Radio-TV-Film Doctoral Student Olivier Tchouaffe

Olivier TchouaffeThis spring 2006, I am mentoring two students in RTF in the IE Pre-Grad Internship: Amanda Tufano and Kristin Gamez. I am working in connection with Professor Ramirez-Berg. The task is to help students building up skills for qualitative research. My contribution consists in training these advanced undergraduate students in methods and practices related to qualitative book research. It requires skills in finding relevant articles, books to a particular project which this semester is Italian Neo-Realism and the French New wave. The second aspect involves learning skills in production values.

My reflection has to do with certain aspects of what I observed to be certain aspects of the interns' individual approaches. I based my observations on a comparison with my experience as a mentor the previous semester. Each individual intern brings his or her own personality and work ethics into the relationship. The mentors and the students have a relationship that is quite different from when the mentor is the principal instructor in the classroom. Without the differential element in power status which intervenes between a professor and a student, the "intimate strategies" between a mentor and an intern can be quite direct. In my case, in the initial encounter with some of my interns, I was asked direct personal questions, such as how old are you? How long have you been living in the country? (I was born and raised in Cameroon) Are you married? What is your dissertation topic about? I hardly got the same kinds of questions I got when I was the primary instructors in the classroom. It is clear that some interns look to establish different kinds of rapport, which is one of familiarity versus professor who can be an intimidating figure.

Most interns demonstrate a strong interest reflecting a hunger to know more. They favor more personal contacts. Those are the motivated ones, in clear need of using their time well. They like to check their own progress often with the mentors, to see how they do and where they stand. Those self-motivated interns are fun to work with. My first mentee was a Plan II, Pre-med and Pre-law school students and also a Salsa Dance teacher belongs to that category. Her need to know behavior had an effect on me. She made me feel useful as a mentor for the way her work ethic demonstrates that self-confidence and competence do not preclude a need to know attitude and a positive sense of familiarity.

Within this context, we must continually re-evaluate the structure of the Pre-Graduate School Internship? I claim that the whole process must not be reduced to professionalism, a stepping-block or a forum for students as a dress rehearsal to get into graduate school. Rather, for an effective institution of Pre-Graduate School Internship, I believe that the interns should identify in advance their cultural repertoires, their priorities and needs. In brief, why they are seeking graduate mentoring before signing up for the program.