Dear Graduate Mentoring Community,

JUNE 2020. Recall if you will this month, and the months before and after it. Our struggles were and are real. But, so are our attempts to support each other through what seemed unending pain, violence, and isolation. None of us could imagine the amount of energy we would need to breathe and to help others do so. In June, The Graduate Mentoring Center re-committed to our work. You can read the original statement here.

JUNE 2021. We have reflected on what was and was not possible in the midst of a global panic and racial reckoning. First a numerical snapshot.

A Numerical Snapshot of The GMC's Programs in 2020-2021

BELOW: What we said we would do. What was possible.

Be an intentional and engaged collaborator in the fight against injustice and oppression of all sentient beings, especially those subjected to anti-Black racism, at IU and in parts of the world where our students, faculty, staff, and alumni breathe and live, work and love.

The pandemic changed how we operated. Yet, there were nearly 500 visits to our 2020-2021 virtual programs. In addition to the activities noted, Dr. Abegunde served on the campus mentoring committee, the mental health task force, co-designed with other faculty and staff the trauma-informed resource page for graduate students, and provided information about The GMC to national associations. A student from the mentoring cohort also served on the campus mentoring committee.

Continue our collaboration with other departments/units on campus.

We collaborated with CEW&T, CRRES, SSRC, and academic departments to offer programs on the stages of mentoring, contemplative practices, research methods, challenges faced by students of color, and trauma-informed mentoring.

Support members of the IU community who are actively and intentionally – mindfully - working to end injustice and oppression of all kinds.

At the request of IUB departments and other IU campuses, we provided guidelines to graduate faculty on how to create their own mentoring programs and how to create sustainable, diverse, equitable, and inclusive mentoring environments.

Continue our mentoring cohort, which brings together faculty and graduate students in dialogues about research, life, and living.

Members who were able to do so met monthly to develop strategies to traverse the pandemic and confront racial violence. The cohort faculty, with the help of community members, also supported a graduate student who became a new mother during this time.

Re-activate Let’s Talk about Mentoring, and additional mentoring cohorts that introduce faculty and students to The GMC’s contemplative approach to mentoring.

We were unable to launch the two new cohorts. However, we created and shared mentoring guidelines focused on the stages of mentoring and The GMC’s five tenets (balance, community, culture, mentorship, and scholarship). We also piloted Let’s Talk about Mentoring workshops on the mentoring stages of reflection and initiation, the process of bearing witness, the importance of cultural contexts, and on how to integrate the five tenets as part of the mentoring stages.

In acknowledgement that First Nations, LatinX, Asian, and Asian-American, and other groups continue to engage in dialogues about anti-Black racism in their own communities, re-activate the Tough Topics in the Academy series as an invitation to members of those communities to discuss the impact of racism on mentoring.

We offered Tough Topics in the Academy with members of the Forum for International Graduate Students (FIGS). The session provided insight into the challenges that students from India and the Caribbean face.

In acknowledgement that international students are subjected to anti-Black racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination, continue to support international students as they pursue their degrees.

We presented a mentoring workshop to the Forum for International Graduate Students (FIGS). Students joined us from all over the globe to discuss their mentoring needs.

Help students, faculty, and staff reflect on and understand – become mindful of – how our historical lineages, different cultures, and personal experiences shape our relationships with each other, the communities we serve, and the research we create and produce.

Dr. Abegunde was invited to be an Office of Diversity and Inclusion Fellow and designed the inaugural symposium on Critical Conversations on Anti-Black Racism for the college. She also co-presented at Meaningful Dialogues for Positive Social Change at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program.

Re-activate the Being at the Table series to explore what it means to have a seat, have a table (or not), make your own table, and/or to bring your own chair (or sit on the floor) in the academy.

A student member of the mentoring cohort presented a talk on what it means to be a student of color in the academy.

Continue to offer Sitting for Peace, an interactive contemplative practice.

Because we were unable to meet at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC), we held a weekly virtual Sitting for Peace.

Continue to host our annual Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde Drop In and Read for A While birthday reading.

Students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the second annual Morrison and Lorde Read-in and selected their favorite works to share.

Continue to work with the cultural centers to ensure we provide mentoring that is culturally diverse and relevant to the populations we serve.

We participated in the annual fall graduate student retreat with La Casa and LGSA and worked with Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center to provide resources for graduate students.

Develop and offer programs that are grounded in contemplative practices.

We increased our efforts to make visible the contemplative practices that shape our programs and guidelines. This included sharing with faculty a step-by-step practice for “bearing witness” or being present for graduate students.

Offer a reading and dialogue series entitled The Academy as a Contemplative Practice: A Whole/Holistic Approach to Research, Teaching, and Service, based on the work of Dr. Laura Rendon.

The Academy as a Contemplative Practice welcomed over 80 local and national attendees who discussed how contemplative practices shape our lives, mentoring, and being in the academy. The series included a reading group that discussed Dr. Laura Rendon’s Sentipensante. Dr. Abegunde received a Bicentennial Grant from IAS to support the series.

Deepen our vision to develop and help graduate an intentional community of scholars who are culturally diverse, mindful, and who consistently produce innovative research and creative works that have viable and sustainable impact on their communities.

One of the best ways that we accomplish this every year is through our Trailblazers and Innovators Scholar-in-Residence program. Our 2020-2021 program featured IU alumna Dr. Mintzi Martinez-Rivera, one of the cohort’s first three faculty mentors. By collaborating with SSRC and the departments of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Anthropology and Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and Latino Studies, we provided over 100 attendees opportunities to discuss a range of topics, including: mentoring in the disciplines of anthropology and folklore, decolonizing research methods, opening the gates of publishing by featuring new writers, and negotiating the mentoring relationship as it changes. The program was also a pre-launch celebration of Dr. Martinez-Rivera and Dr. Solimar Otero’s revolutionary new book Theorizing Folklore from the Margins: Critical and Ethical Approaches (IU Press, 2021), which features essays from graduate students and the incorporation of one of Dr. Abegunde’s poems by Dr. Martinez-Rivera.

Continue Tales from the Field, a roundtable that invites graduate students to share their experiences of fieldwork: preparation, acculturation, research, and return.

We combined Tales from the Field with Trailblazers. As a result, Dr. Martinez-Rivera and Dr. Abegunde shared their experiences working in Mexico and South Sudan, respectively, and graduate students were able to share their own experiences conducting research in parts of the world designated as “conflict zones.”

Offer fall and spring retreats to introduce students to The GMC reflective practices that can help them re/ acclimate to graduate life and living.

We were unable to offer retreats this year due to the pandemic.

Continue to offer Drop In, Write On, two weekly writing group(s).

Drop In, Write On, modeled on the faculty writing groups, are virtual and offered every Monday-Thursday.

Activate the Sankofa Alumni Dialogues to connect graduate students and GMC alumni.

Dr. M. Nicole Horsley of Ithaca College, one of the first graduate student mentees, was our inaugural speaker and shared her mentoring journey from graduate student to faculty member, and how The GMC shaped her mentoring practices, teaching, and current research.

Co-create with you – yes you –a community of scholars who are dedicated to the full breath and breathing - life and living – justice and peace - for all human beings.

The 2020-2021 year was made possible through the efforts of students, faculty, staff, and the Bloomington community who offered us their time and knowledge. This past year also made us stop and re-vision what is necessary and what is not. What we know to be true: contemplative and holistic mentoring supports graduate students' personal and professional growth and we are here for that. We are here for you.

Thank you so very much for your support this year.

Maria Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D., Founding Director

Jennifer Jihae Park, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Assistant