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MLA 2020: Graduate Student Mentoring, a Roundtable


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Co-presented with Dr. Asha Nadkarni in a session sponsored by Modern Language Association’s Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Humanities and Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee

That women of color are precluded from the normative image of “professor” ought to be unsurprising. How, then, can early career woman of color scholars support their graduate students of color? In their short presentation, Dr. Asha Nadkarni (now associate professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Dr. Neelofer Qadir (recent PhD beginning a tenure­-stream position at University of North Caroline at Greensboro in Fall 2019) will discuss their mentor-­mentee relationship with a specific focus on what it means to mentor and be mentored in a community of women of color.

Their conversation will focus on hurdles such as the opacity around the profession’s expectations of advising relationships, and of women of color graduate students and faculty members in general. They will explore the mentoring challenges that Asha has faced and the models she has found useful (such as mutual mentoring cohorts), as well as the isolation that Neelofer confronted early in her graduate studies (being ‘conditionally accepted’), her issues with managing committee members through the exams stage, and the disproportionately high level of service commitments that accompanied her progress throughout the program. The two will discuss the specific strategies they used as overburdened women of color faculty and graduate students to build an honest relationship that made possible clear communication and allowed for targeted goal setting and structured and unstructured feedback. Finally, they will reflect upon how even though shared identities can be sites of exploitation and violence, they’ve strived to re­shape spaces of overwork into sites of collaboration toward shared intellectual and institutional goals.