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Lessons from Mutual Mentoring – Tips for Anyone (and Everyone) in Academia

Researching and writing can be a challenge.

However, it does not have to be. Staring at a blank computer screen will happen during the process, but preparing for those moments of writer’s block can make the writer’s block disappear faster and occur less frequently. One form of preparation is mutual mentoring, and while this type of mentoring was discussed in terms of the faculty at Kennesaw State, it is important to remember that the following advice is beneficial for any student, program director of faculty member wanting to complete the research process.

Mutual Mentoring Background

According to Dr. Federica Santini, Associate Professor of Italian; Dr. Griselda Thomas, Associate Professor of English; Dr. Suma Mallavarapu, Associate Professor of Psychology; and Dr. Chenaz Seelarbokus, Associate Professor of Public Administration, mentoring does not always have to follow the traditional format where a senior faculty member helps guide a junior faculty member through the various checkpoints of the process that is tenure. The mutual mentoring model, which gained notoriety at the University of Massachusetts, puts junior faculty from different disciplines that are at similar points in their respective careers together. The logic behind this model is that traditional top down mentoring is not always sustainable in the end.

At Kennesaw State, the Manuscript Completion Program (MCP) used the model of mutual mentoring to help junior faculty work through the publication process. The program was implemented in the fall of 2012, and the groups met once a week. All the members of the group would write their long term and weekly goals; then, they would hold each other accountable to achieve those goals. The MCP is one form of an accountability group and moral support for faculty embarking on the research process.

What is Holding Me Back?

Often when we are stuck in the research and publication process, we need to ask the question: What is holding me back? And we need to make sure we’re being honest with ourselves when we answer.

Does Facebook take up 6 hours of your day?

Do you have a family that requires your time and attention?

Do you have an obsessive need to clean before getting any work done?

Can you only work after you’ve had 6 cups of coffee?

Being honest with ourselves about how much time we spend on certain tasks, is a part of the research process that can be overlooked. Researching, writing and publication take time. There are not going to be enough hours in the day to complete every task we want or need to accomplish; however with prioritization, we can free up more time in our schedules. For example, new faculty members spend more time in their first years preparing for courses than is essentially necessary. Cutting back on course preparation even in small measures can free up valuable research time.

Tips and Tricks of Mutual Mentoring

1) Become organized

Developing an organization system that fits your needs is crucial. When you can readily access materials during the research process, you are less likely to lose your momentum or your line of thought.

2) Block off time on your schedule

It has been said that researchers need to write for 15 minutes every day. But for some of us, 15 minutes every day is unrealistic. Blocking chunks of time every week for writing, such as every Thursday morning from 8AM until 10AM, is another strategy. Having time set aside in your schedule to research and write prioritizes your research and keeps your on track.

3) Prioritize your goals

As mentioned earlier, if research is a priority, you are more likely to focus on it. Developing a weekly plan and a semester plan helps you further prioritize the individual steps of the process. For example, it’s reasonable to make the goal to write the entire introduction of a research paper in one week.

4) Find a writing buddy (or group) – Accountabili-buddies!

A writing buddy is a person who sits and writes with you. Your writing buddy will hold you accountable to the writing process and help you achieve your goals. Remember your writing buddy or group does not always have to be in the room with you. Accountability can come from in person meetings, but you can also have accountability meetings on the phone, through text messages, over email, on video chat, or a combination of those methods. The important part of accountability is sharing what you need with each other, and then making a dedicated effort to holding your partner accountable to their goals.

Researching does not have to be a lonely process. In fact, researching should not be a lonely process. Mutual mentoring can help us get through the writing process in a timelier manner with more support, and who knows, we might make new friends along the process!


Posted: March 4, 2016