Contacting Mentors, For Help with What?

Throughout my time here at the University of Michigan, I have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from several influential mentors. Most notably, Dr. Blackwood, a pediatrician at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital here on campus, has supported me through the process of developing and executing the research project I am writing about for my capstone project. In addition, Dr. Ranganathan, a University of Michigan plastic surgery resident, has been extremely helpful in maintaining the direction of the data collection process in the face of various obstacles encountered along the way. Despite the established relationship I have with these two individuals, I was initially hesitant to contact them about being my capstone mentors because I didn’t yet have a clear vision of my project in mind. I felt as though I was asking them to support me in a venture, but didn’t have specific things for them to assist me with.

I am curious whether other capstone students have experienced this same dilemma. Does the importance of contacting potential members early in the semester supersede the importance of having a well thought out project to pitch in the initial email or meeting? I personally decided to proceed with contacting my mentors before I had my production plan finalized, but I also had an established relationship with them. If I were contacting someone I didn’t previously know, I am not sure which decision I would have made. I am also not sure if there is a “correct” answer to this situation.

2 thoughts to “Contacting Mentors, For Help with What?”

  1. Hi Jeremy – I can totally relate to your blog post. Knowing that the capstone project requires you to reach out to a mentor without fully knowing how your project is going to develop is daunting. I too was hesitant in reaching out to my mentor before my production plan was finalized and just last week sent him an email asking for his help. Though I too had an established relationship with my mentor as I had spent the summer working in the same department as him, I wanted to fully flesh out what I wanted to ask him and how he could contribute to my project before contacting him. I am curious as to how contacting your mentors before your production plan was finalized worked out. Do you feel it was more or less beneficial to the development of your project that you reached out to them early? Were there specific questions you had in mind for your meetings when you sent your initial emails? I completely understand the situation would have been different if you were contacting someone you did not know. Hopefully they were able to help kick start your project and get some creative energy flowing! – Allyson

  2. Hi Jeremy—

    I felt a similar tension around contacting mentors. Given the personal nature of my project, I likewise chose to approach people who know me and my writing well. Initially, I did so eagerly: I contacted both my mentors back in mid-September, excited to work with them and write with them and solicit their feedback on my Unknown Poetic Project. But, after diving into the drafting phase, I’ve encountered a fair bit more hesitance than expected: I’ve felt self-conscious about my writing, delaying setting up those first few meetings until strictly necessary (this past week, to be exact).

    The potential for feedback is scary, I guess, no matter who it’s from.

    I suppose my question is this: is your hesitation a matter of wanting to respect your mentor’s time, or, ultimately, wanting more guidance before solidifying your project?

    If it’s the latter, I’m wondering whether your mentors might be precisely the people who would help you transition from nebulous idea to concrete plan. If it’s the former, I tried to navigate this dynamic by leveraging email: I emailed both my mentors all the documents I’ve produced relevant to my project (proposal, first drafts), keeping them updated as I change my mind. If it’s over email, it wouldn’t be a matter of taking up your mentor’s in-person time, and it could ultimately make your meetings more efficient and productive.

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