460A – Mentoring Graduate Students

Saturday, 11 January 10:15 AM-11:30 AM, Skagit 5 (WSCC)


Today’s graduate students navigate an increasingly difficult world. The academic job market is in a free fall. Anxiety is on the rise. And very few people have any hope for a future that resembles the roles that their advisors know and understand. But in the midst of questions about what to do about a professional world that treats students as “waste products” who will temporarily fill courses without adequate compensation or anything resembling stable employment, this panel seeks to shift our focus from this apocalyptic future to the present. We will focus not on the uncertain futures of both graduate students and the profession in general but on the actual experience of graduate school and the people who attempt to navigate it in these troubled times. It is important, we think, to consider not just “the market” but the quality of graduate students’ experience. What are students getting out of graduate school if its purpose is not to help students procure stable employment as professors? What should advisors be doing to help? What can students do when their needs aren’t being met? And what can they do if they are actively being harassed, bullied, or sabotaged?

The goal of this panel—sponsored by the MLA’s Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Humanities—is to reflect on mentoring graduate students. And our goal, to that end, is to simultaneously share advice for faculty members who are attempting to learn how to advise graduate students in our moment—and for graduate students who are working to build productive relationships with faculty mentors. To do this, pairs of advisors and former advisees will share ideas about productively responding to challenges in advising relationships. Their presentations will be prefaced by members of the MLA’s Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee will address their work to consider these experiences, including the “Power Differentials in Graduate Education” survey that was sent out and the forum that followed at MLA Chicago. We will conclude with an honest discussion about advising problems and possible solutions. Ultimately this panel will address two questions: what can faculty members do to more ethically advise and help graduate students? And what can students do to help themselves?


Angelika Bammer (Emory U and MLA Executive Council) & Michelle Brazier (Raritan Valley Community College and Chair of the MLA Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee)

The panel respondents will contextualize the discussion with a focus on the of “power differentials in graduate education” which led to the creation of the MLA Task Force on Ethical Conduct in Graduate Education.

Asha Nadkarni (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) & Neelofer Qadir (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

In their short presentation, Dr. Asha Nadkarni (now associate professor) and Dr. Neelofer Qadir (recent PhD beginning a tenure­-stream position, which includes mentoring graduate students, in Fall 2019) will discuss their mentor­/mentee relationship with a specific focus on what it means to mentor and be mentored in a community of women of color.

Jenna Lay (Lehigh University) and Emily Shreve (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

In their talk, Jenna Lay and Emily Shreve discuss the necessity of moving beyond an apprenticeship model of graduate school mentoring (in which the dissertation advisor-advisee dyad functions to replicate faculty interests, methods, and career pathways); instead, they emphasize the importance of developing multiple mentoring relationships through graduate assistantships, committee service, informational interviews, and other professional networking activities.



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