Saturday, August 6, 2011

On the Importance of Mentors and Friends

For years now I have been reflecting on the importance of mentors, those who are both formally and informally matched with us. In the past I have written about the topic, particularly in my essay, "Mentoring and Love: An Open Letter." But most recently, I have revisited the topic because of the loss of three colleagues in the field: John Warren, Ray Puchot, and Nacho Cordova. I had the privilege of knowing all of these men to varying degrees, but they were all folks I looked forward to running into every year at our national convention, NCA. I have already written a bit about these losses on my own blog, but in the context of this space reflecting on critical pedagogy I think of them again. Each was a mentor. John Warren spend his career writing and mentoring in the field, particularly in Critical Communication Pedagogy, an area he helped pioneer. Ray and Nacho were pioneers and advocates in the field of Latina/o Communication Studies, but also in the formation of the discipline organizationally. Both were active in creating a space for our voices as Latinos in structure of NCA; something we might remember was not always there and we still fight for.  Ray was the Parliamentarian of the group and could always be counted on to be at meetings to inform the structure and hope his usual, "Hola amigo!" followed by a big hug. He was always professional and always wanting to make connections across caucuses. I do not remember an NCA without him. Likewise, Nacho was one of the central members of the LCSD and La Raza Caucus who had also served as Vice-Chair and Chair, which included program planning (a thankless job indeed). Nacho's work in rhetoric was central in creating a space for Latina/o Communication Studies. Nacho was also one of the few Puerto Rican scholars in the field I have met. Though he and I did not always agree theoretically, I always respected him and his work. I was intrigued by the photography he had been doing. From what I hear he was a much loved teacher and mentor at Williamette.

I reflect on these men because they have reminded me of the ways people come into our lives, impact us, and in some ways serve as mentors whether we know it or not. I was inspired by Ray's pride in La Raza and his determination to fight for us at the national organization. John's work ethic and work inspired me and continues to do as. The same with Nacho. Nacho was also a bit of a veterano in the area and he was someone that I looked to as a leader in the area both in regards to research and professional service. He was committed to mentoring a new generation of scholars in Latina/o Communication Studies as he had been organizing a panel for them this past year at NCA. He wanted to remind us all of the importance of being mentors. We will honor each of these men at NCA, but I wonder if we as critical educators might continue to honor them by embodying the spirit of reciprocity each one lived.