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Suggestions for Mentoring Programs

Efforts to improve mentoring at a variety of institutions have found that it takes a sustained effort to achieve success (Gaffney, 1995). Providing a mentoring workshop over the course of a few days, while providing information to the participants, typically results in little overall improvement of mentoring if it is not followed by sustained effort and assessment. The best success is often achieved when a long-term mentoring program is backed by grants or other financial assistance, but that may not always be possible. Though individual mentoring programs vary in many details that may be specific to the department, faculty, and students some suggestions can be made on how to improve mentoring. These suggestions are optional but may help guide faculty in how to improve mentoring within their department.

Suggestions for Faculty Members and Students

  • Develop interdisciplinary workshops and seminars for faculty that begin and sustain a campus-wide conversation on what it means to be a mentor in teaching and how to do it; the seminars provide faculty with specific strategies and methodologies to establish more effective teaching assistant and associate training within the context of their disciplines.
  • Engage departmental faculty in conducting a self-study that identifies problem areas in their graduate programs, sets goals, and determines how these goals will be fulfilled. In the process they will become aware of departmental responsibilities for guiding students successfully through the graduate program and into the profession, and the departmental culture will begin to change.
  • Publish and distribute to all graduate faculty members handbooks (e.g. London, 1999) which provide information about advising, mentoring, and all aspects of a graduate student's career and/or help define the expectations of students and the responsibilities of faculty for doctoral education.
  • Schedule meetings with faculty members and students to discuss the handbook and suggest revisions.
  • Develop a Faculty Mentoring Program that uses senior faculty members as mentors to help junior faculty members become successful and productive teacher-scholars.
  • Fund an annual competition for faculty/student research projects or partnerships.
  • Establish an Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards Program. Give monetary awards to the recipients and publish a booklet containing the department chair's nominating statement, excerpts from student nominating letters, and each awarder's essay on mentoring. Distribute the booklet to faculty members and use it as a basis for discussion at a graduate mentoring seminar.
  • Meet once a semester with graduate advisers to discuss common concerns and responsibilities for assisting and monitoring graduate student progress.
  • Invite faculty members and graduate students to an annual disciplinary forum, "The View from the Other Side of the Desk," where students can ask faculty questions. Both students and faculty learn from the questions asked.
  • Encourage recognition of teaching and mentoring in the promotion and tenure process. Accepting mentoring as part of the collective bargaining process at institutions where the process exists will underscore its importance.
  • Publish and distribute to all new students the same handbooks on doctoral education that faculty members receive (or a companion volume).
  • Publish a guide to special departmental activities that support graduate students at various stages of their doctoral programs.
  • Require Ph.D. candidates to meet once a year with at least two members of their dissertation committee to review the students' progress and, with the committee members, fill out a report on their progress towards the degree.