What is in a Mentorship?

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We’ve all had at least one mentor that has shaped our lives for the better. Sometimes we seek them out and other times they appear naturally. For Bianca Patel, MDP 2020, it was the latter. Her new supervisor at The Nature Conservancy is an MDP Alumna!


We’ve all had at least one mentor who has shaped our lives for the better. Sometimes we seek them out and other times they appear naturally. For Bianca Patel, MDP 2020, it was the latter. When she applied for an internship with The Nature Conservancy as a Community Engagement Program Analyst with the North America Cities Network, she did not know that her supervisor would be MDP Alumna Myriam Dormer from the Class of 2013.

This internship was a natural fit for Bianca. She says, “many of my professional experiences have been in the environment and conservation space.” Furthermore, this internship provides her the opportunity to blend her skillset with what she is learning from the MDP Program. Specifically, Bianca says, “through qualitative methods and analysis, I hope to help unpack what ‘community engagement’ means while building a repository of tools, innovations, and best practices for sustained and equitable community engagement on-the-ground.”

Emory MDP actively promotes its students to apply what they learn in the classroom to their work and vice-versa. However, as someone who already graduated from Emory University with the same degree, Myriam is uniquely positioned to not only offer guidance for Bianca’s studies but can challenge her to think beyond the MDP curriculum. Bianca remarks, “I feel so lucky to have Myriam as my mentor and project supervisor. I feel both supported and challenged to think more deeply about what community engagement is, why we do it, and how the process of it unfolds with diverse communities.” To do that Myriam encourages her to take the time to learn from those around her and approach her work from different perspectives. How to effectively and sensitively engage in community work is extremely complex and something MDP students grapple with daily as they debate their role in development work.mentorship_1.jpg

Having these critical conversations is exactly what makes an MDP student an ideal candidate, according to Myriam. She notes, “their [MDP students’] international training, community development experience and passion for making a difference makes them great interns. They have a high tolerance for nuance, while also being able to tease out key threads of any strategy and process conversation.” The Emory MDP program pushes students to confront context head-on so that they do development differently; reflecting on how their actions affect those they interact with. As a result, Myriam says, “Emory MDP interns invest a lot of thought and care into any deliverable they take on. The resulting products all reflect an attention to detail and a caring approach to considering the communities impacted by our work in the North America Cities Network.”

Though we tend to view mentorship as a one-sided exchange, both Bianca and Myriam agree that mentorship is about reciprocity. Bianca says, “it is not a one-way relationship, but rather an exchange of ideas, interests, and experiences. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my mentors not as mentors, but as people.” These interactions foster a sense of community that Myriam prefers to view mentorships. She says, “personal and professional development in communal settings can inspire collective action, work, and responsibility in a way that is transformative and impactful.” Furthermore, Myriam adds, “mentorship is a part of a broader process of helping rising change-makers with the confidence, knowledge, and networks they need to be successful in this holistic sense.”

Emory MDP looks forward to seeing the relationship between Bianca and Myriam grow. This dynamic duo is destined to have a positive impact on those they work with through The Nature Conservancy!

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