While I was sitting out on my friend’s back porch the other day, I knew I had struck gold. The two of us were deep in conversation about my recent campus visit when I started to realize that I was being adopted as a mentee. While I gave a play-by-play account of the meetings, presentations, and dinners with potential colleagues, she listened attentively, offered praise, and rolled her eyes at all the right moments. This person is not just a friend, but a new colleague who has, on her own account, put time and effort into my professional development over the past year.
In a way, this person and I arrived at the department at the same time. In August 2017, I transitioned from graduate student to temporary faculty member and she arrived as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in French. As a newcomer, she granted me the collegial respect that – I imagine – is harder for former professors andcommittee members to accord.
As a short-term Lecturer, the department did not arrange any type of mentorship for me. I assume this is due to the transience of my position and the expectation that my thesis advisor would continue to work closely with me. The latter proved true, in part. When I have questions about interviews, campus visits, and publishing, I text or email my advisor, who is happy to respond with careful counsel. However, knowing that she has two other advisees and a rigorous research agenda of her own, I understand that she might not want me begging her to give feedback on my writing or to offer me life & job advice at every turn.
And so, early in this grad student-to-faculty member transition, my introversion had me turning inward and online. But – blessed be the extroverts – there was one person who I couldn’t keep out of my office. I quickly accepted this as a stroke of good fortune, because this colleague was kind, funny, and smart. She was also someone who I respected because of the sincere, candid way in which she interacted with everyone in the department, regardless of their rank. What’s more, this person had fascinating research and her lack of a filter exposed me to behavioral issues and professional ladders in academia which my freshly-minted-PhD self had not yet fully experienced. Continue reading “On the Virtues of (Feminist) Mentorship in Academia”→
HELLO, readers of Smart Women Write! I am delighted to be a part of this amazing team of writers and excited to share pieces of my life and work that may feel relevant to, or generate some productive dissonance with, your own.
A quick backstory for my first-ever post: As a lover of French and newcomer to Nashville, I began frequenting the Department of French & Italian at Vanderbilt University nearly 7 years ago. After a few conversations with professors and an audited course, I ended up joining the program as a fully-funded graduate student with a stipend to teach and research French literature. I started graduate school in August 2012 and 5 mind-blowing (and, at times, soul-crushing) years later came out on the other end with a PhD in French Studies and a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. (You can read more about me here.)
There were many high adrenaline moments of fiery passion while I was crafting ideas and pouring my thoughts into notebooks and Word docs for the dissertation. But don’t let that smiling face to the right deceive you. There were also enormous amounts of anxiety and self-doubt. Imposter syndrome (the feeling that you aren’t up to snuff and everyone else is) often invades the graduate student psyche, and I found that writing about that emotional experience helped to alleviate, or at least observe, those negative feelings.
And so, while I like brainy, theoretical, research writing, this is not the only type of writing I do. In whatever journal I’ve chosen for the season (Shinola, Moleskine, etc.), I put pen to paper to analyze my dreams, recurring thoughts, emotions, relationships, record dinner and gift ideas, you name it. This type of writing has become a therapeutic activity for me, which was particularly useful while dissertating. It reminds me that my versatile voice and mood need not always be confined to academic style.