Mentoring is a pro-feminist practice characterized by reciprocity (vs. linearity), horizontality (VanHaitsma & Ceraso, 2017), contextuality (Zachary, 2012), collaboration (Putsche, Storrs, Lewis, & Haylett, 2008; McGuire & Reger, 2003), and so forth. As a rhetorical act, female-to-female mentoring in the academe reflects site-specific contexts that reveal "shifts in ways of being and doing [various] field[s]" (Royster & Kirsch, 2012, p. 19). DSU Women's Resource Center (WRC) highlights its (wo)mentoring project to initiate female students into the academe by way of faculty/staff mentors encouraging degree completion for professional success (see Figure 2 for project logo). Campus mentoring relationships are mostly informal, organic, and need-based, but WRC came up with the following to enhance its program:
- Organize a fall workshop and spring forum for female faculty/staff members interested in working with female student mentees (and vice versa).
- Connect female students who want to be paired with female mentors in their field.
- Assess the outcomes of mentoring relationships through surveys, interviews, focus groups.
- Develop a (wo)mentoring support webpage with digital success narratives.
Various mentoring configurations are based on contextual discipline-specific partnerships as opposed to the traditional/linear model of Homer's Odyssey (Zachary, 2012). For Utah women in higher education, mentoring relationships that enact agency in others (Jones, 2018) and embrace choice/flexibility/serendipity to learn (Flynn, 2018) and collaborate (Gere, 2018) are more beneficial as these often lead to new liaisons (Eaton et al., 2008), supportive conversations (Ashe & Ervin, 2008), and meaningful reflections (Popham, Neal, Schendel, & Huot, 2008). These types of open rapport are more likely to bring change in terms of female retention and graduation rate because they are situated, allowing both parties to construct new knowledge across the disciplines (McComiskey, 2015). In effect, tracking mentoring activities through digital narratives discloses what or whom these texts-in-contexts are meant to inspire, provoke, or challenge (Prior, 2015).
Professional development may involve women helping other women navigate through a male-dominated system, as well as sharing how to balance school, work, and family life. Mentors who are open to their experiences and wisdom and allow mentees to safely express their doubts, frustrations, challenges, or potentials are active rhetorical agents. In Utah, a lot of young women are kept from pursuing college due to "economic reasons, family issues, lack of direction/goals, negative school/college experiences, health issues, time/balance" (Hanewicz & Madsen, 2011, p.1), compelling both mentors and administrators to become more proactive in supporting female students (especially student moms) and legitimizing mentoring services for tenure and promotion.
To encourage relational support on campus, the DSU Women's Resource Center's mentoring page contains suggested mock-ups for female faculty/staff/students about effective mentorship and details a list of mentoring opportunities available to students. Fall workshops and spring panel forums on mentoring were also offered to train mentors/mentees and bolster more liaisons -- a few notable resources/topics on mentorship were Conversations on Mentoring by Dillingham-Evans (2013), which opened up spaces for interconnectivity; Sustaining a Culture of Feminist Mentoring: A Plan for Action by Blair (2014), which valued context-based needs for assessment and reciprocity; and Coaching for Success by Solomon (2015), which enabled rhetorical agents as multipliers, among others.
NOTE: View Figure 3 for a photo slideshow of WRC mentoring/campus events from 2013 to 2018 and click "Next" to continue with mentoring digital narratives.