Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mentoring and the self

Inspired by this blog, I've been posing some questions about mentoring on my own blog -- and the comments are quite interesting. Feel free to jump in there.

Hall's book makes me think about mentoring because of his frustration at the gap between what he thought his professors trained him to do and what his work experience actually is. So I have been thinking about how better mentoring could prepare people for their jobs. One thing I keep coming up against is that I feel like my own "academic self" could have developed in a number of different ways. As it stands, my academic life -- or just my life -- is very bound up with working, teaching, and talking to graduate students and highly motivated undergraduates. That's not all I do, of course, but it's a big part of it. (And I'm about to become DGS, as I may have said, so it will become bigger.) However, when I interviewed for jobs, I also interviewed at a number of different kinds of universities and colleges -- urban public universities, rural flagship u. in a very poor state, a hippy public u. in the redwoods, a small private liberal arts college in New England, and so on. And during that three-day period of MLA, I tried to convince the job committees -- and convince myself -- that I could cultivate an academic self for each of these kinds of institutions. And I really believed it. Of course, not everyone bought it, but I really could have very easily ended up at a university where, for instance, I focused more on other parts of my academic interests and very, very different kinds of teaching. Would I have been just as happy? I can't say for sure, but I'd like to think so. And I guess I'd like to help my graduate students here be ready to be happy in a number of different situations as well.