Dr. Lynda Lee Kaid
UF College of Journalism and Commuinications
2010-2011 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner
Mentoring doctoral students is both a great professional joy and a humbling responsibility. I wish I could offer a mentoring template to guarantee success. I can only describe the strategies that have helped me to graduate 41 Ph.D. students. In honor of my success, the National Communication Association recently named its annual political communication dissertation award the “Lynda Lee Kaid Outstanding Political Communication Dissertation Award.”
First, my doctoral students immediately become members of a research team, working with other faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate assistants. This is especially important in the fall semester of an election year when we are engaged in numerous projects related to political debates, advertising, social networking sites on the Internet, news coverage, gender styles in politics, and other topics. Doctoral students learn to work together and to supervise undergraduate team members, taking advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Team research of this kind not only allows the new doctoral student to be part of start-to-finish research project, but it also provides opportunities for developing working relationships with other doctoral students. Even more long-term value for a doctoral student is the chance to be involved with the UVote team, an international consortium of faculty and graduate students at 32 different universities throughout the United States and 12 international universities who have joined together to conduct political communication research. Since I am the coordinator of this group, I am able to facilitate involvement and cooperative research efforts for doctoral students. When one of my doctoral students completes his work at UF, s/he will already have the beginnings of career-long relationships with a network of scholars.
Second, I place a priority on encouraging my doctoral students to engage in interdisciplinary research. My own work has been greatly enriched by the early commitment to cross-disciplinary research. My own doctoral mentor socialized me from the beginning to look at the discipline as one where I could learn a great deal from the exposure, not just to different points of view, but to different disciplinary perspectives. And thus, my doctoral advisors included scholars from speech communication, radio and television, legal studies, journalism, psychology, and political science. I want my doctoral students to benefit from such cross-fertilization and to build foundations that cross disciplinary lines throughout their careers.
Third, and related to my first goal of integrating doctoral students into research teams, is my commitment to providing international opportunities for doctoral students. I was fortunate to have a doctoral mentor who realized the importance of seeing political communication from an international perspective, and I worked with him to form the first organized Political Communication Division in our discipline (in the International Communication Association in 1973-74). My doctoral students have had the opportunity to work on projects with scholars at the University of Paris I (Sorbonne), Cambridge University, University of Koblenz-Landau, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Mid-Sweden University (Sundsvall, Sweden), St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University (Bulgaria), University of Milan, Warsaw School of Advanced Social Psychology, Tartu University (Estonia), and several others. I have secured funding for doctoral students to accompany me to international team meetings for ongoing projects and to deliver papers at international conferences, most recently the 2010 International Communication Association (ICA) conference in Singapore; the 2006 ICA Conference in Dresden; the 2004 Campaigning for Europe Symposium in Landau, Germany; the 2003 Political Marketing Conference, London; and the 2002ICA Conference in Seoul. Before conferences, whether in the U.S. or abroad, I organize practice sessions for students to present their papers.
Interdisciplinary and international perspectives are important because external funding sources place increased emphasis on such perspectives, and my fourth strategy is to “indoctrinate” doctoral students in the process of seeking grants to support their research. I have secured substantial grants from the National Science Foundation, the Election Assistance Commission, the U.S. Department of Education, and numerous private foundations. Of course, I’ve also made applications that failed. From searching for funding sources and writing proposals to carrying out projects; doctoral students are involved. I also conduct workshops on grant seeking for students.
Fifth, and this seems rather obvious, but publishing is important. I hope my doctoral students are excited about the value their research has for its own sake and for the discovery of new knowledge, but they must also understand the importance of publishing that research so that they can contribute to the “marketplace of ideas” in our discipline. Many of my own nearly 200 refereed journal articles and book chapters are co-authored with doctoral students, and several of the 30 books I have authored/edited have been joint ventures with former doctoral students. When I was recently named one of the most productive scholars in our discipline by Communication Quarterly and a few years ago when I was honored with a permanent plaque in the Plaza of Heroines at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics for my research on gender and political communication, I used the occasions to inspire and to challenge my past, current, and future doctoral students to join me in achieving similar goals for themselves.
I am proud that many of my former doctoral students are well on the way to achieving these goals. Of the 41 doctoral students I have chaired to completion (32 at the University of Oklahoma and 9 since I came to the University of Florida in 2001), many have secured jobs at high-ranking institutions such as Penn State University, the University of Kansas, Louisiana State University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech University, Iowa State University, and the University of Georgia.
Finally, I maintain a productive relationship with doctoral students after they graduate. From the beginning, I view them as colleagues who work with me, not for me. And, just as I believe that learning does not begin and end with semester deadlines, I believe that doctoral students are “forever,” and mine know they cannot elude working with me just by graduating. The doctoral student-mentor relationship is a continuing one, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make that relationship a reciprocal one. I truly believe they give as much to me as I give them.