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Becoming a Better Mentor to Your Students . Don W. Morgan, Ph.D. Department of Health and Human Performance . Some Personal Thoughts About the Mentoring Process . After years of serving as a research mentor to students, I’m still learning how to be an effective mentor

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becoming a better mentor to your students
Becoming a Better Mentor to Your Students

Don W. Morgan, Ph.D.

Department of Health and Human Performance

some personal thoughts about the mentoring process
Some Personal Thoughts About the Mentoring Process
  • After years of serving as a research mentor to students, I’m still learning how to be an effective mentor
  • The process of mentoring remains somewhat mystical to me
  • When students graduate, I still ask myself if I’ve done the best job possible in mentoring them, realizing that they will likely mentor other students
  • Hopefully, I’ve learned from my successes and mistakes
  • Often, how we mentor students reflects how we were mentored
  • There are many different mentoring styles
origins of mentoring
Origins of Mentoring
  • Odysseus placed Mentor in charge of his palace and his son, Telemachus, when he left for the Trojan War
  • Homer described Mentor as a “wise and trusted counselor”
  • Athena, in the guise of Mentor, became the guardian teacher of Telemachus and helped him deal with a number of personal dilemmas
what is a mentor
What is a Mentor?
  • Someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less-experienced colleague
  • Someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional
  • A mentoring relationship takes time to develop and during this time, a student’s needs and the nature of the relationship between the mentor and student can change
what is a mentor1
What is a Mentor?
  • Sometimes students find mentors elsewhere – perhaps a fellow student, other faculty members, a wise friend, or another person with experience who can offer guidance and support
  • A good mentor seeks to help a student optimize their educational experience, assist the student’s socialization into a professional discipline, and help the student find suitable employment
  • These obligations can extend beyond formal schooling and continue into or through a student’s professional career
mentoring is multifaceted
Mentoring is Multifaceted

Zelditch (1990)

“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 learning about professional opportunities; and role modelsof the kind of person one should be as a professional”

features of an good mentoring relationship
Features of an Good Mentoring Relationship
  • Characterized by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy
  • Good mentors share life experiences and wisdom, as well as technical expertise
  • Effective mentors are good listeners, good observers, and good problem-solvers
  • Good mentors make an effort to know, accept, and respect the goals and interests of a student
the mentor as faculty adviser
The Mentor as Faculty Adviser
  • Help those you mentor towards greater initiative, independence, and self-reliance
  • Some general points:
    • Take students seriously
    • Don’t dictate answers
    • Help students develop self-esteem
    • Address fears or concerns
  • When discussing potential career goals, encourage students to explore options, talk to other students and professionals, and seek practical experiences
mentoring graduate students
Mentoring Graduate Students
  • Help students to select a graduate program that will be a good fit for them, in terms of matching their interests, curriculum, and overall feel
  • Encourage students to visit schools, if possible
  • Help students choose an adviser
  • When considering accepting a student to work with you, look at the whole picture
  • In terms of curriculum, encourage students to take courses that will expand their knowledge base and help them become independent, productive, and self-reliant once they leave school
the mentor as faculty adviser1
The Mentor as Faculty Adviser
  • When working with students on research, help them identify a well-defined project(s) that interest(s) both of you
  • Some general points:
    • Set a clear time line; encourage careful planning and use of time
    • Set high, but realistic goals
    • Help students develop the expertise needed to conduct the project and know what your role will be
    • Whenever possible, link the project with previous course work
  • While project results are important, a primary purpose of student research is to help them master techniques, learn to think critically, acquire strategies for problem-solving, and learn patience and perseverance
the mentor as faculty adviser2
The Mentor as Faculty Adviser
  • If a graduate student has an interest in conducting research beyond the MS or PhD degree, the selection of a thesis or dissertation topic is absolutely critical, because it can set the stage for the student’s future research agenda
  • Work closely with students in disseminating their research at scientific meetings and in peer-reviewed journals
  • The skills required in conducting well-thought out research projects that are completed in a timely manner with measurable and valid outcomes have potential application to a variety of professional occupations (i.e., teaching, research, industry)
the mentor as career adviser
The Mentor as Career Adviser
  • Assist graduate students to prepare for job interviews by:
    • Helping them put together or revise a curriculum vitae
    • Talking about the suitability of various job openings
    • Evaluating teaching and research presentations
    • Prepping them to answer potential questions raised by members of the search committee and ask appropriate questions during the interview
mentoring junior faculty
Mentoring Junior Faculty
  • Valuable resources are invested when junior faculty are hired and it is important to nourish them, retain them, and help them develop into productive faculty members
  • Guidance can be provided through formal or informal mechanisms
  • Senior faculty and department leadership can help set the tone and agenda for mentoring junior faculty and helping them mentor their own students
the mentor as skills consultant
The Mentor as Skills Consultant
  • As a mentor, valuable skills that you can help students develop and hone include:
    • Communication skills
    • Teaching
    • Writing grant proposals
    • Planning and organization skills
    • Obtaining professional credentials
    • People skills (the ability to listen, share ideas, and express oneself)
    • Leadership
    • Teamwork
    • Creative thinking
the mentor as role model
The Mentor as Role Model
  • By who you are, by what you say, and how you act as a mentor, you can be a role model for students and provide them with a personal window on a possible future
  • Your ethical, scientific, and professional behavior all leave a strong impression on students, as does your attitude about your work
  • Communicate your feelings about your professional career
  • Communicate the importance of mentoring and your hope that they will some day be mentors themselves
  • Talk with your students about how you balance work and personal life
take home messages
Take-Home Messages
  • The sum of all your actions as a mentor is what students take with them as they move on in life
  • At its core, good mentorship involves building honesty, trust, and good communication with students