Flipping the script: ‘Transformative Conversations’ in higher education

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In 2009, the Michigan-based Fetzer Institute invited 26 university professors to their Kalamazoo campus with the lofty hopes of fostering “inter-generational mentoring” amongst college faculty.

After more than three years of discussions — and plenty of cross-disciplinary bonding — the group developed strategies for fostering better relationships, which led to a new guidebook for campuses that want to give it a try: “Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities in Higher Education.”

The process, “formation mentoring,” is a detailed system that encourages professors to meet in small groups and support each other in becoming better teachers and learners.

“We want to take an interest in the whole person — not just our intellectual life, but our moral life, our emotional life, our spiritual life. All of this is part of who we are, and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a setting where we could bring that to the table?” says Aaron Kheriaty, one of four authors of the guidebook and a professor at University of California, Irvine.

“We’re trying to create a space to talk about our hopes, doubts and mistakes — all the things you usually don’t put out there in a faculty meeting where everyone’s got their peacock feathers flying.”

“Our primary focus is to give people a way to help   make their professional lives better. We hope that by creating these groups, we will have an effect on the institution,” says Kheriaty.


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