Mentorship Without Hierarchy: The economists Darrick Hamilton and Sandy Darity met as student and adviser. Now, they see themselves as equals.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
The Atlantic

"In their research together, the economists Darrick Hamilton and William “Sandy” Darity Jr. have examined the racial wealth gap and policies to address it, such as a federal jobs guarantee. The pair met 20 years ago, when Darity was Hamilton’s dissertation adviser at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, they’ve moved on to different universities—Darity is now at Duke, and Hamilton at the New School—but they’ve kept up a friendship based on their research as well as other common interests such as college basketball.

Hamilton describes their relationship as one without “hierarchies.” He says that while mentorship is often reduced to binary roles, such as teacher-student or boss-employee, his dynamic with Darity doesn’t quite fit that mold. As their work and lives have changed, so has the way that they learn from each other; Darity, for instance, once convinced his younger mentee of the benefits of using social media.

For The Atlantic’s series on mentorship, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” I spoke with the pair about their almost family-like dynamic and how, in their field, mentorship can be corrupted by paternalism. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the full interview with Darity and Hamilton here