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Mentoring as a Mandate
August 28, 2011 - 7:45pm

I hit the ground running after my summer vacation, and I’ve had meeting after meeting that have reminded me that mentoring continues throughout your career. There have been different times in my career when I have mentored students, peers, and even helped out people senior to me. Likewise, today I still have trusted mentors that I approach about my concerns or particular situations.

When we become the experts or specialists, though, we need to remember our responsibility to take others with us. We cannot hoard our expertise and stingily mete out information or resources to a select few. Yes, the mentoring, sharing or sponsoring of students and colleagues takes time, but it’s worth it. This can help increase the presence of more diverse faculty, administrators, and staff on college campuses.

We still refer to the Old Boys Network and the privileges that come with it. Part of this network is the insular nature of class privilege, but I argue that another part is information privilege. Most academics do not enter graduate school knowing how to artfully construct a curriculum vitae, or apply for a job, grant, or conference. One might learn by trial and error or have someone assist with the project. It is only through our networks that we can find out about pertinent information and opportunities on campus and in higher education.

This is why I will say it until I am blue in the face: we need to remember to actively mentor. Some of us might refer to it as networking, accountability meetings or sponsoring, but the name does not matter as much as long as we remember that it is important to share information, deadlines, and to willingly help others. We, as women faculty, will not succeed unless we try harder to help one another. We also must be willing to ask for help when we need it. The only way to do this is to chat with others about protocol and “chains of command” if you will.

As the upcoming school terms gets closer, I am thinking about my tenure as the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus at my university. I return to my self-imposed mandate to work as a mentor, to learn, and to help other academic women promote themselves and their work better. What I need to do next is to get everyone else to buy into this ethos! My post is two years and I know that I have allies on campus, but I also realize this will take work.

Given that there are lower numbers of senior women on my campus and on most college campuses in North America, this is not some reverse-sexism or cheerleading on my part. Instead, this is an attempt to make women faculty more savvy as they maneuver the campus culture and to use this savvy to change the campus. I think that Gen X is up to the task. We work differently and we are the next leaders on campus and part of this leading has to include a shared vision of helping other women.

Victoria, British Columbia in Canada

Janni Aragon is a Senior Instructor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. She is an occasional blogger at University of Venus and her areas of interest are varied: Gender and Politics, Women and Technology, American Politics, Feminist Theories, Youth Politics, and Popular Culture. Currently she is working on a co-edited Introduction to Women’s Studies textbook and when she has time, she blogs at


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