Cultivating Mentors, Todd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers, eds., foreword by Mark R. Schwehn. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022.
Summary: A collection of articles on the theological foundations, goals, and practices of mentoring in Christian higher education with a particular focus on generational dynamics.
Higher education institutions interested in both academic excellence and faculty and staff retention are paying increased attention to mentoring, particularly of junior faculty and staff. This is especially true of the Christian college context out of which the contributors of this volume write but many of their observations and recommended practices have applicability in the secular academy as well.
The collection opens with a foreword by Mark R. Schwehn, one of the most thoughtful commentators on academic life. He observes that in the present moment the differences between mentors and mentees offers the opportunities for mutual learning around technology and various forms of diversity. In the present era, concerns about mentoring in the context of diversity and inclusion are vital in welcoming increasingly diverse faculties .
The editors then offer an introductory essay laying out the emphases of this collection: attention to characteristics of the rising generation as they relate to mentoring, what the Christian tradition offers in terms of mentoring and the academic vocation, and the ideas and practices that follow for mentoring in scholarly contexts.
David Kinnaman, utilizing Barna research, stresses mentoring as a crucial formation process, addressing mentoring solutions for mental health, for trauma, mentoring toward vocational discipleship, and relational mentoring.
Tim Clydesdale writes on leading integrated lives and the role mentoring can play in navigating personal and professional commitments. He focuses on vocation and stresses reflection, practice, and community and the role these play in the “summoning” of vocation.
Margaret Diddams observes that in mentoring, the focus on the individual needs to be complemented with focus on the organization of which they are part and how they might flourish within that context. She examines three models of mentoring in the organizational context and their strengths and weaknesses: the institutional, the interactionist, and the inclusion models, concluding that an approach that draws on all of these may be best.
Edgardo Colón-Emeric focuses on the increasingly diverse academy and how we mentor toward a new we. He highlights the pilgrimage of pain and hope that is the mestizaje experience in transcultural engagement.
Rebecca C. Hong considers the transition that we are in the midst of from boomers to zoomers with a focus on the increasing human-centeredness of work, including the end of the office, home as work place, and the challenges of burnout, languishing, and the great resignation that have been consequences of the pandemic. She then returns to a focus on human-centered work design that values persons, nurturing flexibility, creativity, and innovation.
Tim Elmore explores generational differences and the intentional practices involved in mentoring with shortened attention spans, the dangers of being isolated behind screens, the prevalence of mental health issues, the changing landscape of technology, and the consumer experience. He argues for the cultivation of resourcefulness and resilience with mentees and suggests different forms of mentoring and crucial experiences that foster these qualities.
Beck A. Taylor discusses lifecycle mentoring across one’s academic career reflecting on his own journey from his undergraduate preparation, graduate school mentorship, his early academic career, his move into administration, and his path to university presidency. Beyond personal character, he believes rising leaders are marked by mission orientation, service to others, professional intentionality, and openness to mentorship.
Stacy A. Hammons concludes with a summary of key threads and important practices. She summarizes key challenges and five propositions addressing a theology of formation and calling, organizational change for effective mentoring, the recognition of the needs of Millenials and Gen Zers entering the academy, the needs of professionals transitioning to academic roles, and seriously addressing issues of diversity.
I appreciate the comprehensive and culturally relevant mix of articles in this collection addressing the theology of mentoring around vocation and formation, the institutional setting, the academic lifecycle, the particular characteristics and needs of those entering academic professions, and the vital issue of diversity. I think something more on the qualities of the effective mentor, and perhaps a bit more on what mentees should expect to invest in a good mentoring relationship would be helpful. Beck Taylor’s essay discusses this to some degree, but my own sense is the effective relationships occur when both come as active learners and listeners. I also think that material on finding mentors when one’s institution has not structured such opportunities could be valuable. However, this is an excellent, far-reaching discussion that points people to other writing while offering a number of practical recommendations on both the personal and institutional level.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.