Mentoring graduate students

The heart of new knowledge creation at a research university lies in the mentoring relationship between graduate students and faculty members.

But what is a mentor? A good mentor will play many roles in the course of the relationship. A good starting definition is that provided by Morris Zelditch:

"Mentors are advisors, people with career experience willing to share their knowledge; supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, people who give specific feedback on one's performance; masters, in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed; sponsors, sources of information about and aid in obtaining opportunities; models, of identity, of the kind of person one should be to be an academic."

That quote is taken from an excellent document on mentoring published by the National Academies Press called ADVISER, TEACHER, ROLE MODEL, FRIEND. As that document says:

"In academics, mentor is often used synonymously with faculty adviser. A fundamental difference between mentoring and advising is more than advising; mentoring is a personal, as well as, professional relationship. An adviser might or might not be a mentor, depending on the quality of the relationship. A mentoring relationship develops over an extended period, during which a student's needs and the nature of the relationship tend to change. A mentor will try to be aware of these changes and vary the degree and type of attention, help, advice, information, and encouragement that he or she provides."

CWRU is committed to promoting and recognizing good mentoring practices. In order to achieve these goals:

  • UCITE has created a Mentor Fellows program, details of which can be found here.
  • CWRU's Graduate Student Senate (GSS) has researched the question of what consitutes good mentoring practices and created a resource page with links to useful information.
  • The GSS has created an original document titled Mentoring Guidebook for Faculty that serves as a good starting point for learning about what constitutes good mentoring practices.
  • The GSS has also researched and created a corresponding Mentee Guidebook for Students, since a successful mentor-mentee relationship depends upon both parties understanding what their responsibilities are and doing their part.
  • In 2008-2009, the GSS conducted a survey among graduate students at CWRU about the state of mentoring here and published the results so as to help the university get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses.
  • The university offers two sources of travel awards to conferences for graduate students.
  • The Graduate Student Senate offers a free peer review and editing service for students' papers and dissertations.
  • There is also the Eva L. Pancoast award for women students in the School of Graduate Studies.

Other resources:

In addition to the links on the GSS resource page, other good sites that deal with mentoring from the faculty persepctive are from the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (also here).

The University of Wisconsin has also published a free evidence and research-based book Entering Mentoring that can be downlloaded in pdf form.

The University of Michigan and Syracuse University have websites that look at this same issue from the perspective of graduate students.