The 2019 SUNTA Mentoring Program

SUNTA is in the process of organizing a new set of mentoring meetings for the 2019 AAA/CASCA Annual Meeting in Vancouver. This year’s sessions will take place on Thursday November 21, 2019 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Announcements about details of sessions, topics, mentors and location will soon be made. 

The SUNTA mentoring program was initiated in 2017 to create opportunities for advanced graduate students and early career anthropologists to discuss with professionals in the discipline a range of career-related issues. While many newly-minted anthropologists might find mentorship within their home institutions, SUNTA wanted to provide additional support. SUNTA mentors are committed to onsite help and engagement through the sessions at the Annual Meetings and on a wide range of topics. The aim is to offer long-term help to mentees and assist them in addressing concrete issues or answering specific questions. SUNTA further seeks to illustrate aspects of its work and activities and offer a home  or space of professional participation for budding anthropologists.

The first mentoring session was held at the Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, in 2017. It addressed the following issues:

  • Preparing/making a career outside the United States (facilitated by Friederike Fleischer).
  • Collaborative/participatory approaches to ethnography (facilitated by Andrew Newman).
  • Getting the first paper published (facilitated Suzanne Scheld).
  • Preparing/making a career at a liberal arts college (facilitated by Petra Kuppinger).

My own experiences as organizer and mentor of the first two rounds of SUNTA mentoring have been very positive and encouraging. It has been both fun and enlightening to meet and engage with promising graduate students and early career anthropologists.
With support from a grant from the AAA, the SUNTA mentors met with groups of four to seven mentees in restaurants in the vicinity of the Annual Meeting. More than twenty participants attended the four sessions. Some had just finished their master’s degrees, others had recently defended their dissertation or held post-doc positions or junior faculty appointments. Participants came from universities in the United States and abroad. Mentors and participants were in touch beforehand to discuss and finalize an agenda for the mentoring sessions as well as agree on the procedure of  mentoring session and if any materials would be needed. The small group size allowed for intensive discussions and exchange in all four groups. Feedback from the mentors and mentees was overwhelmingly positive. Newman noted that the meeting was “successful in the sense that everyone walked away (including myself) having learned more about the types of ethnographic collaborations that exist out there, and what the stakes are in this kind of work, and how new these approached really are.” Scheld added that “everyone seemed to be very appreciative of the opportunity to discuss their work over food … Altogether the meeting was productive and fun.”

Based on the success and positive feedback from both the mentors and mentees of the inaugural mentoring groups, SUNTA organized a second round of mentoring sessions at the 2018 AAA Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. These sessions addressed

  • getting the first paper published (facilitated by Derek Pardue);
  • juggling the Academic job marker while “ABD” (facilitated by Camille Frazier); and
  • preparing/making a career at a liberal arts college (facilitated by Petra Kuppinger).

Based on the overwhelming  interest in the job market, the liberal arts session was extended to also include  tips for the job search. The three sessions were attended by a total of 17 participants. This time, all three groups met again over food but in a large shared meeting room at the conference venue. Once more, mentors and mentees thought that the sessions were successful and helpful for the participants. One participant wrote: “Thank you very much for organizing the mentoring session. I personally learned a lot and found it really helpful in identifying strategies to move towards applying [to jobs]. It will be very helpful to look at your successful application, so thank you very much for sharing those!” Another participant added: “Camille: thank you for so generously sharing your time, advice, and job materials. To all the other participants: thanks for such a lovely workshop, it was wonderful to meet you all and commiserate with all of our shared anxieties. Please do stay in touch!” One participant in Pardue’s groups noted: “I found the workshop to be very helpful and insightful and I definitely would encourage you to continue it at different capacities if you can.”

SUNTA will continue to offer mentoring sessions and experiment with different formats to find the best way to help newly-minted anthropologists navigate the post-graduation world. However, these sessions are also beneficial for the mentors. My own experiences as organizer and mentor of the first two rounds of SUNTA mentoring have been very positive and encouraging. It has been both fun and enlightening to meet and engage with promising graduate students and early career anthropologists. I have been in touch with members of the two groups I mentored in the past two years at and beyond these mentoring sessions. I have read application letters and teaching statements for some of my mentees and was able to include a participant from the 2017 sessions I facilitated in a panel I organized for the 2018 Annual Meeting. I look forward to the next round of mentoring meetings. If you are an aspiring anthropologist, consider attending the sessions for 2019 or propose sessions for next year.

Petra Kuppinger is professor of anthropology at Monmouth College. She has conducted research on space, globalization, and consumerism in Cairo, Egypt; and on space, culture, and Islam in Stuttgart, Germany. She authored Faithfully Urban: Pious Muslims in a German City (2015) and co-edited Urban Life, 6th edition (2018).

Interested in submitting news, announcements, contributions, and comments? Please contact SUNTA section news contributing editor Faedah M. Totah ([email protected]).

Cite as: Kuppinger, Petra. 2019. “The 2019 SUNTA Mentoring Program.” Anthropology News website, October 11, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1278

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