ABS - LAAC MENTORING PROGRAM
Background and Context: The ABS currently has mentorship programs intended to support and promote professional development in several of our constituencies. For example we have mentorship programs for undergraduates and under-represented groups (the Charles Turner Program), as well as for early career women in science, including postdocs and junior faculty (Weaving the Future of Animal Behavior Program). It is in this same spirit that we now propose to extend our mentorship activities by developing a mentorship program for ABS students and postdocs in Latin America.
During Summer 2020, the ABS Latin American Affairs Committee (LAAC), at the request of ABS President Esteban Fernandez-Juricic, organized an advisory group consisting of about half Latin American faculty and students working in the USA and half Latin American junior and senior faculty working in Latin America (with representation from Mexico, Central America, and most South American countries). This advisory group was charged with making suggestions about initiatives and activities that ABS could undertake to more strongly support Latin American students and postdocs in Latin America. A mentorship program was high on the list of recommendations, with many participants feeling that informal mentors had made a huge difference in their ongoing success. Almost all of the items included below under “Expected Activities of Mentors” were strongly recommended by the advisory group. The program is envisioned as an extension of our existing Latin American programs which seek to promote the study of animal behavior in Latin America, increase Latin American membership and involvement in the ABS, and, facilitate research opportunities by our Latin American members. It also is an extension of current informal mentoring that is being done by many of our members without any recognition or valuation from the society.
Purpose of New Mentoring Program: The goal of this new mentorship program is to enhance opportunities for professional development and career advancement of Latin American students of animal behavior. This would be accomplished with the approval of, and in collaboration with, the students’ advisors and would include activities such as providing information on studies abroad; enhancing networking opportunities, including with colleagues in Latin America or other parts of the world; offering English language assistance when the student is writing publications for English-language journals; and serving as references for letters of recommendation that the student might request (for a complete and more detailed list of activities and potential interactions see below).
In short, this ABS LAAC proposal is intended to launch a Mentoring Program for Latin American students studying in Latin American institutions. These students (and their advisors) are expected to request inclusion in the program and/or then choose or suggest a potential mentor selected from an ABS-generated list of potential mentors who have expressed an interest in participating in the program, are ABS members, and reside in the USA or Canada.
To be accepted into the mentoring program, students should preferably be in the later stages of an undergraduate program, working on an MS or PhD thesis/dissertation, or be part of a postdoctoral program, in their countries of origin in Latin America. Mentors should, at minimum, have some basic knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese, and students and their advisors should preferably have some basic knowledge of English, in order to facilitate communication and interactions, including additional exchanges that the mentor and mentee might find useful.
This mentorship program will be conducted on a volunteer basis. That is, mentors will be volunteers and students and their advisors will request to be considered for the program.
The ABS and the LAAC will work together to promote and publicize the program in Latin America, in the USA and Canada, and among members of ABS.
Mentors will always act with the knowledge, approval, and in coordination with, the original Latin American advisors of the student mentees. In all cases, mentors will be expected to consult with the students’ advisors with regards to mentoring activities. Mentors will assist students but will not take on any advisory role or supervisory position with regards to the students’ research project, as this is considered solely the prerogative of the students’ advisors. The intention of the program is to expand mentorship opportunities rather than to form collaborations; however future collaborations or collaborations outside of the mentorship program itself, are permitted. In order to participate in the program, the mentees are asked to provide a letter of support from their advisors, and the mentors and advisors will discuss the scope of the mentorship activities ahead of time.
Expected Activities of Mentors: Mentoring activities will include, but not be limited to:
- Holding an initial meeting and conversation with the student mentee’s advisor to discuss the scope of the mentorship program and the activities that are included under the program. Activities should be agreed upon by both parties.
- Upon the request of the student and/or advisor, supporting students who are writing papers for publication, with regards to both style and English usage and grammar. It is expected that this will increase the ability of students to publish papers in English-language journals and also make them more competitive for additional educational, funding, or career opportunities.
- Upon the request of the student and/or advisor, suggesting tools (software, hardware, statistical analyses, etc.) that may contribute to the student’s research and professional development.
- Upon the request of the student and/or advisor, assisting student in selecting and accessing relevant and up-to-date literature (e.g., journal articles or books and book chapters) that might not be readily available in the student’s/advisor’s country of origin.
- Upon the request of the student and/or advisor, assisting students with (a) networking and introductions to USA, Canadian, Latin American, or other international colleagues who can help to advance their research; (b) meeting or gaining access to USA or Canadian advisors for subsequent stages of their graduate studies or postdoctoral research, should they decide to pursue studies outside of their own country of origin; (c) increasing their knowledge of potential funding or career opportunities in the USA and Canada.
- Should a student decide to apply to a graduate or postdoctoral program in the USA or Canada, helping the student navigate the application process and providing support while the student is adjusting to their new academic environment in a new country and culture.
- Being available to write letters of recommendation for the mentored students: (a) for graduate studies or postdocs; (b) when they are applying for grants and other funding; or (c) for jobs they may be applying to - whether any of these be in Latin America, or in the USA and Canada. This is expected to broaden the students’ opportunities for external letter writers, and increase their chances of being successful in professional applications.
- Consulting with the student and their advisor, at their request, with regards to scientific problems that may arise in their research, and/or on strategies for publishing research.
Upon the request of the student and/or advisor taking part in other relevant activities expected to benefit the student.
Expectations of Student Mentees: Students are expected to:
- Obtain a letter from their advisors stating that the advisor supports the student’s participation in the mentoring program; this letter should be provided to both the mentor and to the Chairperson of the Latin American Affairs Committee (LAAC);
- Keep their advisors apprised of all mentoring activities;
- Maintain open channels of communications with the mentor and be available to meet with the mentors at the appointed times.
Expectations of Advisor:
- Advisors should provide the student with a letter stating that the advisor is aware of the mentoring program and supports the student’s participation in the program;
- Advisors should request that the student keep them informed them of all current all mentoring activities;
- Advisors are expected to meet with the mentor prior to the start of the mentoring relationship, and subsequently are encouraged to meet, as needed, with the mentor; they also may ask for assistance from the mentor (as detailed above under “Expected Activities of Mentors”).
Ending Mentorship Relationships:
Since this program is completely voluntary, any participant (mentor, student, or advisor) can end the mentoring relationship for any reason by advising the Chairperson of the LAAC that they wish to discontinue the relationship. The person ending the mentoring relationship is encouraged to inform the LAAC of the reasons why it has become necessary to end participation (e.g., health issues, differences in expectations for the program, participant is transitioning to a different stage in their career, etc.). If any participant wishes to stay in the program with a new mentor/mentee, the LAAC will attempt to facilitate this change.