Dear Dissertation Diva:
How do I repair a relationship with a former mentor? Nothing bad really happened, I simply moved away from the university area and dropped the ball on staying in touch.
Dear Rebuilding Bridges:
Congratulations on wanting to make a positive change by repairing a a mentor relationship. The Dissertation Diva believes that fostering professional relationships with mentors is definitely part of what you should be doing in graduate school.
The good news is that repairing a relationship with a mentor is possible, with time and strategy. Broken bridges can be repaired. Burned bridges can be rebuilt. Or, if there is really no bridge for miles, you can get creative and swim across the river!
I suggest these Action Steps:
Action Step #1: Research your mentor's current projects. What classes is she teaching this semester? (Look over the syllabi online.) Has he just published a book? (Read it.) Is she giving a paper at the next national conference. (Attend, if you can.) Has he returned from a research trip to Asia? (Formulate questions about it.)
Action Step #2: Write to your mentor. Email may be best, or a written note may be appropriate. Let them know what you're doing. Tell them how their mentorship and work has inspired you. Say thank you for past support. Then -- and this is important -- ask to set up a phone meeting to update them on your current projects.
Action Step #3: Ask about and respect your mentor's availability for working with you from this point forward. For example, you might ask: "Would you be available to talk with me on the phone regularly while you're on sabbatical? Your guidance would be important for me that semester because I'll be on the job market."
Action Step #4: Maintain contact in the future. YOU are responsible for initiating and maintaining positive relationships with your mentors. It's not their job to hunt you down. It is part of YOUR PhD process to connect with mentors, follow their work, request meetings, send them emails, send them drafts if appropriate, ask them information about funding, etc.
Caveat: Don't despair if your actions don't seem to be working immediately. Professional relationships are built over years. Be patient, and keep working on your dissertation. Don't let stalled mentor relationships stall YOUR progress towards your goal.