University of Southern California

Who Was Mentor?
January 28, 2011 • by Debbie MacInnis

Yes, before it was a noun, he was a person. In The Odyssey, Mentor was Odysseus's trusted counselor, left to guard the home when Odysseus went to war. The goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor and then guided Odysseus's son, Telemachus as he searched for his father. I like to think at the Marshall School of Business, we have a group of Athenas – but we're not in disguise.

Beyond my role as Vice Dean for Research and Strategy, I am privileged to be involved in the school's Faculty Mentoring Committee. Teachers are inherently mentors to their students, but we also believe that senior faculty can help guide junior colleagues in their journey toward developing new knowledge that has impact. Each year we hire young PhD's who represent the next generation of global thought leaders. Our mentoring committee tries to help these junior colleagues get off the ground in terms of research and teaching. We help them find their own voice, as both instructors and researchers.

As these junior colleagues pursue scholarly research, we help them develop a research stream that will resonate with the academic and practitioner communities, as well as other relevant stakeholders (e.g., students, consumers, investors, policy makers) who can benefit from the knowledge we generate. We offer suggestions as our faculty move their research toward publication, and guidance on becoming the thought leaders of tomorrow.

It's particularly important that we reach out to and be proactive in connecting with special populations, such as our very junior faculty and our graduate students. Research has shown that people can be reluctant to solicit mentoring because they don't want to look weak. We need to show that seeking mentoring is not a sign a weakness, but a way of gaining strength.

Every organization takes a journey, and we at Marshall are planning our next steps along the way. I am also privileged to work with Jim Ellis on Marshall's Strategic Planning Committee. I hope you will support Marshall as we plan for our future. We need you to help us bring Marshall the next level of greatness. We are a great institution, and we can become even better and more powerful through your help. Be a mentor. Make a difference, and change the lives of people who will, in turn, mentor others.

Fight On!
Deborah MacInnis
Vice-Dean for Research and Strategy