One professor, originally
friendly and
reduced a
stipend when
he learned
that she was pregnant.

Relationships and interactions with mentors and other professors
Finding the right mentor and developing a "patron/client" relationship with professors are important factors in obtaining graduate degrees and employment. In general, South Asian women were very successful in developing a good patron/client relationship with their male and female professors throughout their student life. They handled the few unfavourable situations intelligently and courageously. Those aware of the importance of a good relationship with their principal advisor adopted strategies which enabled them to choose their advisor and committee very carefully. For example, one respondent decided to take as many courses as possible to get to know her professors before choosing her thesis supervisor and committee members. She had very amicable relationships during and after her Ph.D.

Evidently, many professors were encouraging, supportive and helpful. For instance, one advisor encouraged and helped a student obtain admission to both the Masters and Ph.D. programs; two other students had supportive women as advisors. One of these women recalled that her advisor in the Masters program made her work hard and strengthened her confidence in her own writing. Her Ph.D. supervisor was also helpful and promptly corrected her thesis which enabled her to complete the degree rapidly. Both advisors wrote good letters of recommendation and have maintained contact with this student.

Four other respondents praised their advisors and other professors because they were always accessible and gave feedback. A few advisors provided financial help for their students. For example, after the first semester one student was offered a fellowship by her advisor while another was offered a job.

The relationship between professors and some South Asian women students went beyond patron/client relationship. For example, one woman stayed at her advisor's house for approximately two weeks when she arrived as an unmarried young woman student. His family helped her to find an apartment and get adjusted to life in Canada. Another professor functioned as a father figure and was present in that role at his student's wedding. Others invited students to their homes at Christmas; many became family friends. Some friendships that developed between advisors and graduate students have persisted. One respondent reported that after twenty-five years she still corresponds with some of her professors.

However, some women reported unpleasant confrontations with professors. One respondent recounted that, unfamiliar with the Canadian writing conventions, she submitted a paper without putting the references according to the accepted format. The professor accused her of plagiarism and although she tried to explain her inexperience, he was not satisfied. The department's chair was more sympathetic; he advised her to drop the course and replace it with another. When another woman, after her Masters, wanted to move to a Ph.D. program, her professors asked her to give a public lecture on her completed graduate work and her Ph.D. thesis proposal. Feeling she was experiencing discrimination, she fought against it and won. She said, "I do not mind doing that, I have no problem giving a public lecture, I am a good public speaker. But there was a [white male] student of the last chairman who moved from the Masters program to the Ph.D. program without giving a public seminar. He gave a private seminar to the committee members. I would like to do the same thing. It is on principle. That student had 'B' and you gave him permission to do the private seminar. I have 'A+', I should be allowed to do the private seminar too." The professors were convinced by her argument and agreed. She went on to complete her Ph.D. successfully.

Like many others, South Asian women experienced gender inequality. For example, one professor, originally friendly and helpful, reduced a graduate student's stipend when he learned that she was pregnant. According to her, he thought that as a mother she would be a "totally useless person and would not be able to do the work she was doing." Many years later she still recalled her hurt and disappointment.

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