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NRMN Program

Learn Mentoring Through Movement

By April 14, 2016No Comments

Written by Stephanie House, Director of NRMN Master Facilitators Initiative

University of Wisconsin-Madison

NRMN partnered with the local SACNAS Chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) to pilot a new workshop, Learn Mentoring Through Movement. It was led by Stephanie House, Director of the NRMN Master Facilitators Initiative, and Cawi Buie, a salsa instructor with 15 years of teaching experience, both nationally and internationally. The workshop prompted participants to explore what it means to be an effective mentor and mentee as they learned to lead and follow salsa. While learning the foundations of the dance, participants discussed how they could create better foundations for their mentoring relationships. The 16 participants were all members of the UW-Madison SACNAS Chapter, the majority being graduate students and postdocs who are actively experiencing mentorship from both sides of the relationship. The workshop incorporated aspects of both mentor and mentee training. Learning objectives included:

  • Reflect on effective mentoring from both sides of the relationship through leading and following
  • Reflect on effective communication strategies in mentoring relationships
  • Identify strategies to align expectations and address mentoring challenges
  • Learn the foundations of salsa and have fun
Mentor Teaches Mentees to Turn
Learning to turn

The Entering Mentoring and Entering Research curricula that are the basis for NRMN training workshops employ a process-based approach, including the use of case studies to prompt discussion. This workshop leveraged the benefits of kinesthetic learning by having participants ‘embody the case studies.’ For example, we began by learning the rhythm of salsa and the basic step, and then discussed in small groups how mentees learn the rhythm and foundational steps of their workplace, and how mentors can facilitate that learning. This allowed conversation about fit, expectations, and mentoring compacts. They went on to dance in pairs, focusing on connection, changing partners frequently to experience how each person feels a little different. We also discussed how dancing is a partnership; following is not a passive process and leads need to listen and adjust.

Mentor Cawi dancing in center of mentees

Cawi talking about stepping with confidence and staying grounded

Evaluation of the workshop was positive; the average rating was 6 on a scale ranging from 1 (very low) to 7 (very high). Further, all participants indicated they would be likely or very likely to recommend it to others. Comments from participants during the workshop and in the evaluation signaled that they found this a useful tool for introspection. For example, one participant noted that she attended because although she could accept that she made mistakes when dancing, she wanted to learn how to be as forgiving to herself when making mistakes as a scientist. Some other take away points and comments from participants included:

We all bring diversity to different situations so we must remain aware and accepting of different levels of skill, knowledge, and ability. Communication is key for a successful mentoring relationship.”

“I feel it good to know I can respectfully think of myself as having my ‘own space, style, and rhythm’ when working with others. I think I will be able to use that to feel more confident in “putting my own spin” on doing certain tasks and feeling confident in being able to keep a dance or work project going well with someone else, even if they suggest doing something a certain way that I don’t agree with.”

“This workshop gave me the time to reflect on my mentoring relationships and an alternate perspective/learning style (movement) which enhanced my reflection.” 

“Wouldn’t it be nice to always have a little more informal or wellness/mindfulness side to our mentoring?”

We have incorporated feedback from participants and we hope to offer this workshop at the national SACNAS meeting in Long Beach, CA in October 2016.

UW-Madison SACNAS Chapter website:

Twitter feed: @UW_SACNAS

Mentees in line of dancing pairs

Rotating partners, making new connections, and stepping together


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