In early 2019, Roel Beetsma asked me if I would like to become a mentor for a ASE tenure trackers and PhD candidates. Beetsma, currently the dean of EB, was the chair of the Amsterdam School of Economics at the time. He sought me out because I was retired and not part of the UvA EB hierarchy. But I had extensive (since 1966!) experience in a variety of roles at EB. I was happy to do it, in part because I’m grateful to still be able to use the research facilities.
Informal and confidential
At the time I was active in an administrative role in the professionalisation of EB’s personnel policy. In that position I was involved in a few things such as the introduction, format and implementation of annual consultations. As a mentor, I now hold an informal and completely confidential role, alongside the officially appointed employees such as individual supervisors, confidential counsellors, the ombudsperson, the occupational physician etc. Academic staff with a temporary appointment can approach me when they experience work-related problems. Sometimes it’s difficult to bring such matters directly to the attention of the supervisor or colleagues. One reason for this is that the person involved might not be aware of the unwritten rules and expectations in the workplace. As a mentor, I try to give the person involved a helping hand in how you could evaluate the problem and how to raise the issue so it can be resolved. I’ll only take action myself if the person involved asks me to do that.
Called in to help
Over the past few years I’ve only been called in to help a handful of times. I hope that’s because the formal structures work well, although I can't say with certainty if that’s the case. The problems I encountered always involved the difficult role taken on by supervisors in their position as PhD supervisor and or section/department chair. They often perform roles that are difficult to combine, such as being a source of inspiration and encouragement, an assessor, co-author, confidante, teacher, educator, critic, and sometimes competitor. It comes as no surprise that ambitions and expectations are easily pushed aside.