The Mentoring and Professional Development Committee is proud to present a mini-report about the “Breakfast Buddies” event from the 2013 summer WPA conference in Savannah. As you may know, last year was the first iteration of Breakfast Buddies. As we hope there will be many more are to come, we are using last year’s feedback to constructively critique the program, making it better for future CWPA appearances.
For those who are not familiar with Breakfast Buddies, it is a designated breakfast at the WPA Conference where mentors (usually senior faculty members) and mentees (usually a graduate student or a new faculty member) who are pre-partnered by academic interest have breakfast with one another with the intentions of a light-hearted, cross-institutional opportunity for mentoring. Overall, 32 of our fellow WPA conference-goers participated, 18 of them as mentees, and 14 as mentors.
Overwhelmingly Positive Feedback:
Over 90% of the respondents were very positive about the program, citing that their buddies were aptly matched to them. Interestingly, whether the buddies had similar or contrasting interests had no negative bearing on the matches. Another theme that emerged was that many mentors appreciated being exposed to the new trends in the field that future WPAs were interested in. All members who gave feedback appreciated the networking capabilities of this program, and noted that it expanded their professional networks. Everyone also reported that they learned from their mentor or mentee. Specifically, both the majority of mentors and mentees reported that they:
-Increased awareness of new ideas and projects emerging in the field
-Discovered new teaching, research, or writing ideas
-Increased feelings of comfort or acceptance at the CWPA conference, and
-Expanded their professional networks.
Some even “developed research or writing collaborations (i.e. planning, writing, or submitting a research article as a result of the event).” We're so pleased that these outcomes were reported, and hope to continue them with future iterations of Breakfast Buddies at CWPA.
Constructive and Conflicting Feedback:
It was said that some people were just not at the top of their game in the morning, which is completely understandable! We are considering fixing this by changing Breakfast Buddies to Lunch Buddies (or even Snack or Cocktail Buddies), although we will miss the alliteration.
About 40% of the mentees conflicted in their feedback about whether to be paired up one-to-one with their mentors, or two-to-one, which happened in some cases as there were fewer mentors than mentees. People who felt that three was the magic number felt that the ratio put less pressure on them to keep the conversation going. People who felt that a pair was better felt that they did not get enough time to talk about their own topics, possibly because one person lead the conversation. The time was also another conflicting point, as many thought that the time was too long, too short, or just enough. We will explain clearly next year that people do not have to use the entire breakfast time, nor do they have to finish the conversation at that breakfast. Many mentees and mentors also mentioned that they do or do not keep in touch with their counterparts, and some requested a more structured follow-up, while others mentioned that they check in with their mentees every month.
We encourage all of the Breakfast Buddies to keep in touch, which can be as simple as “liking” a post on Facebook, or giving feedback on a dissertation, as another pair mentioned. We are operating with the understanding that mentoring is a personal venture, and that if we structure it too much, the authenticity may be lost. Needless to say, however, we are looking for non-intrusive ways to structure follow-up meetings and activities for our pairs. The Committee is certainly planning for bigger and better mentoring experiences at future WPA Conferences.
Thank you all for your participation, your feedback, and your continued support of this program at CWPA and throughout the year! At this point, it seems necessary to mention that the pairings are likely to be different every year, and that everyone can participate every year. We look forward to seeing more participants in 2014!
Sarah Snyder and Katie Trauth Taylor
WPA-GO Mentoring and Professional Development Committee