Mentoring Graduate Students

While mentoring undergraduates is important, particularly as they conduct their independent work, the mentoring that faculty do with graduate students is often at the very foundation of graduate students’ studies across the different stages of their programs. 

Doctoral students need different kinds of support at different stages of their programs. Early on, mentors can support students’ transitions into graduate school and demystify the unspoken assumptions and expectations about graduate education that students and faculty often hold. In addition, mentors can help students to make their research and professional goals more specific, affirming them along the way and supporting them when inevitable "bumps in the road" arise.

As students transition from coursework to independent research, mentors can help them with the development of crucial skills such as teaching, mentoring, researching, managing projects, and writing. Mentors are also often well-positioned to model and discuss with their mentees how to cultivate "balance" in life and work. 

Fortunately, there is no one or "right" way to mentor, but a growing body of research and evidence-based practices exists to promote intentional, inclusive, effective, and ethical mentoring in academia. This handout features an acrostic comprised of some key concepts to consider as you develop your mentoring practice, and the following pages include additional ideas. We invite you to adopt and adapt these tools in ways that feel authentic to you. Whatever form (or forms) your mentorship takes, we hope that you recognize this important work as a unique opportunity to shape the next generation of scholars, leaders, and thinkers.

Mentoring Graduate Students as Teachers

While faculty support graduate students in their research as mentors, they also often model the specific skills of teaching, especially as graduate students begin to teach in different settings. 

Mentoring Graduate Students as Learners and Scholars

In doctoral education, students spend the majority of their time in their programs after they complete coursework. For STEM trainees these years are generally spent in lab settings and working with mentors and other trainees in collaborative teams. For Humanities and certain Social Sciences trainees, the time spent on independent research and dissertation work is often solitary. In both contexts, the mentoring relationship is essential. 

Discerning Dissertating Learning Cohorts

The dissertation is known as the capstone of doctoral education, yet planning and writing one can be a confusing, stressful, and solitary endeavor. Indeed, for most students, the majority of time in grad school consists of the years after coursework and exams are completed - the protracted process of "dissertating" that can be exhilarating, exhausting, lonely, inscrutable, and profound - all at the same time.

Learning Mentoring

Mentoring profoundly affects the well-being of individuals and teams, as well as scientific productivity and success. This 8-session virtual course on effective mentoring is open to all STEM grad students, postdocs, and interested faculty.