10 An Episode and EpilogTopMentors and mentee training9 Feedback

9 Feedback from Workshop Participants

Contributed chapter by
Lydia M. Contreras and Jamie Walls

There were many valuable aspects of the workshop for me. First, the wealth of information that was shared by the senior faculty at the workshop was invaluable -- after just a few weeks I can already see how this new knowledge has improved my interactions with students and staff in mentoring situations. Second, the opportunity to interact with and get to know senior faculty in an informal environment was invaluable. It is comforting to know that the network of people I can ask for advice is now significantly larger than it was just a few weeks ago.
-- Workshop participant
I found the experience of being able to talk about diversity and mentoring outside of my usual administrator role filled me with huge energy, enthusiasm and hope about making progress at my own institution. The frank and open conversation among people at such different stages in their careers gave new depth and richness to my understanding of mentoring. I met and learned about some individuals I would love to recruit as faculty.
-- Workshop Participant

9.1 Introduction

Organization, execution, and evaluation of a mentoring program were three important topics covered during the BIRS Mentoring in Academia workshop, particularly in the session on Building a Mentoring Program from the Ground Up. The workshop helped to highlight the need to establish formal mentoring programs and set clear goals for such an endeavor, but also made clear that these are only the first steps towards building a program. Discussions that extended from the workshop sessions raised several other questions that must be addressed to create a successful program. These questions include how to

As a way to think further about these topics, we wanted to use this Mentoring for Engineering Academia II workshop as a case study. This specific mentoring experience (aimed to mentor on how to be effective mentors and mentees) was successful in bringing together people of diverse age groups, cultural backgrounds, gender, and career stages. Additionally, the workshop was able to cover a variety of topics that sparked a wide range of dialogue in both formal and informal contexts. In this chapter, we present: (i) a short interview with Bob Gray aimed at gathering insight into the "behind the scene" thinking in putting this workshop together, and (ii) the feedback we obtained from many participants by means of a written survey that was drafted to evaluate the short-term impact of this program.

9.2 Interview with an organizer

To gain some insight about the goals for this mentoring workshop and some of the planning aspects, we talked to one of the organizers, Bob Gray, about the logistics of organizing and running it, the selection of the mentors and attendees, the selection of the topics that were discussed, and some general aspects of mentoring programs. The full interview is presented in this section.

On the logistics of running a mentoring program

In general, we learned that the workshop's main goal, of improving the pipeline of women and underrepresented minorities, was pursued by (i) bringing together undergraduates, graduates, junior and senior faculty, academic leaders, and academic administrators to discuss this subject, and (ii) disseminating the insight gathered from these discussions. Lodging, food, and facilities were provided by the BIRS center as a result of a successful formal proposal, and travel money was awarded to US participants in EE and CS through an NSF proposal. (A copy of both proposals can be obtained from Bob Gray upon request.) The selection of the location was a key consideration to attract attendees, especially top academic leaders. Our questions about logistics and Bob Gray's responses are provided below.

Daily Workshop Schedule

Time Daily Activity
7:00-9:00 Breakfast
9:00-10:30 Session 1
10:30-11:00 Coffee Break
11:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30 -15:00 Session 2
15:30 -16:00 Coffee Break
17:30-19:30 Dinner



Workshop attendees

The attendees to this workshop included undergraduate and graduate students, assistant, associate, and full professors, academic administrators, department chairs, and university deans and presidents, with a broad range of mentoring experience. (A list of all the workshop attendees is included as Appendix 11). Given this diversity, we were curious to learn how this crowd was selected. In general, we learned that bringing attendees that fit mentor and mentees role was important but that formal training was not a requirement to qualify as a mentor for this workshop. Moreover, attendees were not particularly approached as "mentors" or "mentees." Attendees were simply approached based on their interest in mentoring as a key component in promoting the roles of women and underrepresented minorities in academe. The assumption was that the range in experience from all attendees would promote dynamic two-way mentoring relationships, where learning and teaching could both be achieved depending on one's specific expertise.

The interview continued on the subject of selecting attendees.

Content of the formal workshop sessions

Given the diversity of the topics that were discussed, we wanted to learn how these topics were selected. Were they based on needs (as shown by research)? Personal experiences? Past conversations? In general, many of the topics emerged from the PAESMEM workshop. The interview continued to the subject of determining the content of the workshop.

General thoughts on the impact of the workshop

As a mentoring program, we were also interested in learning how the organizers planned to evaluate the short-term and long-term effectiveness of the workshop. We were also curious to see if they had thought of ways by which to institutionalize this type of workshop. Our conversation is reported below:

9.3 Survey results

To learn about how the workshop impacted the participants' opinions on mentoring and increasing the pipeline of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering academia, we conducted a survey. We were also interested in obtaining feedback to learn about the aspects of the conference that were successful (and not so successful). The survey was administered (and received) after the conference, predominantly via e-mail. In this second part of the section, we discuss a profile of all the survey participants, present the results from the quantitative ("hard") part of the survey, and summarize the feedback obtained from the qualitative responses that were collected. Twenty-one surveys were received from the total of 42 participants.

The self-identification of the survey respondents is summarized as follows:

Summary of quantitative results

Table 9.3 summarizes the results of the quantitative part of the survey. To average the results, values of 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 were assigned to "doesn't apply," "poor," "good," "very good," and "excellent." The table also includes the percentage of respondents in each category. It is interesting to note that the categories with the five highest ratings in response to the question of "how would you rate ..." were

  1. the ability to bring together a group with diverse experiences
  2. the ability of the Banff Centre to facilitate this workshop
  3. the contribution of people from diverse academic ranks to the quality of the information/discussion offered in the workshops
  4. the degree to which participants enjoyed the loose/flexible schedules for all sessions, and
  5. the degree to which participants enjoyed meals that were not rushed.

Mean(1)Poor (2)Good (3) Very Good (4)Excellent

The ability to bring

together a highly diverse
group of students 3.35 0.00% 5.00% 55.00% 40.00%

The ability to bring

together a highly diverse
group of faculty 3.35 0.00% 5.00% 55.00% 40.00%

The ability to bring

together a group with
diverse experiences 3.71 0.00% 0.00% 28.57% 71.43%

Degree to which the

workshop provided
information FOR you 3.57 0.00% 9.52% 23.81% 66.67%

Degree to which the

workshop was directed
towards gathering
information FROM you 2.5 5.00 55.00% 25.00% 15.00%

Success of the workshop

in preparing you to better
improve the pipeline for
potential and new faculty 2.8 0.00% 40.00% 40.00% 20.00%

Information gained to

better prepare you
to handle the challenges as
potential and new faculty 3.30 0.00% 15.38% 38.46% 46.15%

The way tasks were

distributed to complete
the proceedings 2.94 0.00% 16.67% 72.22% 11.11%

The ability of the Banff

Centre to facilitate this
workshop 3.73 0.00 0.00% 26.32% 73.68%

The Banff Centre as a

vacation spot (relaxing,
fun, etc.) 3.85 0.00% 0.00% 15.00% 85.00%

The quality of the food at

the Centre 3.33 0.00 9.52% 47.62% 42.86%

The quality of the staff at

the Centre 3.38 0.00 4.76% 42.86% 47.62%

The ability to interact

with other workshop
attendees during meals 3.8 0.00% 0.00% 20.00% 80.00%

The quality of your

interactions with other
attendees during meals 3.52 0.00% 4.76% 38.10% 57.14%

The ability to interact

with other attendees
during "coffee breaks" 3.48 0.00% 9.52% 33.33% 57.14%

The quality of your

interactions with other
attendees during
"coffee breaks" 3.42 0.00% 10.53% 36.84% 52.63%

The convenience of the

workshop being in the
summer 3.61 0.00% 0.00% 38.10% 61.90%

The convenience of the

length of the workshop
(i.e., 5 days) 2.90 0.00% 33.33% 42.86% 23.81%

The amount of free time

(i.e., "time to yourself")
during the week 3.38 0.00% 0.00% 61.90% 38.10%

The overall quality of

your stay at Banff 3.62 0.00% 0.00% 38.10% 61.90%

The format of the

workshop (i.e.,
presentation & group
discussions) 3.48 0.00% 4.76% 42.86% 52.38%

The gain in your

understanding of how to
be a better mentor/mentee
during a mentoring
relationship 3.3 0.00% 20.00% 30.00% 50.00%

The tempo of the

workshop (with lots of
breaks in the middle) 3.55 0.00% 5.00% 35.00% 60.00%

The contribution of

people from diverse
academic ranks to the
quality of the
offered in the workshop 3.71 0.00% 4.76% 19.05% 76.19%

Information provided to

help you find
mentors/mentees 2.9 0.00% 26.32% 52.63% 21.05%

Overall quality of the

session chair/moderator 3.3 0.00% 15.00% 40.00% 45.00%


of the topics of the
sessions to you 3.14 0.00% 14.29% 57.14% 28.57%

Overall quality of the

session speakers 3.33 0.00% 4.76% 57.14% 38.10%

The quality of the

discussion climate created
by the women/men ratio 3.14 4.76% 9.52% 52.38% 33.33%

The ability to meet new

people to explore the
Banff region 3.45 0.00% 15.00% 25.00% 60.00%

The ability to engage in

valuable mentoring
conversations outside of
the formal workshop 3.52 0.00% 9.52% 28.57% 61.90%

The importance of

sharing your experiences
with other attendees in
informal settings (i.e.,
outside of the
formal workshop) 3.57 0.00% 0.00% 42.86% 57.14%

The ability to meet new

mentors/individuals that
you foresee having a
future impact in your
career 2.8 5.00 40.00% 25.00% 30.00%

The exposure to resources

about how to mentor 3.2 0.00% 20.00% 40.00% 40.00%

The exposure to

information about how to
navigate through some of
your current challenges 2.84 0.00% 31.58% 52.63% 15.79%

The ability to receive

broad and diverse
perspectives on issues
that were important to
you 3.38 0.00% 0.00% 61.90% 38.10%

Comfort achieved by the

freedom to call everyone
by their first names 3.58 0.00% 0.00% 42.11% 57.89%

Comfort achieved by the

casual nature of the dress
code 3.52 0.00% 4.76% 38.10% 57.14%

How did you like the

loose/flexible schedules
for all sessions 3.67 0.00% 4.76% 23.81% 71.43%

Ability to enjoy meals

that were not rushed 3.71 0.00% 0.00% 28.57% 71.43%

Ability to have plentiful

breaks 3.57 0.00% 0.00% 42.86% 57.14%

The amount of free time

(i.e., "time to yourself")
during the week 3.43 0.00% 4.76% 47.62% 47.62%
Table of Survey Results

Summary of qualitative feedback

This subsection summarizes the responses obtained from the survey participants to some of the questions that were asked in the survey. We have also included sample quotes from the participants at the end of each section. We were interested in the participants' feedback concerning

  1. the workshop's (at least immediate) impact for improving the pipeline of women and underrepresented minority faculty,
  2. ways that the workshop helped to provide them personally with tools to address current (or expected) challenges,
  3. venues that made the workshop effective,
  4. the important factors that contributed to the workshop's climate and the participants' level of comfort,
  5. sessions that were of particular value, and
  6. incentives for attending the workshop.

In general, we learned that one aspect that was extremely valuable for participants who, reportedly, enjoyed and greatly benefited from the workshop, was the exchange of personal experiences and personal stories as a complement to the formal training and factual information that was presented in the workshops. Some administrators also reported that they would like to see more strategies aimed at how to help and support women and underrepresented minorities.

  1. What was the workshop's (immediate) impact on improving the pipeline (at the undergraduate, graduate, and junior faculty level) of women and underrepresented faculty?
    • Encouraged changes in attitudes about academic positions and academic leadership roles.
    • If already considering an academic position, helped in planning/imagining a long term career path.
    • Reduced fear in assuming the responsibilities that are associated with mentoring.
    • Exposure to both positive and negative experiences from mentors and mentees reinforced the type of mentoring that can have a positive impact.
    • Expanded notion of what "successful" mentoring can mean and how important it is to advise, not "dictate rules."
    • Increased awareness and understanding of biases that exist in search committees.
    • Provided way to extend personal network and connect to people who can help in the attempt to diversify an institution (i.e., to recruit minority faculty).
    • Informed about the value of having multiple mentors.
    • Helped to understand the importance of communicating and providing feedback to mentors (i.e., showing mentors appreciation).
    • Provoked further thought about whom to consider "underrepresented."
    • Encouraged sensitivity about some of the special issues faced by underrepresented minorities through exposure to unknown information.
    • Provided concrete tools for better understanding this problem and to allow more effective conversations with those who need to be "preached" to.
    • Offered concrete ideas and suggestions to increase the number of women (at that institution).
    • Offered great insight into mentoring students with disabilities.
    • Introduced great ideas for developing formal mentoring programs.
    • Added a valuable forum to directly support young women.
    Success can mean a lot of different things and that makes being a mentor seem less scary. You can start by talking about the expectations you both have and seeing if those are reasonable, etc. It's nice to know where to begin!
    -Workshop participant
    Prior to the workshop, I viewed "success" in a mentoring (or advising) relationship as helping the mentee achieve his/her goals and helping the mentee reach the best outcome for him/her. After the workshop, I see that this definition is only part of what a successful mentoring relationship is about. Now, I see that the mentor can also learn from the mentee.
    -Workshop participant
    It helped to hear about potential problems and the importance of multiple mentors. It's perhaps made me more willing to be a mentor in a situation where I realize I don't have to be the sole mentor and risk giving one bad piece of advice that could ruin someone's career!
    -Workshop participant
    I realized more than ever how important family issues can be for women, knowledge and support can be for the disabled, and a welcoming climate can be for underrepresented minorities. It brought home as never before the importance of institutional commitment and coordination around these issues. I also think the women leaders there have helped embolden me!
    -Workshop participant
  2. What are the useful tools that the workshop provided to deal with current (or expected challenges) in academia?
    • The exchange of personal stories and anecdotes in addition to general advice.
    • The presentation of realistic advice and practical ways to apply the knowledge that was presented.
    • Meeting and getting to know people to whom questions can be asked, i.e., senior women who are supportive.
    • Increase of awareness and information about the challenges in the field for those in non-tenure-track or aspiring faculty positions.
    • Not so helpful for administrative staff working on faculty development.
    • Raised awareness about how important mentors are for professional success.
    • The opportunity provided to find mentors right at the workshop.
    • Provided useful strategies about mentoring undergraduates.
    The workshop helped to: Validate how I am thinking and responding to various challenges that I am facing now. Reaffirm that I am going in the right direction and that a tremendous amount of work and focus remains to be developed and completed ...Understand how to use various strategies to move forward. Understand how to use various strategies to navigate through challenging situations. Understand that we are in more control than we think. Understand that keeping a focus is critical.
    -Workshop participant
    The information given was somewhere between `This is impossible, why would anyone choose academia . . .' and `Choosing academia makes everything so easy.' When I hear people from the first viewpoint I wonder why anyone bothers, and the second viewpoint makes me think that the proponents are either deluded or superheroes. This workshop had lots of advice of the `It's difficult but here are some ways to handle it' variety.
    -Workshop participant
    What was more valuable to me was to hear the senior people talking, during the sessions and outside. I was inspired by their work. It gave me a great sense of hope to see that people can really make differences and can have a great life in academia.
    -Workshop participant
  3. What were the venues (informal and formal) by which the workshop most effectively impacted the participants' personal career pathways?
    • Informal venues (meals, coffee breaks, trips in the Banff area) were seen as a great opportunity to get into deeper conversations with people about specific topics of interest.
    • Formal sessions and presentations were seen as a good way to get general information and concrete facts.
    • Formal sessions were also seen as important precursors to powerful informal conversations.
    • Some participants felt that both were necessary and useful, stating that "most of those (informal) conversations would not have happened without previously having a formal discussion about those topics during the sessions."
    • Informal conversations were a good way to network and for senior faculty and administrators to talk to the students and even do some recruiting.
    The formal discussion gave an overall summary of information. I got most of my specific questions answered through informal venues.
    -Workshop participant
    A combination of both formal and informal methods of communication provided me with the most information. I would not have felt comfortable initiating contact with certain individuals if the formal contact did not precede the informal contact.
    -Workshop participant
    It was the Mentoring for Academic Leadership Workshop that made me realize that I would like to become an academic leader in the future.
    -Workshop participant
    Probably the most directly useful thing (in terms of what I need to get done as President of Harvey Mudd College (HMC)) was meeting and learning about people of color who might become future faculty at HMC. This happened in the informal discussions during breaks and at meals.
    -Workshop participant
  4. What were the factors that contributed to creating a safe conversational climate?
    • Climate of honesty, openness, trust, and respect
    • Feeling that everyone was interested in hearing one another (i.e., no one got interrupted or cut off)
    • Tone established from the beginning by organizers and senior leaders
    • The honesty and commitment of the facilitators that included them sharing explicit confidential statements
    • Feeling like everyone's contribution was valuable
    • Loose schedule that was adaptive and accommodating to the time-needs of each presentation and discussion
    • Mutual caring and understanding about diversity issues
    • Informal atmosphere that enabled the creation of personal connections aided by amount of spare time available during meals, breaks, small size of the room, and "loose" nature of the presentations
    • Diversity within the group
    • Session format: balance between time dedicated to discussions and time dedicated to formal presentation
    • Women being a majority
    It helped that people `with authority' talked so freely from the get-go. By sharing confidences and their stories, it helped to relax the atmosphere.
    -Workshop participant
    The number of participants in the workshop was ideal...The group was small enough that I was able to meet almost everyone within the first day, but large enough that there was a variety of people with whom to talk. The group was an ideal size for the open discussion format of the formal workshop meetings, and more in-depth and specific one-on-one conversations were facilitated by the frequent coffee breaks, as well as the format of the meals and the opportunities for evening activities.
    -Workshop participant
    I am not sure whether the proportion of women versus men made a difference most of the time, but probably some of the themes we touched could not have come up if men had been a majority (for example, the whole conversation about crying in public 2).
    -Workshop participant
    The fact that all of us were in all of the sessions ...We built up a feeling of camaraderie that would have been harder to establish if we were all going to different sessions. The "boot camp" aspect of keeping everyone on the same task for a long time is very useful.
    -Workshop participant
    The fact that we were all housed together made this a much different experience from the original meeting and enhanced the ability for people to network better.
    -Workshop participant
  5. Which workshop sessions were particularly valuable?

    Collectively, all of the workshop sessions were found to be of high value. However, more than the topic per se, participants commented on the value of being able to share information in two-way dialogues with people from all ranks of the academic ladder. The following comments reflect reasons why the sessions were useful for different conference participants:

    I really enjoyed the conversation about how to handle crying 3).
    The workshop on building a mentoring system was quite relevant to our graduate program as we continually strive to improve the `graduate school experience' for all our graduate students.
    The leadership workshop awoke a desire in me to become a leader.
    I found the group discussions in each workshop, especially the input from the younger attendees, particularly valuable. As an academic administrator it is especially helpful to hear from junior people who are not at my institution since junior people at my institution feel inhibited about talking to the dean or president no matter how hard I try to avoid them feeling so.
    ...it usually wasn't the topic but also the discussion.
    I found the one on mentoring for academic leadership particularly interesting since most of the information in it was completely unknown to me. Since that session I have started to think that I might be interested in a leadership position in the future. The fact that the presenters were women to whom I felt close in many ways made me feel that that might be possible.
    Dr. Ladner's discussion on utilizing undergraduate research [was particularly useful] because of my interest in teaching. Dr. Riskin's discussion on empirical evidence to support diversity efforts because of specific examples I had not heard before.
  6. What were the incentives to attend the workshop?
    • To meet old friends, interesting colleagues, and senior researchers
    • To hear personal experiences on the topic from senior researchers and leaders
    • To enjoy Western Canada
    • To learn and hear other perspectives and new ideas about mentoring
    • To learn about the career paths of successful individuals, in particular women
    • Relevance of the content of the workshops
    • To network
    • To listen about other people's experiences
    • To share knowledge, successes, failures about mentoring and mentoring programs.
    • To watch and learn from senior faculty
    • To recognize opportunities for mentoring
    • To learn how to formulate strategies on how to be a better mentee and mentor
    • To understand if "subconscious bias" really existed
    • Because it was recommended/suggested by a mentor (or professor)
    • To learn about what criteria define a good individual candidate for academia
    I recognize that I have greatly benefited from informal mentoring from people more senior than myself. While I have been fortunate to have people be a mentor to me at critical times, I recognize that there may have been other opportunities for mentoring that passed me by because I did not recognize the opportunity, and neither did the potential mentors.
    - Workshop participant
    Since most of my experiences as a `mentee' have been rather passive, I was hoping to learn how to foster more active, or interactive, mentor/mentee relationships with senior faculty. Learning about [how to mentor] students to become productive researchers. Learning about identifying mentors and/or mentoring opportunities for myself.
    -Workshop participant
    I did not know enough about what the workshop actually was to make an informed decision, but I'm open to new things. And you don't say no to opportunities from your Dean.
    - Workshop participant
    I wanted to pick up ideas on actions I could implement (or my University could implement) to help increase the number of female students and faculty members. I was also interested to get first hand experiences from women having either gone through or implemented such programs.
    - Workshop participant

9.4 Suggestions for future workshops

Below is a list of suggestions and recommendations for future workshops.

November 15, 2007

10 An Episode and EpilogTopMentors and mentee training9 Feedback