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Here's a suggestion I recently heard from someone working on this kind of thing in an administrative context: if you set up a database with contact info for potential mentors that includes a range of information including but not limited to research interests/AOS--say including gender, first-gen status, race, etc. that folks are willing to share--this enables people to seek out mentors who have similar backgrounds.

As well, having a place that indicates the person is open to being contacted is helpful for breaking down barriers to contacting them. The people who tend to be comfortable approaching senior folks may be the ones who are already relatively well-placed in networks. First-gen scholars, for instance, may not.

I wonder if this kind of approach could be coupled with existing databases like philpeople and the Directory of Philosophers from Underrepresented Groups in Philosophy? Just add questions: "Are you willing to be contacted about...?" and include things like mentorship etc.

My sense is that it's the very informality that makes creating equitable structures challenging. I was told that this approach works well in alumni networks, so I would think it might apply here, too.

Bill D'Alessandro

This seems like a good place to plug the Casual Social online meetups devised by my MCMP colleague Jürgen Landes, which we're hoping will offer another outlet for this sort of informal networking. The events scheduled so far are aimed at subspecialties in philosophy of science, but it would be neat to see more of this kind of thing across the discipline.

The Casual Socials will be informal online events (hosted on a hangout-friendly platform like Gather) where like-minded philosophers from around the world can talk in a low-pressure, agenda-free setting. One thing they're supposed to do is provide an arena for the sorts of casual conversations that would normally happen at in-person conferences, which of course have been in short supply lately. In particular, I hope they'll help grad students and junior philosophers connect with each other and with more established folks.

FYI, I'm running the Philosophy of Math & Logic meetup on March 14 at 16:00 Munich time (that's 10:00 am Eastern). The PhilEvents page is here: https://philevents.org/event/show/96269

There'll also be a meeting for philosophers of medicine on March 7, and one for formal epistemologists on March 21. (Get in touch with Jürgen for details about those!) If all goes well, I hope we can do these on a regular basis.


I think there is an equivocation in discussions of mentoring. I will explain briefly. There are formal mentors, people assigned to guide junior colleagues, etc. through a process. For example, many colleges have programs to help new faculty get tenure. But there is a more meaningful mentoring process, which, from my experience is more organically formed, and cannot be forced. So you might go a long time without a mentor. But such a person becomes a model for one, as one advanced in their career. They may give career advice, and give feedback on work, etc., These, though, happen by accident, in the same way that finding a suitable life partner seems to be something that often happens by accident. In this latter sense of mentor, I think artificially setting people up as mentors will fail.


@mented, I think that the idea that "artificial" mentoring relationships will fail is incorrect. Certainly every single person with whom you attempt to form a mentoring relationship will not turn out to be a good mentor. But I'm not sure what "organically formed" is supposed to mean here, or why it's any better than "non-organically formed" relationships.

Why think that some kind of accidental connection is superior to seeking out someone who you know has things in common with you or has certain skills, etc.? Or making a connection on the basis of another person's insight that you and the potential mentor might be a good match? The analogy with life partners seems to go the other direction, too--not only is it possible that *some* partnerships which were chosen for people can develop into partnerships those people would have chosen, with intentional work and shared values, etc.--but many people also seek out partners based on a set of criteria at the outset, and go on dates (which would be formal or at least somewhat formal situations) to test whether a partnership will work.

In any case, some people in academia are better set up for "accidental" mentorships than others in virtue of existing networks. That's why making broader opportunities for mentoring relationships to occur in both formal, informal, and semi-formal ways, is helpful for equitable networking.

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