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Mentoring and Advising

Research shows that both students and faculty benefit when graduate students are involved in effective mentoring and advising relationships.

  • The student is more productive in terms of research activity, conference presentations, predoctoral publications, instructional development, and grant-writing. The well-mentored students’ academic success is evident in higher completion rates and a shorter than average time to degree.
  • Faculty benefit in terms of both personal and professional satisfaction. As these students are more productive, faculty in turn attract better students, extend their professional network of future colleagues, and amplify their own success.

What is mentoring? A straightforward definition provided by the Council of Graduate Schools is that mentors are:

  • Advisors, who have career experience and share their knowledge.
  • Supporters, who give emotional and moral encouragement.
  • Tutors, who provide specific feedback on performance.
  • “Masters,” who serve as employers to graduate student “apprentices.”
  • Sponsors, who are sources of information and opportunities.
  • Models of identity, who serve as academic role models.

Guides for Mentors and Mentees

Rackham’s Faculty Committee on Mentoring

Rackham’s Faculty Committee on Mentoring provides faculty with effective tools and practices for mentoring graduate students and seeks to improve the graduate school experience for all students.

The Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE) faculty initiative engages with faculty and graduate students to foster conversations about mentoring. Contact Zana Kwaiser for more information.

Quick Tips

Examples from the University of Michigan

Applied Physics

This program also has a structured approach to pairing new students with faculty mentors that match student interests and needs. The students have a directed study or lab rotation during the winter term of the first year, the summer term, and then in the fall term of the second year. This gives the student exposure to working with a number of faculty in their areas of likely research. The program chair then provides the students with guidance regarding the faculty member who may be the best match for the student.

Business Administration

Professors, whether inside or outside of the Ross School of Business, are required to complete a confidential report on student progress for all courses, including 995. The confidential report is shared with the area’s graduate director and is used as an early warning system to help detect problems. In addition, the doctoral advisor for each area annually reviews the student’s self evaluation, confidential reports, and transcript so that he/she can provide the student with advice.

Immunology

Faculty in this department adapted an Individual Development Plan first introduced by a postdoctoral fellow who used the plan as a “contract” for his mentorship. Though its use is not mandatory, graduate students here are encouraged to use the IDP with their mentors.

Macromolecular Science and Engineering

MacroSE 790 (Faculty Activities Research Survey) pairs first-year students with faculty thesis advisors. First, the Director of the Program discusses with the student his/her interests and they agree on at least five faculty members to be interviewed by the student. The student then interviews the faculty members chosen (who sign the form supplied to the student by the Program Office) and chooses two faculty members as potential advisors, reporting the two choices to the Program Director. (Only one of the two chosen faculty members will be selected as the ultimate research supervisor.) A written report is included with the selection form, providing the Program Director with one paragraph on each individual interview with the faculty members. This is part of the grade for the course. After the faculty member has agreed to accept the student formal approval is given by the Director.

Download: MacroSE 790 Example Documents

Medical School

Faculty in in the Medical School use a guide similar to that used in Immunology.

Download: Guiding Principles between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors

Public Policy and the Social Sciences

This joint doctoral program provides a student with $3,500 (equivalent to a 0.25 GSRA) in order to work over a summer for any faculty member at U-M (faculty not required to be associated with the program). This fulfills an internship requirement for the degree program and the faculty member bears no cost for the student’s assistance. The practice encourages the joint student to explore his or her area of interest while at the same time fosters mentoring relationships.

Resources at the University of Michigan

Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE)

MORE supports and enhances graduate student mentoring at the University of Michigan with the goal of improving retention, productivity and overall success. This faculty committee, supported by Rackham, provides faculty with effective tools and practices for mentoring graduate students through specialized workshops, information, and consultation. MORE seeks to improve the graduate school experience for all students. The scope of MORE has begun with the STEM fields in the College of Engineering, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the Medical School and SNRE. Our activities in the future will expand to include other disciplines and fields.

Visit: Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE)

ADVANCE

“The ADVANCE Program began as a five-year, grant-funded project promoting institutional transformation with respect to women faculty in science and engineering fields. With the University’s commitment to continue funding through June 2016, the program is gradually expanding to promote other kinds of diversity among faculty and students in all fields.”

Visit: ADVANCE

Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

Their section on Resources for Faculty Mentoring describes their consultation service and connects the reader to detailed bibliographies and other resources on general mentoring, discipline-specific mentoring, training materials and more.

Visit: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

Checklist for Dissertation Chairs

Source: University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School

Provides a general set of widely applicable guidelines to assist faculty as they guide the student through the intellectual stages and institutional requirements of doctoral degree work at U-M. There are links to relevant resources and required forms.

Visit: Checklist for Dissertation Chairs

How to Get the Mentoring You Want

Source: University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School

This guide for graduate students is the companion publication to the faculty guide listed above.

Download: How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students at a Diverse University

How to Mentor Graduate Students

Source: University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School

This popular guide is an overview of the benefits and basics of mentoring, with a particular focus on working with students from diverse backgrounds and identities. It includes a directory of professional counseling resources on campus.

Download: How to Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty at a Diverse University

Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative

Source: Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative

Though this site is designed for a student audience, there is a section on how faculty mentors can assist African American graduate students.

Visit: Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative, Mentoring

Provost’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Mentoring and Community Building

This committee, formed in 2001, had among their charges the task of “identifying strategies to improve support for faculty, improving awareness and understanding of mentoring, surveying faculty and administrators regarding their experiences with and their needs for mentoring, and identifying ways that central administration can encourage and facilitate mentoring.” The report posted here includes appendices with detailed outlines for five different approaches.

Visit: Provost’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Mentoring and Community Building

Women in Science and Engineering

Upper level women graduate students serve as trained peer advisors and are available to assist and advise incoming women graduate students. Peer advisors for each department provide information and make referrals.

Visit: Women in Science and Engineering

Resources at Other Universities and Organizations

How to Succeed in Graduate School: A Guide for Students and Advisors

Source: Association for Computing Machinery

Crossroads, the student magazine produced by this organization, published this article that “attempts to raise some issues that are important for graduate students to be successful …The intent is not to provide prescriptive advice — no formulas for finishing a thesis or twelve-step programs for becoming a better advisor are given — but to raise awareness on both sides of the advisor-student relationship as to what the expectations are and should be for this relationship, what a graduate student should expect to accomplish, common problems, and where to go if the advisor is not forthcoming.”

Visit: How to Succeed in Graduate School: A Guide for Students and Advisors

Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering

Source: National Academy of Sciences

This short book (available both in print and online) has ample material of use to all who mentor students engaged in graduate study and research. It includes lists of basic tips, samples of poor and good mentoring styles, related facts to provide context, and chapter summaries.

Visit: Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering

A Resource Guide for Ethnic Minority Graduate Students

Source: American Psychological Association of Graduate Students

This lengthy guide looks at general graduate school issues, those specific to ethnic minority students, describes the essential components of graduate school education, and advice about preparing for life after graduate school.

Visit: A Resource Guide for Ethnic Minority Graduate Students

Choosing a Thesis Lab

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

This is a very detailed article designed for students in the early stages of graduate study. Students are encouraged first to think carefully about their own personality and work style. Then there are sections on academic and other considerations about the PI, the lab in general and department requirements. It includes questions for the student to ask the PI, other students and department staff.

Visit: Choosing a Thesis Lab

Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

This document “is intended to initiate discussions at the local and national levels about the postdoctoral appointee-mentor relationship and the commitments necessary for a high quality postdoctoral training experience.” While the compact was created for use in medical education and training, it is suitable to use as a template for mentoring postdoctoral students in other fields.

Visit: Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors

Mentoring for Graduate Students Tips for Faculty Mentors

Source: The University of Iowa, Graduate College

A succinct list of tips for mentoring for intellectual and career development, and good practices for research mentoring.

Visit: Mentoring for Graduate Students Tips for Faculty Mentors

Mentoring Resources for Graduate Students and Faculty

Source: University of Washington, The Graduate School

This is an adaptation of the Rackham mentoring guide, with substantial material drawn from the Re-envisioning the Ph.D. project, the Responsive Ph.D. Initiative, IGERT, and their own preparing future faculty programs.

Visit: Mentoring Resources for Graduate Students and Faculty

Nature’s Guide for Mentors

Source: Nature Publishing Group

This article draws on material from nominations submitted for Nature’s competition for their creative mentoring awards as the authors consider the personal characteristics sited. This is followed by a lively set of tips that are not presented as a magic formula but rather as examples of what really worked.

Visit: Nature’s Guide for Mentors

Principles and Good Practices Concerning Research Mentoring

Source: University of Iowa, Graduate College

A succinct list of tips for mentoring for intellectual and career development, and good practices for research mentoring.

Visit: Principles and Good Practices Concerning Research Mentoring

Science Mentoring Research

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

This is a rich site that includes general suggestions, guidelines, resources, information about mentoring awards and more.

Visit: Science Mentoring Research