Mentoring and professional development – part 1

Written by MA Translation Studies graduate Rebecca Ellerker

Mentoring plays a key role in the Translation Studies MA programme at Exeter. The Translation Studies department is built around a team of highly-qualified and skilled staff. Their knowledge and expertise with all that relates to translation, its theory and history, as well as the practical and specialist side of translation is second to none. The staff are at the core of Exeter’s carefully crafted syllabus; they are skilled mentors and have designed a programme that meets the needs of the students and provides ample opportunity for them to grow and develop their practice and theoretical thinking. The result of this mentoring is that students are enriched with the knowledge and skills they require to pursue their chosen careers in translation-related fields.

However, the staff, as mentors, are not there simply to provide students with ‘the answers’ but rather to guide them towards finding ‘their own answers.’ At the very core of this mentoring is the relationship between the mentor and the mentee: most often (but not exclusively) the tutor and the student. As a recent Translation Studies graduate I am certain that the course’s greatest strength is the fundamental emphasis placed on the relationship between staff and students and how this enables students (and perhaps even staff too) to reach their greatest potential.

At Masters level many of those enrolled on the programme bring with them vast and varied life-experiences that are both welcomed and valued. Part of the mentoring process that is so integral to the programme is that students are encouraged to contribute to the content of the course, allowing themselves to develop the skills required to succeed, whilst contributing also to the mentoring of their peers. There is a very genuine sense that staff and students alike are valued for the knowledge and experience that they bring to the course.

So, what does this look like in practice? The programme is delivered through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops (amongst other activities – see part 2) – all of which require active participation not only from the staff, but from the students as well:

  • During lectures, tutors deliver content, but also take time to ask probing questions, designed to develop and deepen students’ thinking and understanding;
  • During language specific practical workshops, students are encouraged to take the lead in sharing and discussing their own translation strategies and solutions. Tutors then carefully structure their input in order that students can reflect and improve upon their own practice;
  • In seminars students are asked to take turns in preparing and delivering presentations. The tutors join the remaining students as active listeners and use their own knowledge to further challenge and develop the group.

Underpinning this entire process are, of course, the strong relationships that are fostered between the staff and the students. These relationships are developed from the very beginning of the programme, when staff treat students as fellow professionals from the outset. The Translation Studies students have a dedicated Translation Studies laboratory, equipped with dual-monitor computer stations and up-to-date translation software; there is also a Translation Studies study room and lounge where students can relax with a coffee and the latest translation journals from the professional institutions, or benefit from a quiet environment in which to work on their latest assignments. Tutors take time during one-to-one sessions to get to know the students. One-to-one sessions are offered at several points during the programme to allow students to discuss arising issues, assignment feedback and to seek further guidance and assistance if required. Students also have sessions scheduled during assignment writing periods to enable in-depth discussion with their tutors relating specifically to their own ideas. The mentoring received really comes into focus in this environment as students are able to reflect on the these conversations and improve upon their practice and academic writing.

Post-graduation, I am now working as a freelance translator and I feel extremely privileged to have completed the MA in Translation Studies at Exeter and to have worked alongside such a dedicated and committed team of tutors. I am absolutely certain that I have the confidence, skills and knowledge to pursue this career path largely thanks to the mentoring and lasting-relationships that I developed during the course. In part 2 of this blog I will explore the many professional development opportunities that the MA in Translation Studies offers.