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A critical safe, supportive space: a collaborative autoethnography of a woman's academic mentoring circle

Amy Serafini (Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)
Shannon Calderone (Department of Educational Leadership, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)
Maritza Lozano (Department of Educational Leadership, Fullerton College of Education, California State University, Fullerton, California, USA)
Melissa A. Martinez (Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education and School Improvement, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education

ISSN: 2046-6854

Article publication date: 29 November 2022




The study examines the benefits and potential challenges of the mentoring circle as an innovative approach to mentoring among four cisgendered women faculty situated at 4-year universities in various geographic locations in the United States.


Utilizing collaborative autoethnography, we ask: How can mentoring circles be beneficial for diverse early- and mid-career faculty women in higher education? Given our varying positionalities and the development of our sustained mentoring relationships, we drew on the concepts of intersectionality and sisterhood as a framework to understand our individual and collective experiences in the circle. Through a collaborative autoethnographic design, we examined data from four 3-h online video reflective discussions as well as relevant documents and communication, such as emails and texts.


The power dynamics within the circle, fluidity of its borders and how it provided us with a unique ability to read the world contributed to a sense of community and empowerment that were key factors to the circle's success. We created an inclusive space with a defined purpose where trust, authenticity, reciprocity and the expectation for vulnerability served as the solid foundation for relationships. We became sources of holistic support, sharing advice and resources to support our growth as teachers, scholars and community members within our field and beyond.


Our mentoring circle disrupts conventional mentoring structures and highlights the power of a sustainable circle among diverse women faculty rooted in adaptive, flexible and responsive relationships.



Serafini, A., Calderone, S., Lozano, M. and Martinez, M.A. (2022), "A critical safe, supportive space: a collaborative autoethnography of a woman's academic mentoring circle", International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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