Africa’s Brain Bank’s Twelve-Strand Systemic Mentoring Model
The following twelve strand systemic mentoring model is derived in part from the Ten Strand
Systemic Mentoring Model of the Timbuktu Academy (1). It deliberately entails a weaving of
the following “overlapping” strands. [The implementation of its model and related results
earned the Timbuktu Academy the 2002 US Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM
(1) “Basic and Advanced Research Training for the New Millennium: the
Model of the Timbuktu Academy.” D. Bagayoko, R. Bobba, E. L. Kelley, and S. Hasan. Journal of
Materials Education, Vol. 24 (1-3), Pages 177-184, 2002.
1. Financial support is provided to the scholars from a variety of sources – guidance,
monitoring, and other components of systemic mentoring guarantee the use of the resulting “time
dividend” for studies, research, and related enrichment activities on a full time basis. The rule
of thumb is to secure a diversified funding base for the financial support to be provided to the
2. Comprehensive, Scientific Advisement – The proper sequencing of courses is treated
with the utmost care. Indeed, the internal rigidity (or taxonomic structure) of science,
technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) disciplines requires this approach. Empowering
the learner is a central aim of mentoring. This empowerment includes grasping the Power Law of
Human Performance and its extension, the Law of Human Performance (ILP); and knowing a
few time-tested facts and practices (first-time memory retention curve, the value of effective
study groups, a problem solving paradigm, the difference between lacking a background material
and not being “smart.”). New and emerging social media and related platforms should be
integrated into this advisement and support system for optimal results. These platforms include
WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc., for social media, and virtual platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, etc.
3. Communication skill enhancement – A host of listening, speaking, reading, writing and
related activities are aimed at developing the mastery of the applicable language (English), a
vehicle of thought. This activity entails vigorous exposure to technical communication as
provided for in “Writing for Success” (1998, McGraw-Hill Companies, pp. 135-176 and pp.
212-215), beyond regular English course work. Again, the tool of asynchronous interactions
noted above should be utilized in aspect of the communication skill enhancement.
4. Tutoring – Tutoring by faculty members and particularly by peers will continue to be
available to the students or scholars who need it. (In fact, regular tutoring areas are often taken
over by self-organized study groups!) Tutoring is for excellence, not for remediation; it is to
address holes in a background and to reinforce known essentials; the need for it is not a sign of
any lack of intrinsic smartness, so says the Power Law of Human Performance, but rather a wise
recognition of the internal rigidity of STEM fields. Incidentally, tutoring by advanced scholars
also promotes their communication skills and their sense of self-worth, while they review
materials (so says the PLHP and the LHP)!
5. Generic research activities – Rigorous literature searches are conducted by the scholars
on several subjects. They master sophisticated search algorithms, electronic searches, and
related iterations. The scientific literature is an unlimited source of research questions!
Refereed literature is the standard for STEM disciplines. Discussions of the fine structures of the scientific
method, critical thinking, and of creative thinking are part of this discourse.
6. Specific research project execution by the scholars in our mentoring programs – Faculty
members and researchers at federal and industrial laboratories serve as research supervisors and
mentors during the summer. According to the Law of Human Performance, research
experiences should prepare for graduate studies and for productive research careers. Seeking
summer research opportunities on-line, at conferences, and through visits to various laboratories
and agencies is one requirement for a mentoring program. Assisting scholars to apply vigorously
and professionally for these opportunities and maintaining adequate files on each scholar, partly
for the purpose of writing substantial (as opposed to general and vague) recommendations, are
some tasks for mentors to accomplish.
7. Development of a professional culture – Every scholar is exposed to discussions that
explore the dimensions of ethics in science. Immersion in a professional culture demands
regular reading of technical journals and appropriate magazines of professional societies,
conference attendance, and collaboration with others. Current awareness needs no explanation in
an era of information explosion. Professional practices and standards are set and seen in
publications, regular (weekly) seminars, and at conferences. As for the need for and value of
collaboration, we simply assert that not one individual has built or operated a nuclear submarine,
an aircraft carrier, or a space shuttle alone!
8. Appropriation of Emerging Computer and Technological Skills – The mastery of
productivity tools, including word-processing, spreadsheets, database, graphics, other
applications, and scientific programming (C++, FORTRAN, etc.) are needed. Electronic
communication and productive surfing of the web are needed by the middle of the first semester.
Advanced exposure has to include a programming language. (The need for these activities stems
from practices in the environments to which the students are destined, i.e., graduate schools and
the global, competitive market). Some of the skills envisioned here are related to CAMSS
(Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social, and Security).
9. Monitoring –facilitated by the mentoring portfolios of scholars. Without this
portfolio, a mentoring cannot be comprehensive or systemic as we now understand it. With
monitoring, throughout the semester, potential problems are avoided before they become
permanent Fs. Preventive measures include concentrated efforts, extra-tutoring, and the last
resort, dropping a course. The former two steps are best when they are taken as early as
possible. The latter step is not an available option past a certain date after mid-term! The
monitoring of research participation and performance is critical for another reason: the
development or reinforcement of non-cognitive skills that undergird success (self-discipline,
hard work, assiduity, working well with others, etc.). Monitoring and evaluation are part of a
professional environment, without them, who will know what a beautiful job a scholar has done!
As such, blind peer assessments and electronic performance evaluation can enhance the
10. Guidance to Graduate School – It begins in the freshman year (or earlier) and
includes research experiences, conference attendance, Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
preparation starting the freshman year, and opportunities for financial support for graduate
studies! Placement in graduate programs follows steps similar to those for summer placement.
The number and the extent of the opportunities depend on the cumulative grade point average for
the BS degree, the courses taken, research experiences and results, and the GRE score. In
addition, graduate preparation will include an understanding of the non-academic factors that are
critical to success in graduate school (study habits, self-discipline, hard work, etc.). Emphasis
will be placed on the establishment of a seamless transition to graduate schools.
11 Leadership Development by Design
Leadership rests in part on the correct processing of information, particularly in an age where
falsehood is easily spread through the Web. Ensuring the accuracy, the precision, and the
completeness of information is necessary before acting on it. With this correct information
processing ability, sound judgment, good character, and high work ethics are three pillars of
leadership to be honed by design. The role of the Strand on communication ability is crucial in
12. The Development of Civic Virtue. Civic virtue entails the understanding of the role of
an individual in the success of society. As such, it involves the dedication of individuals to the
common welfare of society. This behavioral trait, like cognitive ones, is developed and honed
through practice, as per the Law of Human Performance (LHP).