Mentoring and Advising
WISR faculty are a very distinctive group of people, capable of combining intellectual rigor with practical know-how, and eager to guide, mentor, support, and collaborate in personalized ways with each student.
WISR has deliberately sought faculty members whose range of ethnic backgrounds, academic disciplines, work experiences, and community involvements allow them to act as resource people for WISR’s adult, community-involved students in ways that go beyond intellectual specialization and unite academic with professional and community concerns.
WISR faculty members generally have very broad, interdisciplinary social science expertise beyond their particular areas of specialization, which enables them to work with our varied student population. They have many years of teaching experience, both in traditional academic settings and at WISR. Many have been teaching at WISR for 10 years or more. There is a very low rate of faculty turnover at WISR, and indeed, faculty are enthusiastically committed to working at WISR in personalized ways with the diverse and talented population of mature adults who enroll at WISR. More specifically, faculty serving as a major advisor for students shall have been active in their field of scholarship or profession during the five year period preceding their mentoring and advising of students.
WISR faculty members also have a rich background of involvement with community organizations, other educational institutions, and consulting practice. This practical experience further enriches their contributions to student learning, given the strong practical community concerns of most of our students. Indeed, this is the case with our two faculty are licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs).
WISR faculty meet together regularly, at least monthly, to discuss and fine tune our approaches to working with students—both as individuals and in seminars. In these meetings, we plan seminars, problem-solve together about our work with students who present special challenges, participate in faculty development sessions, plan quarterly All-School Gatherings to bring the majority of our learning community together, and discuss WISR’s future directions. Faculty engage in evaluations of their teaching informally throughout the year based on informal student feed-back and discussions with other faculty.
WISR is strongly committed to supporting the development of all WISR faculty. WISR considers faculty to be lifelong learners as well. WISR faculty academicians and professionals who are devoted to improving themselves in their areas of expertise, and also to further expanding their capabilities to engage in the learner-centered instruction and the multidisciplinary inquiry that are distinctive qualities of “learning the WISR way.”
Sometimes Board members, most of whom are experienced academics as well, contribute to our discussions of how to improve the quality of education at WISR.
The intangible qualities underlying learning relationships at WISR
Long-time WISR Core Faculty Members, Cynthia Lawrence and John Bilorusky, have written the following about the important, intangible qualities underlying learning relationships at WISR [from “Multicultural, Community-Based Knowledge-Building: Lessons from a tiny institution where students and faculty sometimes find magic in the challenge and support of collaborative inquiry” by John Bilorusky and Cynthia Lawrence, from Community and the World: Participating in Social Change, Torry Dickinson (ed.), Nova Science Publishers, 2003.]:
The real “magic” that is WISR is even more intangible than the images that can be grasped from WISR’s institutional history, from our institutional problems and “successes,” and from the community activities of our students and alumni. In trying to articulate these intangibles, we have decided that, in part, there is something special in the ways that faculty at WISR combine challenge and support in their work with learners. Indeed, the idea that students and faculty, alike, are first and foremost learners is a basic tenant of WISR’s philosophy. It is the interests of students as learners and the learning needs dictated by their community involvements that become the focus of student-faculty inquiry. Faculty members at WISR take on different roles–the mentor, the partner in inquiry, the facilitator and coach. Further, in our collaborative inquiries with learners, we are eager to become engaged in their interests and strive to assist them to center their action-research activities and knowledge-building around their interests and learning needs.
It might be magic, but it is definitely not easy. Learners for whom WISR is the place to study, work very hard to realize their dreams. These learners are not just seeking a degree, although degrees are appropriate goals. They are challenged by their commitment to correct social wrongs and bring about needed changes in their communities-of-reference. The objectives and interests brought by learners vary, as would be expected given the diversity of our student population. As faculty, our intention is to meet learners where we find them–to support their research, to guide their process with suggested readings and questions we put forth as “food for thought,” and to use our knowledge to guide the development of theirs.
WISR is an individualized program. As we write that, it is easy to conjure up visions of people sitting in cubbyholes with programmed worksheets, where they work alone, and “correct” their own work against answer sheets provided by whatever publisher has used their own perspective, their values, and their social and political views to provide. That is NOT WISR! Read More.