By Sarah E. Holland
ACUA Board Member

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” ~ Isaac Newton

At some point in our individual pasts, we were all new to a situation, to a class, to a job, to a team, to a hobby. We were novices in need of some level of guidance, training, or coaching, some sort of targeted information to help us succeed. I can certainly recall any number of instances when I found myself in that position and I instinctively began a search for someone who knew more than I did, an individual with greater understanding who I could learn from. We all started somewhere.

In 2018, at the SHA Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, the ACUA launched its inaugural conference mentoring program, with mentors ready to meet with interested graduate students, recent graduates, and early career professionals. That year was my first serving as an elected member of the Board of Directors for the ACUA, and I was lucky to be approached by other board members to act as a mentor in the program. To be perfectly honest, my initial thought was that being new to the Board, I was in need of a mentor myself and would likely be better off as a mentee! Nonetheless, having long supported the need for mentors in all walks of life, I gratefully accepted. From that first opportunity, I have remained involved in the ACUA Mentoring Program, both as a mentor and for a number of years as the Chair of the Mentoring Committee. I will always be grateful for the many varied experiences this has afforded me during my time on the ACUA Board.

In the intervening years since its launch, mentors from the ACUA Board have met with close to one hundred mentees. In many instances, those mentor/mentee matches have maintained contact as the mentee’s careers have developed; in several instances, those mentees have gone on to serve as Graduate Student Associate Board Members, to have been awarded ACUA financial awards to support their studies by attending the annual SHA Conference, and many have retained close ties to the work and practice of the ACUA. I can say without hesitation that the ACUA and its Board of Directors are excited and deeply gratified to see them move on from their education and into their careers in the field. We can only hope they will, in turn, run for election to become voting members of the Board and, with any luck, eventually become mentors themselves. After all, that is the whole point of the original program, to have established professionals meet with students and early career professionals, in the hope they will become mentors to the next generation of maritime archaeologists.

I will happily admit that while I have worked with the ACUA mentoring program, the conference meetings with mentees has remained a highlight of my conference experience. At the 2024 conference in Oakland, California, we were able to hold our first ever mentor-mentee program reception, generously sponsored by the PAST Foundation ( The idea for this reception came from one of the mentees who participated in the program at the 2023 conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and the committee immediately knew it was the element we had been missing in the program. We were delighted to learn that PAST will sponsor this reception going forward, allowing the current cohort of mentor/mentee matches at upcoming conferences to meet at the same time, allowing the mentees to meet with a number of mentors, if they wish, while also allowing the mentees to meet each other face-to-face, opening the doors for increased networking and collaboration as their careers launch and flourish.

As the SHA Conference is returning to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the 2025 conference, it seems only fitting that the ACUA as a whole, and the mentors, mentees, and Board of Directors individually take a moment to celebrate past successes, while also seeking input from all previous participants on how we can grow the program in the future. Toward that end, if you have participated in the program as either a mentee or a mentor in any year since the original launch, we would love it if you could take a few minutes to answer the questions in the survey at the following link. We have no doubt that with your input, the program can continue to go from strength to strength!


* The match reference in the title is referencing the ‘match’ made between the mentor and mentee in the process of organizing each conference program and the ‘match’ that lights the spark in mentorship, referencing a previous post about the program available at the following link: Be the Match that Ignites the Wood

Other ACUA Blog Links that might be of interest:
ACUA Mentorship Program Debuts in New Orleans 2018 by Jessica Keller and Amanda Evans
How to Conference by Della Scott-Ireton

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