Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#97 Graduate Student Mentoring - It's Not the Same as Advising


While all graduate students have advisors, at least eventually, they do not all have mentors. Yet, having a mentor - or better yet - multiple mentors, can be key to graduate student and professional success. The posting below describes the graduate student mentoring program at Oklahoma State University, which has some good ideas for everyone interested in furthering this important activity. Additional information can be found at: (


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Components of Quality Teaching - What Award Winning Teachers Recommend

--------------------- 540 words ----------------------


Oklahoma State University

Why mentor?

Probably more than any other single factor, mentoring contributes to a graduate student?s success. Students with mentors are more likely to make timely progress toward their degrees, to enter their professions, and to meet the various challenges of their careers. And while mentoring often goes hand-in-hand with advising, the two are nevertheless distinct: ideally a student may have several mentors. For just as professionalism is more than the acquisition of knowledge, so must mentoring extend beyond the classroom or laboratory and even beyond academic and career advisement.

Mentoring is a personal as well as a professional relationship. While the nature of that relationship varies with individuals, it is, above all, one of collegiality, of mutual trust and respect. A mentor provides guidance in all aspects of the profession?from necessary writing and critical thinking skills to office politics and ethics. And it is not just the student who benefits from this relationship; those who practice mentoring find it to be one of the greatest rewards of their professional lives.

What is a mentor?

"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 obtaining opportunities; models, of identity, of the kind of person one should be to be an academic." Zelditch, M. 1990, "Mentor Roles," Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Western Association of Graduate Schools

What are some common priorities of mentoring? (Synthesized from a survey of OSU faculty identified as successful mentors.)

To respect students as colleagues and thus to encourage sharing of ideas, experiences, and ethics.

To guide students toward professional independence by allowing them to define their own research and solve their own problems, and by urging them to attend conferences and to publish.

To provide opportunities for students and faculty to get to know one another as persons and as professionals.

To create intellectual challenges and make standards clear through open, frequent, and consistent communication.

To provide reliable advice and continual encouragement.

To be readily available.

To inspire students to become mentors themselves.

What questions and challenges does mentoring pose?

* How close can the mentoring relationship become before the mentor loses the ability to make objective evaluations of the student?s work?
* How involved should a mentor become in a student?s personal life?
* How involved should a mentor become in a student?s research?
* How can departments assure that mentoring is available toll (i.e., part-time, nontraditional, minority) students?
* How do differences in gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and nationality affect the mentoring relationship?

Why this page?

In recognition of the importance of mentoring, the Graduate Faculty Council is seeking ways to encourage mentoring at OSU, not by offering prescriptions but by offering opportunities for faculty and students to think about mentoring. The Council welcomes suggestions about how to increase awareness of mentoring at OSU and how to help faculty develop mentoring skills. If you have ideas or comments about mentoring, contact your Graduate Faculty Council representatives through the Graduate College at: (