Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Re-Imagining the Human Dimension of Mentoring: A Framework for Research Administration and the Academy

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Re-Imagining the Human Dimension of Mentoring: A Framework for Research Administration and the Academy

Article excerpt

Introduction

Administrators and educators have become so metric oriented that it has become challenging to retrieve the human face of mentorship. In fact, mentoring may be considered a lost art and science. In Greek mythology, the spirit of mentoring is reflected in the character Mentor who serves as a faithful and wise advisor whose experience and knowledge benefit youth. The name "Mentor" is proverbial for a guide who opens up others to new experiences and the world, and who encourages and protects proteges. Today, exemplary research administrators and faculty mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance in their academic programs and careers. Given that effective graduate student mentoring is not as common as it should be (Johnson, 2006; Johnson & Huwe, 2003), and given that fast-paced demands on education are suffocating quality mentoring (Mullen, 2007), how do those in research leadership and academic positions practice the wisdom and prudence necessary for developing, assessing, and improving programs? Because research administrators are systems thinkers who view the component parts of a system in relation to the whole (Senge, 2006), they should understand that the mentoring of novice research administrators is integral to their own work. As human relations experts, research administrators realize that human learning is a complex, and even mysterious and messy, business. Research leaders who comprehend that mentoring the new professional depends on intimate relationship building and new forms of learning are more apt to understand that mentorship defies quantification as well as formulaic approaches. Thus, leaders who grasp the qualitative dimensions of learning and situations lend strength to their professional domains.

Understanding the fuller breadth of mentorship and its potential for educating and preparing students for the professions is an emergent competency in the world of research administration. As the culture of higher education institutions changes, one-on-one mentorships can be expected to expand. Creative collaborations and group-learning contexts are slowly on the rise in the education discipline, serving not only to supplement but also to modify the traditional mentoring arrangement that is dyadic in nature (Arnabile, 1996; Mullen, 2005). A goal of this essay is to raise awareness about how the mentoring of novice research administrators and graduate students can become a more potent force, with implications for the mentoring of non-tenured faculty. Some of the historical, philosophical, and epistemological foundations of mentoring that aid in this vision are addressed, including theories of adult education, mentoring, and leadership. In particular, the problem--that piecemeal understandings of mentoring that lead to the inadequate preparation of the next generation of professionals--is examined. Toward this end, alternatives are presented for developing or transforming mentoring relationships, programs, and cultures, and for finding solutions to educational problems. The research on group learning that has relevance for educating female and ethnic students, in addition to a mentoring scenario involving research administrators, provides further support.

Mentoring and Learning in Education Theories

The educational literature presents an imbalanced picture of mentoring and learning in terms of the emphases given to school-based contexts and populations (Mullen, 2009). Consequently, study of higher education contexts and adult learning lags behind and needs greater attention. Researchers, leaders, and policymakers focus on issues pertaining to teacher supervision and instructional leadership, as well as the mentoring of preservice and inservice teachers and of children across grade levels and from various backgrounds. Also, prospective and practicing administrators, and related matters of transition into leadership roles, have been the beneficiaries of steadfast research; hence, mentoring phenomena relevant to graduate students (Johnson, 2006) and dissertation candidates (Piantanida & Garman, 1999), in addition to novice research administrators (Easterly, 2008) and junior faculty members (Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 2004) reflect emerging areas of research. …

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