Mentorship: Building Research Capacity Within the Society

Posted by: Mackenzie J. Ferrante, MS, RDN on Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mentorship: Building Research Capacity Within the Society
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior's Research Division is focused on three functions: 1) engaging members in research through capacity building and networking; 2) increasing the rigor of submissions to JNEB; and 3) bringing together students and researchers to strengthen the potential of future nutrition educators. Mentorship is central to these functions, and mentors have been found to exist laterally, virtually, and among peers.1 Peer-to-peer mentoring among students and researchers can offer not only traditional research support and guidance but also provide insights and connections within SNEB that can work to support the Society as a whole.
 
Pillars of good mentorship include listening to mentees, motivating and inspiring them, offering honest feedback, and establishing mutual respect.2 In addition to traditional mentor responsibilities, mentors can also provide a sense of community, offer accountability and emotional support, and provide access to new networks.2 Specifically, peer-to-peer mentoring can assist mentees in identifying academic and personal goals, establish a sense of direction, and provide valuable insights into the next stages of one's career.1
 
Mentorship is sought at all levels of the profession and the Research Division aspires to provide mentoring opportunities through all career stages. The divisions of SNEB are similar to Communities of Practice, they promote the process of learning and knowing that engages meaning, practice, community, and identity.3 The Research Division is developing a diverse community of novice and mature researchers who can learn from each other and address gaps, share knowledge and novel methodologies, celebrate successes, and provide insights on lessons learned.
 
Approximately one-quarter of Research Division members are students comprised of doctoral, master's, and undergraduates as well as postdoctoral fellows and interns, all of whom who contribute to activities that support the division's three functions. Mentoring other students is an important way in which the students in the Research Division can contribute to enhancing the research capacity of SNEB. The division aims for students to begin to think of themselves as not just trainees, but as having the ability to guide others, share ideas, and offer advice and insights into nutrition-related research. Students can become mentors to other students through a myriad of paths. Foremost, by engaging with other students in a variety of settings including poster sessions, student events and volunteering at the conference, and engaging via social media. Students should ask questions of other students, find commonalities and explore differences in the research being conducted, and share ideas with other students. Students are encouraged to attend student-led conference events, seek out student presenters to converse with and develop peer-to-peer mentoring relationships. Getting involved in positions of leadership can make students more visible to other students.
Members of SNEB across all career stages serve as role models, peer educators, mentors, friends and passionate learners. We lead by example and follow through inspiration. Mentorship not only builds members capacity; it strengthens our relationships and the SNEB community. Through mentorship we can support the Society's mission of advancing food and nutrition education research, practice, and policy that promotes equity and supports public and planetary health.
 
Mackenzie J. Ferrante, MS, RDN Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
 
Brian K. Lo, PhD, MPH, RD School of Social Work, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
 
Madeleine Sigman-Grant, PhD, RDN Maternal & Child Health Extension Specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Emeritus; SNEB Research Division Co-Chair
 
Laura L. Bellows, PhD, MPH, RDN Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, SNEB Research Division Co-Chair
 
This editorial was originally published in the June 2020 issue (Vol. 52, Issue 6) of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.