The participants of the 2nd cohort of the APWiL Mentoring Program successfully completed the program culminating with a virtual Graduation Ceremony on October 22. Involving 87 mentors and mentees from 26 different institutions, the 2nd Cohort’s footprint was nearly three times larger than that of the pilot program, reflecting the interest and need from academics and universities alike.
The APWiL Mentoring Program is a year-long commitment matching a mentor and mentee from one of the participating APRU member universities to provide international and intercultural opportunities for the empowerment of aspiring women leaders within APRU. Empowerment is an urgent task, given the persistent complex social and economic barriers to women’s advancement in leadership in academia. In the regional context, gender stereotypes and diverse social norms of the many cultures spanning the Pacific Rim creates wide implementation gaps in gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives in higher education institutions.
The 2nd Cohort facilitated one-on-one mentoring sessions, goal setting and assessment, virtual workshops as well as standalone networking sessions.
“Obviously, the program is an opportunity for learning and growth, and it was good to see that you have developed personal confidence and skills, while you have also promoted gender equity and diversity, which clearly is something that you should continue working on,” said Sabrina Lin, Senior Advisor to the President at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, former APWiL Co-chair in her celebratory remarks at the Graduation Ceremony.
“I was happy to see an assessment of a mentor-mentee pair who were actually able to meet face-to-face in Europe, which indicates that things are opening up for more of this kind of opportunity,” she added.
At the start of the Graduation Ceremony, attendees were asked to introduce themselves and discuss their personal experiences in the 2nd Cohort. Mentee Samantha Shune, an Associate Professor and the Director of the Communication Disorders and Sciences Program at the University of Oregon, wrote that she made a great personal connection with her mentor, discovering that they shared similar interests, backgrounds, and goals. This sentiment was shared by many who expressed gratitude to their mentor for the support. Mentees Samantha Shune, Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines, and mentee Sanetta de Toit, Senior lecturer, Master of Occupational Therapy Program Director, FMH Student Life Academic Director, Occupational Therapy at the University of Sydney both secured grant funding with the support of their mentors. Other participants noted implementing communities of practice at their institution along as well as change to their programs that they run.
The Graduation Ceremony also featured talks by two mentor-mentee pairs, Professor Nina Cadiz (mentor) and mentee Associate Professor Yung-Fen Huang (mentee), and Associate Professor Chihiro Tanikawa (mentor) and Associate Professor Dr. Wan Nurazreena Wan Hassan (mentee).
Dr. Nina Cadiz, Professor for Plant Biology at the University of the Philippines, described her experience of mentoring Huang Yung-Fen, Associate Professor for Agronomy at National Taiwan University. “Initially I thought I would be mentoring Yung-Fen to help her developing special academic skills in line with my own expertise, but I quickly found that this is not what the program is mainly about,” Cadiz said.
“Rather, it is mainly about emphasizing women empowerment and boosting aspirations,” she added.
Dr. Yung-Fen Huang, Associate Professor for Agronomy at National Taiwan University said of her experience in the program, “I have learned from the mentoring program that we need to be open to what life wants to teach us, and it helped me to confirm that we need time to grow and to know the world.”
Dr. Chihiro Tanikawa, Associate Professor of Orthodontics at Osaka University, shared about her reason for joining the program saying, “the academic gender distribution in Japan is obviously not good, so my purpose for participating in this program was to communicate with women academic leaders to learn about situations in different countries and to chart out the next steps,”
Dr. Wan Nurazreena Wan Hassan, Associate Professor of Paediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics at Universiti Malaya, shared that one of the achievements for her and Dr. Tanikawa was a collaboration that they are currently pursuing: “my mentor and I decided to go for a grant collaboration, and a few days ago our grant has been shortlisted, so hopefully everybody will cheer for us.”
The graduation ceremony highlights the impact that the program has had on the participants and the commitment they have made in themselves. “It is wonderful to see how many of you have really decided to invest in yourself and to take the time to think about what you want to achieve, how you want to achieve it and how you want to engage,” said Joanna Regulska, Vice Provost and Dean of Global Affairs, Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women Studies at University of California, Davis, and APWiL Co-Chair.
All of the testimonials from the 2nd cohort participants are available on the APWiL website.
“Women are valuable resources and asset to the nations and communities and mentoring in some ways is necessary to ensure that you know we are well equipped and well prepared to assume leadership positions in our respective institutions,” said Yvonne Lim, Professor of Parasitology at Universiti Malaya, and APWiL Co-Chair.
The 3rd cohort of the APWiL Mentoring Program will kick off in early November 2022 with orientation for the 94 mentors and mentees joining the program.