How valuable an exchange of mentoring experiences is!

Written by Vrabcová Tina & Bastlová Daša

Report on mentoring exchange of specialists of education and mentoring of Biology Center, Czech Academy of Sciences, České Budějovice

Networking is a very important part of the most successful projects. The past three years showed us that even the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic can’t stop us from implementing our plans. Thanks to the online environment, we have been able to continue networking, working and discussing even in times of total lockdown. But there is certainly no doubt that there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting, a personal touch, sharing experiences in person and undoubtedly the added value of building personal contacts on a large European scale. This was one reason why we decided to plan a series of in-person meetings in June 2022 focused on an exchange of mentoring experiences between the coordinators of the mentoring programme at the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and coordinators from several universities in Germany. Thanks to eument-net membership and on the advice of the former chair of eument-net, Katerina Cidlinska, all these meetings became possible!

Our journey to explore mentoring experiences started in Dusseldorf, at Heinrich Heine University. Ekaterina Masetkina invited us to the anniversary ceremony of the SelmaMeyerMentoring programme and opening of Selma-Meyer-Straße on the campus. During this ceremony, we had a chance to hear many inspiring stories and to speak with the mentors and mentees. We also had a very interesting conversation with a mentor of the SelmaMeyerMentoring programme, Marcus Holzheimer, who helps to prepare participants of mentoring programmes for their future career. During our visit, we moreover had a very insightful discussion with gender equality officers Anja Vervoorts and Claudia Balan about the German science system and problems of gender (in-)equality that German women scientists face. Later, we had an opportunity to discuss mentoring experiences and programmes with the mentoring coordinator Kati Korst, who travelled from RWTH Aachen University specially to meet us and to talk about the advantages of the mentoring programmes.

The next day, we took a train straight to Cologne where mentoring coordinator Phuong Glaser and head of mentoring Kathrin Pieper had arranged a meeting with us and the members of the HR department. We shared our experiences from mentoring programmes and learned about the different types of mentoring offered by the University of Cologne. Thanks to Phuong, we had a chance to attend an event relating to gender equality and the glass ceiling in academia.

One week later, we continued our “mentoring trip” to Greifswald. This time, our two colleagues from the grants office of the Biology Centre CAS accompanied us. We received a very warm welcome from Annette Ehmler from Greifswald University with whom we learned more about the university’s interesting history first. Later, we obtained comprehensive information about mentoring programme(s) and the Mentothek and were really impressed. Our colleagues from the grants office shared differences and similarities between the two institutions in many aspects of grant support for scientists.

After two fruitful days in Greifswald, we continued on to Kiel. Our plan was to meet and discuss the Via_mento programme with Ruth Kamn and gender equality activities with Iris Werner. Despite the very strict Covid situation in Kiel, both were eager to share their experiences with us and we learnt a lot from them.

And how can we summarize our June 2022? Sharing, discussing and gaining new knowledge helped us to understand the similarities between the problems at different institutions and in two countries. We have to point out that personal visits and experiences served as a huge inspiration for us and encouraged us, giving us the feeling that our work does indeed make a difference. We are very grateful for this feeling! We would like to thank all colleagues from Germany again for finding time to meet with us and share their knowledge. Many thanks for the impressive work they do!

Foto Copyright HHU Dusseldorf: left to right: Bastlová Daša (CZ), Dr. Dorothea Uhle (D), Marcus Holzheimer (D) and Vrabcová Tina (CZ) during the anniversary ceremony of the SelmaMeyerMentoring programme in Dusseldorf

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