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Using social exchange theory to examine minoritized STEM postdocs’ experiences with faculty mentoring relationships

Tiffany Karalis Noel (Learning and Instruction, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA)
Monica Lynn Miles (Physician Assistant Education Association, Washington, DC, USA)
Padmashree Rida (Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 7 December 2021

Issue publication date: 23 March 2022

310

Abstract

Purpose

Mentoring postdocs is a shared responsibility and dynamic process that requires a mutual commitment between the faculty mentor and postdoc. The purpose of this study is to understand how minoritized science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) postdocs view and engage in mentoring exchanges with their faculty mentors. In the context of this study, minoritized postdocs include women, people of color, and individuals with international status; faculty mentors include postdocs’ Principal Investigators (PIs).

Design/methodology/approach

Three researchers and 31 data sources (i.e., interview transcripts) were used to construct the case. Researchers first deductively and independently coded the data sources using Molm’s (2006) social exchange framework to identify examples of direct, generalized, and productive mentoring exchanges. Researchers then used thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) to identify emergent themes among coded examples of direct, generalized, and productive mentoring exchanges.

Findings

Data analyses revealed three emergent themes: (1.1) postdocs valued regular meetings and communication with mentors to clarify responsibilities and role expectations, (1.2) postdocs found more value in their interactions with junior faculty PIs who were flexible and open to innovative ideas, and (1.3) postdocs appreciated conversations about short- and long-term career goals and advice with mentors.

Originality/value

Findings offer implications for faculty and postdocs’ approaches to mentoring relationships, and for approaches to cultivating supportive scholarly communities in STEM higher education. Recommendations include flexibility in research assignments, increased awareness of non-academic careers, and opportunities for informal interactions and intra/interdepartmental community building.

Keywords

Citation

Karalis Noel, T., Miles, M.L. and Rida, P. (2022), "Using social exchange theory to examine minoritized STEM postdocs’ experiences with faculty mentoring relationships", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 90-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/SGPE-12-2020-0080

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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