Two years ago, at the 2011 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the MAA. The session title was “Good intentions are necessary but not sufficient: Steps toward best practices in mentoring underrepresented students” and one of the goals of the session was to propose specific ideas that could be implemented as a result of the comments made by panelists and participants. In other words, there was a desire to go beyond offering opinions and advice. There was a desire to come up with concrete actions. I really liked the idea.
One of the themes that kept coming up was that students naturally tend to look for mentors that understand their culture and community. Of course, the participants recognized that great mentors come in many shapes and sizes; however, there was a shared sentiment that the lack of diversity in the faculty ranks of mathematics departments made many students feel isolated at their own institutions when it came to finding mentors that looked like them.
That was the motivation for developing an electronic community of mentors: the e-mentoring network in the mathematical sciences. It was first developed as a Facebook group and a web site in the fall of 2011 and now has become more interactive and more prominent as a blog sponsored by the American Mathematical Society. The goal of the blog is to reach as many students, postdoctoral researchers, junior and senior faculty members as possible, and provide a community where we can comfortably address important issues related to our own advancement in mathematics. The success of this forum will only be possible with the participation of a large community that can offer mentorship in complementary ways, so I am inviting readers to contribute by bringing up specific issues that are relevant to them or by offering useful insight into the profession and stepping into the role of mentors. My hope is that this blog can function as a support system for those who are missing a mentoring component in their professional lives, especially those who feel isolated.