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Mentor relationships


Right now, one is only able to indicate a narrow range of mentor relationships (Diss Advisor, member of diss committee, WPA admin, WC admin). Other types of relationships outside of these roles are possible; it would be great if this either wasn't a required category or if there was an "other" choice available.

alicastro's picture


That is a great idea. Are there specific mentorship types you feel should be added along with an "other" category?

Thank you for your feedback,

benmiller314's picture

I must admit I'm confused: we've had an "other" type since the beginning, i.e. the last option under "mentoring type": "as a formal advisor of a type not listed." Is this just too wordy to find?

The reason for the wordiness is two-fold: first, to preserve the natural-language readability of the relation (e.g. we judged that "Matt Gold mentored Ben Miller as a(n) formal advisor of a type not listed" works better than "Matt Gold mentored Ben Miller as a(n) other.") Second, as a reminder to list primarily verifiable relationships (hence the "formal"), so that we could make more reliable claims about the data later on. That emphasis on formality is a choice, not without controversy, and one we debated within the initial design team.

I'm open to alternate language for that catch-all type that serves the goals above, or to specific new relation types as mentioned elsewhere on this forum. But it is worth clarifying that we do have a catch-all type already, and an open text field where explanations of the relationship can be attached.

--None of the fields account for mentoring relationships that are not formal, nor tied to institutional roles.
--or for mentoring that occurs virtually
--or for peer mentoring
Possibly could be handled by allowing simply "mentor" with no specified role
I"d also like to suggest you consider the role of "sponsor"

benmiller314's picture

Dear Louise,

Thanks for the suggestions, and please accept our apologies for the delayed response. Amanda and I have tried to provide some of these answers in whole or in part elsewhere on this forum, and I hope that has helped in the meantime. But here's a more direct reply to your comments and questions:

None of the fields account for mentoring relationships that are not formal

This is true, but it is a conscious design choice, one which we debated internally as well. We've chosen to focus on formal relationships for at least three reasons: first, it makes information in the database more verifiable, and therefore more reliable in the long run; second, it allows us to more safely assume reciprocality of relationships, so we can discover the links between people from either direction; and third, it helps to filter out the considerable influences of reading, which would so quickly dominate the network graphs as to render other information unreadable. In short: the potentials for the project were vast, and this constraint seemed a way to make it (at least in theory) doable.

All data collection has to put some constraints on what it collects, if only because the map cannot be the territory itself; thus the question becomes what to leave out, and what to highlight by doing so. We've opted to highlight the kinds of mentoring that happen in formal educational environments. Another database could well focus on other relationships... and we'd be interested in seeing how the two databases could interface and complement each other!

, nor tied to institutional roles.
--or for mentoring that occurs virtually

Here I am very happy to point you to the final, catch-all mentoring type, labeled "as a formal advisor of a type not listed above." I've just added a long-text "other" field to the "mentored/mentored by" relationship, so everyone can now add clarifications as needed. Over time, if we find that many relationships can only fit in this catch-all category, we can read through these relationships and identify new patterns that we should formally recognize with their own mentoring type.

--or for peer mentoring

Again, I'm happy to point you toward an existing feature, the "worked alongside" relation type, which is designed precisely for reciprocal peer mentoring relationships. Because several people have now asked for this "new" feature, though, it's becoming clear that we'll need to rethink the label. The challenge will be to maintain our practice of using verbs to express the relationships as simple sentences, such as "A worked alongside B." (It's not quite as smooth to say "A peer-mentored B" -- and it starts to sound less reciprocal.) Suggestions are welcome!

If you -- or any other readers out there -- are interested in adding a more formal peer mentoring relationship, or perhaps a non-reciprocal peer mentoring position, would you please post your up-vote over at this earlier forum thread?

Many thanks!

benmiller314's picture

Possibly could be handled by allowing simply "mentor" with no specified role
I'd also like to suggest you consider the role of "sponsor"

Dear Louise,

Sorry I didn't address this in the last post. Could you say more about what "sponsor" would mean in this context? Are you using it in the sense of "literacy sponsor," or...?

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