By Helen Farley
University of Southern Queensland
Recently, as ASCILITE Executives, Mark Northover and I were tasked with taking over ASCILITE’s Community Mentoring Program from Sue Gregory, ASCILITE’s Vice President. Sue has continued to do an amazing job for a number of years but with each passing month, she’s taking on more and more and it was just time to share some of that work around. Mark and I hope we are worthy successors!
I’m excited about becoming more involved with the program and it started me thinking about my own experiences with ASCILITE’s Community Mentoring Program.
My first engagement with the program was as a mentee; a new academic matched with a senior leader from another university. The experience scared the pants off me because I had spent my career dodging the attention of such people! Now, there was no dodging it! My mentor was very busy and securing scraps of his time was a challenge but his commitment to me was unswerving. And under his guidance, I met with other academics from across the globe with who I could collaborate, we wrote a paper for the ASCILITE conference and I ran a workshop there too. I thought that he would be there to help me but it turned out he couldn’t be. I was absolutely petrified running a workshop by myself; I’d never done it before! But you know what? It went really well and some of the folk that came along are to this day some of my closest collaborators. I couldn’t have done it without his belief in me.
From being a mentee I progressed to being a mentor, a role I’ve enjoyed for a number of years. I’ve been a one-on-one mentor but a couple of times, I’ve also worked collaboratively with another mentor. When we think of mentoring, we generally think about what the mentor brings to the mentee. And of course, as a mentor we can bring our connections, experiences, wisdom and sometimes our knowledge of sector politics! But without a doubt the mentees bring as much, and sometimes more, to the relationship.
I’ve been surprised and delighted when a mentee can bring new knowledge to my own research, becoming valued collaborators and writing partners. The relationship lasts longer than the term of the program and projects are born that provide opportunities for both of us (or more of us) to expand our publication lists.
Another consequence of the mentee/mentor relationship that has surprised me is that it helps me to be kinder to myself. As an academic, I’m always wishing I was doing more, writing more, getting more done at the cost of my life outside of academia. I can be more objective with my mentees than I can be with myself. I always advise my mentees to strike a balance: get enough exercise, eat well, sleep long enough and maintain their connections with family and friends and all of that will help with the job at hand. But for that advice to be convincing, I have to model it myself. Mentoring has brought me a sense of perspective and helps me realise just what it is I’ve learned over my many years of being an academic.
Is the mentoring experience always so positive? No, of course not but it’s never bad. Sometimes personalities don’t match up; timetables don’t align; mutual goals may be elusive. But in my experience, mentors and mentees approach the relationship with great respect for each other and something is gained irrespective.
So, I would urge you to consider becoming a mentee or a mentor in the ASCILITE Community Mentoring Program. The potential rewards can be powerful.
If you think you might like to have a go but would like more information first, take a look at the Community Mentoring Program page on the ASCILITE website. We’ll also be hosting a webinar on Monday February 13 so you can ask questions and learn more.