A Mentor’s Rewards in Colleges and Universities

By: Lucell Larawan

AS I AM about to re-enter the world of academics, I once again reflect on what is in it for me. Higher education mentoring should be the place of higher professionalism where fairness and justice always determine the air we breathe. But I am also accustomed to hearing cases of peer back-stabbing and demolition jobs. I am familiar about how bosses could become too politicized, such that merit system would be passé for a college or a university. I had been a mentor for 17 years and saw these horror stories.

On the other hand, I also hope for the best where the academia begins to seek the wisdom of those who published peer-reviewed research in international journals. Before a university asks for copies of a mentor’s publication, it should first show that it really seeks the wisdom of that mentor and not make him feel he is just a source of accreditation materials. What is in it for him? I hope for leaders who promote good academic mindsets that promote a positive organizational culture where out-of-the-box thinking is given more premium.

This reminds us that research and scholarship are essential functions of college mentors. See what higher education institutions internationally are doing based on their vade-mecum.

Scholarship is important because knowledge in most disciplines—business, social science, political science, engineering, and medicine among others—are transitional. College professors must therefore stay current.

I still have reason to be uneasy about promotion systems in in the academia. In some instances, promotion is based on popularity contests as per result of appointments which I am familiar with. I experienced a milieu where higher-ups just make an opinion barometer from the constituents—and eureka! Many of those promoted to higher positions are not really intellectually productive. Upon appointment, these appointed leaders would have the gall and the guts to say, “Conduct more researches…” which only boomerangs to them—non-researchers. Thinking that they have become Freddie Roach via popularity contests, they try to coach others in a game where they are not competent enough. Yet many university boards of trustees still think that non-researchers can make good leaders. It is like saying that a hotelier can lead an academia.

On the other hand, bureaucratic passivity may also come into the picture. If a mentor gets promoted, a leader has a leeway—with or without hidden agenda–to say, “We have no funds to implement this promotion.” End of one’s drive. Death of an academician. However, a leader can also be more circumspect and think that if he or she is building a good climate, no one can trade an Antilia (the most expensive house worth $2 billion) for a kamalig. Strong leadership is also possible—one that supports the achievers and stirs a climate of inquiry through research. Not one that becomes a mouthpiece of mentors who are hostile about research and those who produce studies. Not one that feels the pressure of mentors—especially those who did no great shakes– who want to vet the movement of achievers.

A mentor’s main achievements are connected to his or her production of new knowledge. Let no one dilute this. I researched on the parameters and can vouch that these are used internationally (ranked from first to last): 1) articles in peer-reviewed journals; 2) published refereed books for commercial purposes; 3) national or international peer-reviewed conference presentations; 4) articles in refereed conference proceedings; 5) publications weighted by journal citation impact; 6) chapters in commercially published paper; 7) competitive, refereed grants; 8) supervision (until completion) of postgraduate research degrees; and 9) editor/editorial board of recognized journals. Variations of the ranking are found depending on the discipline: Among the main fields– humanities, physical sciences and engineering, biological sciences, health sciences, social sciences (including business fields) – all had the same priority of the eight research productivity indicators mentioned. Refereeing is apparently prioritized in the ranking of these research performance indicators.  The rank for book publications is high in the humanities and social sciences, but low in natural sciences (Print and Hattie, 2006).

Rewards in higher education must be predictable and not diluted like the air we breathe to stay alive.