Mentors played a major role in this CCHA project to help the
individual teams successfully implement their action plans. "Mentoring" is a term that
is widely used in scholarly and non-scholarly contexts, and its ubiquitous and
undifferentiated usage would seem to suggest a universally accepted definition for the
term. However, this is not the case. More than one scholar has remarked upon the
absence of "a widely accepted operational definition of academic mentoring" (Luna and
Cullen, 1995, p. 6). For our understanding of the role of mentor, Malderez (1999)
attempts to classify the divergent roles and functions of a mentor.
The Mentoring Process
I will be using this framework to describe the mentoring process during the period of our grant.
During our initial orientation at the national conference at George Mason University, the scholarly presenters fulfilled an important mentoring role, that of "model". The presentation of their successful projects demonstrated the wide scope of technological applications in the humanities and served as an inspiration to those of us at the initial stages of our learning curve.
As the project progressed, we called on our specific assigned mentor in his roles of educator and supporter. Despite the caution of more experienced colleagues, our team had conceived an action plan that was far too ambitious for the grant period. We were grateful to have a dedicated mentor who acted as a sounding board as we refocused our plan and refined our goals.
Even more crucial for our team was our mentor's continuous support. As often happens, the enthusiasm and momentum generated during the conference at George Mason derailed when we returned to our school to assume our teaching and administrative functions. Moreover, our team's divergent obligations made it difficult to follow a single, project schedule. It always seemed that when one team member reached a point in the semester where his schedule permitted greater attention to the project, the other was overwhelmed with obligations (or vice versa). Differing work styles and professional priorities, i.e., team chemistry, also affected the pace at which the project moved forward. It was our mentor's discretion and diplomacy that helped maintain a positive team dynamic.
The site visit was a turning point in our project. Our progress had stalled due to several factors: although our administration was pleased with our having been selected to participate in this grant, it had not paid much attention to the development of the product by providing adequate, and timely, support. We had continuous difficulty obtaining sustained technological help, despite the availability of excellent instructional technology facilities and staff at out college. By talking with administrators and technological support staff, our mentor was able to consolidate institutional support. He thus took on the role of sponsor; he opened doors and made things happen. In doing so, he greatly facilitated the successful completion of our project.
Although no one can anticipate the future course of a project at its outset, our experience, which I do not believe was exceptional, demonstrates that a mentor should be prepared to take on the multiple roles described by Malderez above. I am pleased to say that our mentor assumed them with grace and expertise.
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