January 5, 2010
Today launched bright and early with group work. The question on the table: what’s up with mentoring?
I was part of a group of Awardees mentoring at a programmatic level (in contrast to working as individuals at an institution or looking at how to build mentoring communities institionally, though as we got into the thick of things it became clear that these three strands- individual, prgorammatic and institutional mentoring are inseparable.
The folks in the “program” group: Valerie Wilson, Leadership Alliance; Laura Bottomley, North Carolina State University (who served as scribe, group shepherd and spokesperson. She’s also a whiz with metaphors and similes!); Phil Kutzko, University of Iowa; Kennedy Reed, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Benjamin Flores, University of Texas, El Paso; Vladimir Strelnitski, Maria Mitchell Astronomy Assocation; Ashanti Johnson, Institute for Broadening Participation; Frank Bayliss, San Francisco State University; Stacy Phelps, American Indian Instiute for Innovation.
Why mention everyone in the group? because they really represented the face and forms of mentoring. They work with students at commuter campuses and Ivy League institutions. Their mentees include first generation college bound students, students who are parents, the only students of color in their departments, the best and brightest – and some students are in more than one category.
A full report is really merited but for tonight here are a few highlights of the conversation:
Mentoring is about long term relationships and mentoring over critical junctures; many people giving small amounts of time and some people carefully stewarding everyone along. Students need different kinds of mentors at different moments in their develoment for different things – academic and career advice being just a piece of it all. Mentoring is also about, and must increasingly be about developing talent, not only supporting talent that is already obvious.
The title quote captures some of what was at the heart of the conversation: when it comes to recruiting and retaining students from historically underrepresented populations to science the pipeline metaphor is too limited – we need to create communities and systems wtih lots of paths and paces; we need to find ways to anticipate and embrace a reality in which the road to degrees in science, and careers in science, come with detours, turn offs, broken-down vehicles. Running out of gas doesn’t mean the trip is over.
At Project Exploration we say, “You can’t miss the boat – the boat is always leaving.”
Today I left with two dozen new ships ready to take our students on board.
Tomorrow we’ll receive our awards from Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. And, if we’re lucky, we might just get a photo op with President Obama.
Stay tuned for more tales. And send me some questions!