Re-envisioning Doctoral Mentorship in the United States: A Power-Conscious Review of the Literature

Genia M. Bettencourt, Rachel E. Friedensen, Megan L Bartlett
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 237-252

Multiple barriers exist within doctoral education in the United States that can undermine the success of students, particularly for students with marginalized identities. While mentorship can provide an important form of support, it must be done in an intentional way that is mindful of issues of equity and power.

By applying a power-conscious framework to current practices of doctoral mentorship in the U.S., we propose key considerations to help support doctoral students and shift power imbalances.

As a scholarly paper, this work draws upon a comprehensive review of existing research on doctoral mentorship in the U.S.

As a relatively recent development, the power-conscious framework provides an important tool to address issues of inequity that has not yet been applied to doctoral mentorship to our knowledge. Such a framework provides clear implications for mentorship relationships, institutional policies, and future research.

The power-conscious framework has direct applicability to and possibility for reshaping doctoral mentorship in the U.S. as well as elsewhere. Each of the six foci of the framework can be integrated with research on doctoral students to help formal and informal mentors enhance their practice.

Throughout our analysis, we pose questions for mentors to consider in order to reflect upon their practice and engage in further exploration.

Research on doctoral mentorship should explicitly engage with broader dynamics of power, particularly as related to understanding the experiences of marginalized student populations.

The demanding nature of and precarity within U.S. doctoral education leads to high rates of departure and burnout amongst students. By re-envisioning mentorship, we hope to begin a broader re-imagining of doctoral education to be more equitable and supportive of students.

To examine these claims, future research should explore doctoral student mentorship relationships and how power dynamics are contained therein both within the U.S. and in international contexts.

mentorship, doctoral students, power conscious, doctoral education, United States
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