McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
feminism, mentoring, academia, undergraduates
There has been little consensus around the definition or meaning of mentoring as a phenomenon. As highlighted first by Jacobi (1991) and more recently by Crisp and Cruz (2009), the relatively small mentoring literature is plagued by a poor understanding of mentoring itself. Additionally, there are few guiding recommendations for the development of formal mentoring programs, particularly those informed by feminist pedagogy and theory, at the undergraduate level. To begin to address these gaps in the mentoring literature, I conducted a mixed-methods study with a convergent parallel design (Creswell & Clark, 2007) and qualitative emphasis. Eight participants completed individual, semi-structured interviews and a brief survey assessing two constructs that I hypothesize might overlap with and inform the mentoring phenomenon: servant leadership (Liden, Wayne, Zhao, & Henderson, 2008) and emotional intelligence (Schutte et al., 1998). I approached data collection and analysis with a concurrent interest in exploring mentoring alongside theoretical notions of scaffolding and servant leadership.
Following thematic analysis of interviews and descriptive incorporation of survey data, 8 themes emerged: the importance of the relationship; support and care; mentee growth and professional development; investment of the mentor; mentoring from a feminist perspective; contrast to traditional mentoring; mentoring versus teaching/advising; and the mentor’s passion or identity as a mentor. I posit a rethinking of the seemingly disparate theoretical constructs of mentor as scaffold and mentor as servant leader. I offer a definition of mentoring: that mentoring is a dyadic relationship in which the mentor is further along in her development; the mentor offers her experience, provides support, and is present to mentee growth. Importantly, I argue that high-quality mentoring and feminist mentoring are one and the same. Synthesis of findings suggests the following guidelines for engaging in feminist-informed mentorship: (1) taking a relational approach, (2) incorporating notions of scaffolding and servant mentorship, (3) considering the importance of emotional intelligence, and (4) focusing on authentic narrative-writing and self-discovery. Future work will focus on implementing and evaluating these guidelines in a population of faculty-undergraduate mentoring dyads, as well as a larger-sample examination of servant leadership and emotional intelligence among faculty mentors.
Bennett, E. (2019). Mentor as Scaffold: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Feminist-Informed Mentoring in the Undergraduate Setting (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1799