9. Sep 22nd – Mentorship in environmental history: case studies

Start Forums Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 2015 9. Sep 22nd – Mentorship in environmental history: case studies

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September 25, 2015 at 08:26 #17573
Henrik S

Mentorship day, September 22nd for undergrad students in environmental history. Post your reflections on the session.

September 25, 2015 at 08:54 #17574
Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche

I thought that the experience of interacting with undergraduate students as well as giving them feedback on their projects was extremely enriching. It was very motivating to realize that what we have learnt through the Master program in Global environmental history enables us to provide insights to other students.
I especially enjoyed my discussion with a group of three students who plan to research about the national parks policies in Sweden and the Swedish government’s attitude towards Saami people. Thanks to the research I have been doing regarding Indigenous peoples and conservation policies, I could provide them with insights and I suggested that they compare policies in the United States with policies in Sweden. It inspired me to do more research myself about conservationist policies and indigenous peoples in Sweden.
It was also encouraging when the students told me they did not believe in the illusion of pristine wilderness that should be free of people. This demonstrates that this belief is no longer a reality for my generation which is most promising for the future of conservation.
The other students I talked to were preparing presentations on water management policies, historical ecology, the history malaria as well as other diseases… I thought that once again, my interest in global environmental history has been revived thanks to this mentorship event.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

September 27, 2015 at 12:10 #17575
Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

Reflection about mentorship by Ylva Lundkvist Fridh

A general impression was that I was of greater use for the undergraduate students the first 30 minutes of the “mentor mingle session”. In the beginning they had a lot of questions, were a bit confused and had just started to think about how to approach their topic. At that stage I felt that I did have some good advice to give – both in terms of reference literature they could check up and in terms of how to delimit the scope and scale of the study. So, I felt I did a contribution to the first two groups I spoke to. But after that, the other groups I sat down with had already started to discuss who in the group should do what or started to search for the literature they had decided to read into. By then, it felt more like I disturbed when I came by to talk to them.
I did not want to stay for long with each group. This was because I felt that as a “mentor” I unintendedly ended up higher in the hierarchy in the groups. It was a bit like that my word weighted heavier than that of the undergraduates and they did not challenge my suggestions. So, in order to not decide for them how to go ahead with their assignment I decided to walk away to the next group after a short talk.
If I shall try to think of how the mentorship could be improved, I think I have a couple of proposals. First of all, I think it might work better if it is decided on forehand which mentor should talk to which group (maybe 1-2 groups per mentor) rather than just mingling freely between the groups. Since all of us master students have different backgrounds and different skills, each one of us was more capable to help the group that had chosen a topic close to our specific field of interest. Now I do not know if we really were able to match our skills with the right student group. Also, as it turned out, we all missed one group. I personally found it a bit embarrassing to walk around in the corridor and library and ask groups of students if they belonged to our class. Since I did not recognise their faces I sometimes mistook groups and bothered the wrong people. So except from matching mentor with group, it might be a good idea to have clearly specified area just for this activity.

September 27, 2015 at 15:45 #17576
Lauri Jokinen

Reflections by Lauri

I would like to begin by stating that all in all it was a very good idea to have us from the master’s programme to meet the students of the undergraduate course. I am not sure how much the students would feel they benefited from that day, but I would say that I got good experiences. I found that first as the groups described me their topics and ideas so far, I had to be very careful of not putting out too much of my own ideas when I gave recommendations on how they could continue developing theirs. I feel that I should have stated more specifically to every group that they should also be critical about what I am saying, but I think (and hope) that in the end they will follow their own ideas, perhaps inspired partly by what I had to say.

Towards the end of the day I found that my comments had changed from discussing the content of their projects to discussing research questions. More specifically I was telling them to try to formulate a research question already now in the beginning of the work, and then adapting or changing that question if (and when) they would need to do so as the work progresses. I was also telling them to consider how they will motivate their choice of angle to approach the given topics so to say. I feel that this latter approach might have been more useful to the students since it was more about raising questions than trying to give any kind of answer to what they should look into or how they might structure their work.

I think this way to arrange the mentoring was good as it didn’t demand too much from us, but still created contact between the undergraduate students and us. However, I felt at least myself that I was expected, by myself and others, to be in some sort of an expert role, and in some ways that makes sense, but it could be good to think of ways to help close the socially constructed gap between master’s and undergraduate students.

October 1, 2015 at 08:21 #17580
Miguel Núñez

I think that the shared experiences which we had had in the running of the mentorship with undergraduate students, were useful for the enrichment in the scope of the global environmental history, not only by the great interest that they showed on environmental themes as well as their focus on going deeply in the history and picking up relevant data in the comprehension of the past phenomena.

Often, I was maintained myself marvelled, with the constancy that they manifested toward themes that I have considered as “old fashion”, for instance the one million of times named encounter between American and European worlds in the XV century, as well as the massive dying which occurred before in Euro-Asia, during XIV century by the “black death” pandemics.

The two groups which studied diseases had two divergent focus, one of them I think, wanted to know with details, from a narrative approach, about what happened during massive dyings, and the other was so interested in reveal the mechanisms used to challenge those pandemics by sanitary measures as for example the quarantines or healthy belts.

From my own approach, I interpreted it as two necessary steps in the processes of investigation, the first one, I will say, the theory requirement, and the second, the practice. Or in other words, if you are interested in the history, first your efforts try to know what happened and after, they look for a comprehension about the mechanisms which gave impulse to the history wheel. The experience of sharing common interests around a same discipline between persons with differentiated levels of “expertise”, made in my mind a micro-revolution by knowing that the historic concern goes beyond of naïve interests. I mean that I felt myself as part of a community, at least as part of an academic community.

October 1, 2015 at 10:02 #17581

Tuesday the 22th September had I the privilege to mentor students taking a course named ‘Global miljöhistoria’(direct translation to English Global environmental history). A course organised and given by CEMUS. This course is a part of the 30 credit course called Sustainable Development A. Which I took some years ago.

To put things in context. Why where we, master students of GEH, asked to mentor these students? Before summer had we a sections in Current debate where our task was to come up with one case study or subject interesting to look at with a historical environmental perspective for undergraduate students. I wrote a suggestions about the environmental movement and if/how is has been affected by history.

This Tuesday was it time for the students of ‘Global miljöhistoria’ to work with this case studies from us GEH students. Some of the goals with this exercise, I imagine, were for the CEMUS students to dig deeper into cases, do a historical reflection and present their work to the rest of class. It was also meant to integrate master students and undergraduate student with each other, to open up for exchange of ideas, experience and knowledge. It was also a good way for us GEH to formulate a case study and write down clear constructions. A nice task both for us and the CEMUS students. I think this current debate section was one of the most fun and interesting parts of the whole course!

Back to the actual day. It started with a short presentation of us from GEH. We told our names and the topic of our thesis. I guess this was to give the students an idea of what a master thesis can be about and for them to get a hint on who we where and our personal interest.
After that did we go to Geocentrum, to start “mingle” around with the different student groups. One of the groups had chosen “my” environmental movement case(FUN!) and they asked me to sit with them.

The people/students I sat with were lovely, but they hadn’t come far in their working progress. They explained that this was the second time they worked with the case and they felt a bit unprepared and “lost”. The hardest thing, they told me, was to find something to focus on. The most of the time did we talk and discuss different issues/happenings/things for them to write about, and how to narrow down the topic. We discussed; different historical events, such as the green wave in the 60s, COP15 in Copenhagen and the failure of the negotiation and the “death” of the climate movement afterwards; we chatted about different organisations like Greenpeace, 350.org and WWF. We talked around Swedish propaganda for DDT and how to handle waste when your travel with boats/common sense on sea.

Hopefully did they got some ideas after our chat. A lesson for me to take with, or a thing a would have done different, is that I could have been more concrete when I made the case study. Or pointed out examples or things they could have used in the case. At the same time was my purpose to give the students a broad perspective/suggestion, I didn’t want to affect or steer them to much.

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