USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Mentoring doctoral students is a process of building and sustaining intellectual, scholarly networks. Ideally, it is a lifelong commitment to mutual relationships designed to benefit everyone involved. People typically focus on the mentor and the mentee, but like most networks, the relations are much broader in that they cover multiple dimensions across many people over long periods of time. New mentees gain not only a relationship with the mentor but also enter the mentor’s advising and professional network and thereby gain an entire cadre of advisors all linked together. New mentees bring new perspectives and talents to the network, augmenting rather than replacing the former cadre as the network grows.
The mentoring network covers many dimensions of professional and personal life. Senior and junior members read and critique each other’s work. Collaborations across academic generations emerge as grant proposals and publications. Teaching materials are shared. Job opportunities are announced. Letters of recommendation are written. Award nominations are submitted. Professional accomplishments are celebrated and disappointments consoled.
It is important to acknowledge that there are downsides to the mentoring process. Mentees may have their own views and aspirations that are sometimes at odds with mentors. Mentors sometimes advocate or expect standards for mentees that are too high or too premature. Some members of the mentoring network may not relate well to other members. And, over time, as intellectual interests change the commonality that brought people together may dissolve. And yet, for most, the mentoring network stays intact and grows as generations of young scholars join the mentoring network of all those who went before them. The beauty of the process lies in seeing each prior generation invest in the next generation. Mentees who have been advised by a network of mentors themselves become mentors. The mentoring network thus becomes a self-replicating but evolving process.