Fear of Faculty

by | June 16, 2011

Don’t be afraid of your mentor.

Too many learners are.

Or at least, too many learners are afraid to speak up if their mentor is not turning feedback around in two weeks during the quarter, or is not responding to emails within two business days, or is not willing to help streamline feedback from committees. In these kinds of instances, learners have reason to be frustrated. They may like their mentor tremendously. But they are afraid to speak up for themselves for fear of reprimand or sabotage. They are reluctant to directly advocate for themselves in a respectful manner.

Some may call their doctoral advisor, which is highly encouraged. Doctoral advising provides perspective and coaches learners on how to create a healthy mentoring relationship. But if told that they must begin to self-advocate by sending emails on dates that feedback is due, or by persisting with a mentor to get the follow-up needed, some learners hesitate.

More than once, I have listened a learner state with conviction that they know how these things work, that if they speak up they will be penalized in some subtle way that will draw out the process even further. Some say that things may seem nice on the surface, but they just know that their mentor will get them in the long run. They’d seen it happen before in the workplace or in another educational setting. They don’t want to speak up. Therefore, they call me to see if I will intervene. If learners have consistently advocated for themselves, I will contact the mentor to assess the situation. If they have not really tried, though, I won’t until they have done so.

Please, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to be accountable to you. There is a power dynamic between you and your mentor, but you can still work at being an advocate for yourself in a respectful, direct, and precise manner. Send emails to your mentor if two weeks have passed and you’ve received nothing. Send a follow-up email within 24 to 48 hours if you still have heard nothing. Ask for what you need. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, call your advisor. Only by doing so will you create a mentoring relationship that will help you be as productive as possible.

For your own well-being, don’t hold on to such a punitive view of the dissertation process: it will create an experience propelled by fear and prolonged by your resignation to the idea that you must accept this behavior!

6 Responses to "Fear of Faculty"

  1. Catherine Gillen says:

    Thank you Michael that sounds like good advice that empowers and validates learners concerns surrounding turn around times and such. I find your post to be very helpful by identifying reasonable guidelines for correspondences. Very helpful indeed.


  2. Thomas Brooks says:

    I think not only this article, but this blog is awesome. It is true that some learners are intimidated especially in regards to faculty mentors. I am looking forward to learning about the doctoral process for currently I am somewhat ignorant to what it entails. Thanks for creating and providing this forum.


  3. Gloria Peppers says:

    Thanks Michael for providing this insightful and valuable information. I am looking foward to learning about the Doctoral process. I have not been in the academe for a long time. According to my SmarterMeasure Score with Capella, I will need feedback to keep abreast of my strengths and weeknesses. Very supportive and helpful information to have access in difficult situations.

  4. Charlotte Rosette says:

    Thank you Michael for this article. I must admit, I am guilty of having such thoughts regarding the dissertation process. Because of those thoughts I realized I am hindering my own progress. So my own pledge is to maintain healthy communication with my mentor throughout this process.

  5. John F Seery says:

    Thank you Michael for your encouraging words .My education began with my use of writing with a fountain pen .My longevity,determination and humility have brought me into the world of computers .In the final analysis it appears it’s another meaningful life experience.

  6. Connie says:

    Great information Michael. I have to say that most of this is true. I do however believe that in a 10 week quarter, a two week turnabout is too long a period of time to get back and modify work. This is a frustration that is far too real for many of us in the dissertation phase.

    I am hoping for future learners, this is a resolved issue.