometimes hard for new PhDs to access. In addition, we all have been helped by a mentor and many feel they would like to give back to other women in the field. Out of this desire the MPSA Women’s Caucus mentor program was born.
Many great mentor-mentee matches were made during 2013 and we hope to continue the success of this new program by connecting more scholars in 2014. Participants in 2013 Mentor Program noted that women tend to prefer formalized mentorship. Specifically, having a set time and place (MPSA roundtable meeting time) and being formally paired with another person helped many women to get to know each other, instead of a junior scholar feeling she was imposing on a senior scholar in an informal environment.
We suspect that many mentors will get more out of mentoring than they ever expected. This is a way to give back to our discipline and help other women, but it is also a way to consolidate your own knowledge, have a concrete feminist impact, and gain new insight. Mentees will gain networking opportunities and advice from women in the field who have been through similar experiences to your own. We see this as a two-way relationship with both parties sharing experiences and knowledge.
Mentors and mentees will meet during a roundtable session at MPSA. Our hope is that mentors and mentees can meet at conferences and keep in regular contact so that both parties can have a sounding board outside of their home or graduate departments to run ideas by, serve as references, and/or help with networking. Mentors and mentees could expect to make contact 2-3 times per year, by phone, email or at conferences.
The Benefits of Mentoring Through MWCPS
In an effort to illustrate one way that a successful mentor-mentee relationship could work we are featuring a testimonial from one of our caucus member Emily Beaulieu from the University of Kentucky. In Spring 2013, the Midwest Women’s Caucus paired Emily with Candice Ortbals from Pepperdine University. As you will see Emily and Candice have a successful mentor-mentee relationship. In the text that follows, Emily briefly explains how their relationship functions and provides a few practical examples of how to form a successful mentor-mentee relationship.
Candice Ortbals was assigned to be my mentor at the 2013 MPSA annual conference, and it has been an incredibly beneficial relationship for me. I was one of two mentees assigned to Candice and at first I wasn’t sure how that was going to work because the other Mentee is at a school that is more similar to Candice’s, so I wasn’t sure how much we would have in common or how helpful the relationship would be. Fortunately, though, Candice was very upfront about where she thought she could offer help as I look forward to going up for tenure and also very upfront about where she lacked expertise, but was willing to connect me with people who had experiences similar to mine.
The first thing I appreciated about Candice was that she offered suggestions, both in the ways that she was willing to help and also with practical details like when we could get together to talk. When I am placed in the role of “mentee” I find initiating that kind of structure to be difficult so I appreciated that she was willing to take a lead in that way. When we had a chance to talk at the last MPSA, we developed a kind of action plan for our future interactions and at this past APSA we made plans in advance to get together—it was there that she connected me with a colleague of hers at an institution with tenure requirements that were similar to mine. That was another incredibly helpful conversation.
The other major success of our relationship is that we have identified a common research interest and have plans to co-author work in the future. Candice has given me great ideas for an exciting new research agenda, and we are finding ways to collaborate both on our own research and on teaching/student research. I think this came about because we took some time to talk and get to know each other a bit beyond our roles as mentor/mentee. By broadening our discussion to include how we see ourselves as scholars and our scholarly interests, we were able to find this common intellectual interest, which feels like an added bonus. Also, I should mention, we share a love of dogs, which counts for a lot more than one might think!
Emily Beaulieu is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky.
Candice Ortbals is an associate professor at Pepperdine University.