Dynamics of Tensions and a Sense of Belonging in an Informal Peer Mentoring Community of Women Faculty

  • Ke Wu
  • Nilsa ThorsosEmail author
  • Anne L. Kern


Women in academia face many challenges as they navigate through the tenure and promotion process. In addition, institutes of higher education lack the appropriate support to meet the varied needs to mentor diverse faculty. Researchers have shown the importance of mentoring networks to support women in their academic career progression, as well as advancement toward tenure, promotion, and leadership as faculty in higher education. However, few researchers explore the tensions and conflicts in mentoring networks, their dynamics, and implications in the communities of practice. In this chapter we conducted an ethnographic case study using communities of practice (CoPs) as a cognitive framework to examine the dynamics of tensions and sense of belonging in an informal peer-mentoring network of 21 women faculty who connect globally. The findings showed that members held an overall sense of belonging to this network community. In addition, three themes emerged regarding tensions: Members of the community recognized the existence of tensions; lack of space, action, and opportunity to resolve conflicts; and members’ hesitancy to use their voice. Implications of this study include considerations to support collaborative communities, the need to intentionally address aspects of collaborative productivity, and suggestions for ways to resolve conflicts when working in informal mentoring and distant communities.


Tensions Sense of belonging Peer mentoring Communities of practice Woman faculty in higher education 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.National UniversityLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of EducationUniversity of IdahoCoeur d’AleneUSA

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