For International Women's Day, I would like to write a post about why mentoring is so important to me and was so important for me. I would also like to take time to recognize the work we still have to do to become better mentors for all students, including Black and Indigenous women, and other women of color, in the geosciences.
Why mentoring matters! As a first generation student, I was very lost when it came to academic research. The only thing I knew about college is that my parents had watched younger and less experienced folks bypass them for promotion because of college degrees. They wanted that advantage for me, and I took that very seriously. When I began college, all I knew was that I could get a better job by finishing, but I didn't know what that looked like or what that might mean for me. I was lucky, and had an immense amount of privilege, so I eventually found a research group that took mentoring seriously. Those mentors, the PI of the lab and several of the Ph.D. students, worked with me on everything. Reading papers, looking at data, learning skills in the lab, and getting better at field geology - all of these things would have been beyond my reach without dedicated mentoring. Additionally, my mentors in Texas knew that I needed experience in internships and payment to do the research (so that I could pay rent). They encouraged me to track down grants, fellowships, and paid internship options that would align with my goals. I would not have the CV I have now if it wasn't for them. With that, I would like to truly showcase Jay Banner, Corinne Wong, and Richard Casteel for the role they played in getting me to where I am.
This experience taught me that dedicated mentoring, that has a plan and a goal, really matters to students. We can impact the lives of students in the academic, as well as professional setting, way beyond the classroom. All of the blog posts on this website are lessons inspired by how and what I learned as an undergraduate. We are missing out on incredible researchers in the field because they are not getting the proper mentoring they need to be successful. That mentoring can and should be done by graduate students, PI's, and course work advisors, and should be done by all of them. I envision a mentoring plan for each student that involves an interconnected web of faculty, students, and staff.
If you are still unconvinced as to why it matters, I encourage you to look at mentoring plans that are based on statistical research. One such was written by the UC Davis ARAC (Anti Racism Action Committee) and, in particular, a graduate student working with them: Veronica Vriesman. For this International Women's Day, I would really like to highlight the work that Veronica, and other women graduate students in our department, are doing to improve the status quo in the EPS department at UC Davis.
We have come a far way and I benefited from that, but we have a far way to go. We still need to make strides in mentoring that addresses different ethnicities, cultures, and abilities. Mentoring and understanding that addresses racism and ableism in the field is necessary. We need to get creative so that we are no longer holding up, and mentoring to, a version of success that is white and male. This includes being comfortable with being challenged by different versions of success. This includes being open to new ideas and thinking creatively on your own. This includes a lot of accountability. I think we can do this as researchers across the academic and scientific spectrum.
Happy International Women's Day!
I am a Ph.D. Candidate who actively tries to create an equitable and enriching experience for undergraduate researchers, I post weekly about the things I teach and my experiences with undergraduates.