Western Research launched a new mentorship program this week, offering researchers the opportunity to develop skills, network with academic leaders and cultivate an atmosphere of belonging.
The Western Research Scholars Academy has been co-designed with its participants, with an aim to build interdisciplinary and international connections between top researchers and to support and deepen equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization (EDI-D) in research.
The inaugural cohort includes 20 Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs, with priority given to those who self-identify as members of equity-deserving groups, including Indigenous Peoples, women, persons with disabilities and members of racialized groups. Each member has the opportunity to be paired with a senior mentor recognized as a top leader in their field.
“We know academia can be quite isolating,” said Scholars Academy program coordinator Samantha Albanese. “This program is in response to feedback from researchers showing they needed help in expanding their communities and reaching the next stage of their academic careers.”
By sharing stories and reflecting on challenges, the goal is to build an inclusive space where guidance can be provided from both a professional and personal perspective. In addition to meeting with their mentees one-on-one, mentors will be invited to interact with other Western researchers and academic leaders and deliver public lectures.
The program will also support skills development through monthly seminars addressing topics picked by the participants.
“We really wanted this academy to focus on what they feel they needed, rather than us making assumptions about what they need,” Albanese said.
That included letting the mentees choose their own mentors, including those from Harvard, McGill and the University of Hamburg in Germany.
Ivey Business School professor Lauren Cipriano, Canada Research Chair in Healthcare Analytics, Management and Policy, chose Western Education Dean Donna Kotsopoulos as her mentor, hoping to learn how to become a strong mentor herself.
“Donna is outside of my research area but she’s a very accomplished researcher with continuous external funding and a tremendous research record,” Cipriano said. “She’s also highly active in university administration and leadership and is a champion of women in the academy.
“I’m hoping to learn how she’s managed to balance this within her own career while maintaining her exceptionalism in research and advocating for change in the academy. I see how she helps junior colleagues to develop their careers and I’m hoping to learn what approaches she takes to build up the people around her and take that back to Ivey to help elevate the career experiences of my junior colleagues.”
The program, launched May 17, is supported by the President and Provost’s office through the Strategic Priorities Fund.The kick-off event marked the first time mentors and mentees met formally to engage with each other and begin building broader connections.
“It’s Western Research’s belief that when researchers are supported and feel a sense of community that, in turn, will lead to research excellence,” Albanese said.