Effective graduate student mentoring requires faculty and students to communicate about a variety of topics ranging from programmatic requirements to interpersonal aspects of the mentoring relationship.
Rackham’s MORE (Mentoring Others Results in Excellence) Committee engages with faculty and graduate students to foster these conversations with the goal of creating awareness regarding the benefits of mentoring and challenges that may arise. Specifically, MORE provides faculty with effective tools and practices for mentoring graduate students that, when applied, result in improved retention, productivity and overall student success.
The committee is comprised of approximately ten faculty members with appointments from across the disciplinary spectrum of doctoral programs at U-M and one Rackham support staff member. We endeavor to provide solutions that are sufficiently universal to the graduate student experience while offering content tailored to disciplinary norms through discussions with departmental leadership and faculty.
MORE’s approach is to read the academic literature about mentoring and synthesize that literature with its members’ own experiences working with U-M graduate students. We use this understanding to engage U-M faculty in discussions about how to improve mentoring relationships between faculty and graduate students.
We hold faculty-only workshops in departments as well as with faculty new to U-M. In addition, we offer workshops for faculty-student dyads, which provide a structured opportunity for faculty and students to develop shared expectations that are formalized into a mentoring plan.
Using literature review and synthesis, MORE has developed a module on mentoring across difference that acknowledges an inherent reality of faculty life: the graduate population is heterogeneous in gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, family status, language, age, and sexual orientation. The module addresses this reality from the premise that faculty must be self-aware and sensitive to difference in social interactions, work styles, and overall communication using literature-based approaches to illustrate best practices. MORE is also responsive to new and emerging challenges among the U-M graduate student population symptomatic of national trends. A recent example of our newly developed material examines the crisis in mental health among graduate students, and provides recommendations and resources for a course of action that is suitable at U-M. Most recently, we have focused on producing content appropriate to the specific needs of master’s programs.
Our workshops encourage and train faculty on the benefits of using mentoring plans as a tool to help manage individual students’ mentoring. We seek to partner with departments implementing mentoring plans as a standard element of their programs by working to customize template content through faculty and departmental leadership input.
What We’ve Learned
We continue to reach out to U-M faculty and departmental leadership with invitations to attend mentoring plan workshops or host a department workshop. We observe a consistent increase in attendance at our mentoring plan workshops, and because many faculty attend repeatedly with new students, we provide new content to stay relevant to those whom we have already engaged.
For departments and units interested in implementing mentoring plans as an expectation or requirement for faculty working with graduate students, MORE facilitates consensus building among faculty through guided discussions about norms and best practices. We have learned that by acting in concert with program leadership we can overcome faculty concerns about centralized imposition of additional requirements for faculty. Through this partnership model we observe broad acceptance of the utility of mentoring plans among participants in MORE workshops.
The MORE Committee continuously reviews and discusses literature on graduate student mentoring. Our workshops adapt to the changing landscape and needs of graduate training, professional and academic development, and career outcomes as they relate to mentoring. Our committee is committed to designing and implementing content that is responsive to emergent technologies and workshop best practices.
Rackham Graduate School
- Zana Kwaiser, Lead Program Officer for Dean’s Office, Rackham Graduate School
- Cagliyan Kurdak, MORE Committee Chair; Professor of Physics and Academic Program Director, Applied Physics (LSA)
- David Sept, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Initiatives, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies
To learn more visit the MORE Committee page.