State of the ‘22 ASA Culture Section Mentor Program
Marshall A. Taylor
(New Mexico State University)
This is now the third year for the section’s mentoring program. The first two iterations of the program laid a foundation of excellence, and our goal this year was to continue that success (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), while also looking for new ways to make the program even better. Together with the committee—Barbara Kiviat, Rachel Skaggs, Amy Zhang, Ana Velitchkova, Samantha Leonard, and Tania Aparicio—the consensus this year is: So far, so good.
The mentor program is now well underway. The actual mentoring structure looks the same as it did the first two years: pods consisting of one mentor and two to three (or so) mentees. The pods were announced in early May, with the expectation that each pod would communicate with one another to find the meeting time, structure, and format that best fits their needs. We have a total of 21 pods consisting of 21 mentors and 70 mentees. Each pod consists of three or four mentees. The table below provides some descriptives on the makeup of the mentor and mentee pools for the ‘22 program.
Our pod construction process was a bit different this year. The biggest change is we fielded two different application forms: one for mentors and another for mentees. We used the section announcements to keep members informed about when each application form would open and close. The mentor application opened on March 1st
and closed on April 8th; the mentee application opened on April 15th and closed on May 8th. The main reason we structured the sign-up process this way was to give mentees a bit more agency in determining whom they would like their mentor to be.
Specifically, in the mentor application, we gave applicants a list of potential mentorship areas—ranging from general networking, research and publishing, and teaching, to parenting and/or caretaking in academia, scholar-activism, and BIPOC in academia. We asked mentors to select the three to five areas on which they would like to mentor. Then, after the mentor application closed, we created anonymous “profiles” for each mentor consisting of a comma-delimited list of these mentorship areas along with their scholarly interests, position (e.g., associate professor), and type of institution (e.g., U.S. liberal arts college). We then provided a link to these mentor profiles in the mentee application and asked mentees to rank-order the five mentors (based on these anonymous profiles) that best matched what they hoped to achieve in their mentorship. The committee then constructed the mentor pods based on a combination of these rank-orderings and mentor/mentee time constraints (which we also gathered in the application forms). Any applicant could serve as a mentor and a mentee (though, obviously, in different pods), and we had some applicants do this.
Once the pods were constructed, we emailed the set of 21 mentors to inform them that the pods would be announced in the next couple of days. The purpose of this email was to lay out mentor expectations: namely, that the type and frequency of meetings were at the discretion of each pod, that meeting in person at ASA was not required, that we hoped each pod would meet at least three times throughout the calendar year, and that mentors should set up the first video call at some point before the ASA annual meeting in August. We emailed each pod individually to introduce the members to one another. The pods were then off and running!
Our plan is to field an exit survey just before the next membership committee is formed to assess what mentors and mentees liked and didn’t like. That said, we have two preliminary thoughts for the ‘23 program. First, based on informal discussions with program participants, we think that the “profile ranking” system is the way to go. Mentees seemed to appreciate the
opportunity to see what mentors could or were willing to offer; and, importantly, the mentees’ rank-orderings made it much easier to construct the mentor pods. Second, as the table above
shows, non-academic positions are woefully underrepresented (nonexistent!) in the mentor pool. Interestingly, not many mentees explicitly mentioned non-ac/alt-ac interests in their application forms; but these sorts of career trajectories are becoming more common, and this program should be able to facilitate those mentoring relationships. Our main form of advertisement for the program was through the Culture Section listserv announcements, so perhaps some alternative outlets are necessary to get the word out to non-ac/alt-ac cultural
sociologists interested in being a mentor.
There is one last thing that the committee did differently this year that extends beyond the mentorship program. We are starting a BIPOC Resource Sharing Network, with the goal of creating a new listserv within the section for scholars interested in sharing resources surrounding being BIPOC in academia. The mentor and mentee forms had an opt-in item for this network, and we are now fielding a separate form for section members who did not participate in the mentor program but who want to be a part of this initiative. (If you want to be a
part of this, please sign up here!)
Thanks to the ‘22 mentors, mentees, and committee members for making the mentor program a success so far!