Mentoring opens the possibility to see circumstances in a different light, and to realize opportunities where one only sees obstacles. In my observation, often the best mentoring I’ve experienced has come from peers – both age peers and institutional rank peers – because there is a give-and-take dynamic that is not hierarchically constituted as senior scholar to junior scholar or older person to younger person. For mentorship to be an intersectional feminist practice, there must be a commitment to seeing each other as whole people, not just as academic professionals. An understanding of the structural barriers to success in the academy (and outside of it) is crucial.
But even within peer mentoring relationships there can be hierarchies that interfere with the communication, transparency, and goal-setting that stem from (sometimes invisible) structural barriers to success – for example: a native speaker of the target language of study and a non-native speaker; international student v. non-international student; financially independent v. financially dependent on a partner or reliant on student loans; partnered v. unpartnered; parent v. non-parent. With peers, these barriers are more easily recognizable and therefore at least potentially navigable, as with more senior academics, the attitude of “I endured these circumstances and succeeded, so you should too,” but even still, one must be aware of these dynamics and acknowledge them in partnership in order to strategize for success.
In this short presentation, I will reflect on these dynamics, addressing why I believe peer mentoring is a viable avenue for professional support and how to overcome the unseen obstacles in peer dynamics.
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