The Network Society & Our Mentor Program

mondayminutenoct29.jpgDear Colleagues,

This evening, the college kicked off its mentoring program in the McNamara Alumni Center, where 233 students, 205 mentors, and 101 employers gathered to share information and get to know each other. The college supports the mentoring program, one of the larger ones at the university, because of the value it brings in furthering the education of our students and in keeping our disciplines connected to those who will one day work with and employ our graduates.

As I looked out over the crowd at McNamara, I thought about a talk I gave earlier today to community members and school leaders in Hopkins about the rise of what the sociologists Jan van Dijk and Manuel Castells have called the “network society.” Communities like Hopkins – and colleges like ours – realize that we cannot do everything ourselves and that the more we network with others, be it across the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the case of Hopkins or with practitioners and employers in the community in the case of our mentoring program, the more effective we will be in meeting our mission.

DSC_3990.jpgThe conversation in Hopkins largely revolved around the use of digital media to build social networks and to leverage the human capital needed to make communities work in an era of limited resources and unlimited demand. Meanwhile, our mentoring event showed that networking face-to-face is just as effective in enhancing communications, building relationships, and engendering trust. Regardless of how we create and maintain networks, however, I think van Dijk and Castells are right: we are all in the network society and the more we help our students develop a web of relationships and navigate the “space of flows” as Castells puts it, the more successful they will be – and we will be as a result.


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Tom Fisher
Professor and Dean
College of Design