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Mentoring

On this page, the CSWA has compiled resources on mentoring, one of the most challenging roles of a faculty member. Here, each link is accompanied by a short quotation or a short summary. Resources originating with government agencies and nonprofit organizations are emphasized in our selection. The webmaster would welcome suggestions of additional resources.

The CSWA Advice page includes relevant sections:

1. Top Ten Ways to be a Better Advisor for Graduate Students

2. Advisors, How Do You Deal with Student Tears?

8. How to Be a Good Mentor

AAS, January 2010: Special Session on Mentoring

"The CSMA and CSWA sponsored two sessions devoted to an exchange of information and best practices on mentoring as part of the 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. The intended audience were astronomical researchers and faculty, as well as students, who act as mentors to more junior colleagues, and who will continue to be mentors as they progress through their careers. These sessions, the first presenting best practices and information, and the second a participatory workshop, were held in the morning and afternoon, respectively, on Wednesday, January 6, 2010."

Four PowerPoint presentations can be downloaded from the page linked above.

Resource page on mentoring and cultural change

Compiled by the CSWA's Laura Trouille and used at a special session at the 218th AAS meeting, Boston, MA, May 2011

About MentorNet

Occasionally, students cannot find a satisfactory mentor within their departments, or they have issues to discuss that they prefer not to discuss within their departments, or they would simply like another point of view. In such cases, MentorNet can help.

"MentorNet is the premiere and most experienced web-based e-mentoring program in the world. Every year we match thousands of students, postdocs, and early career researchers in engineering and science on hundreds of campuses to mentors in the professions for one-on-one guided relationships."

"How to Find Mentors for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math," by Hannah Frederick from Under the Microscope, April 3, 2012

Lists places to look for mentors and resources for mentors.

From the National Postdoctoral Association's ADVANCE Clearinghouse

Suggestions on mentoring postdocs - lists promising institutional programs

Educational Opportunities for Postdoctoral Supervisors - lists courses, guides, and best practices developed at various institutions

University of Vermont ADVANCE Mentoring Portal

Lists mentoring programs at institutions that have received NSF ADVANCE grants.

University of Michigan ADVANCE program page on career advising

Includes separate pages for students and for faculty. Has extensive resource lists.

"Content Collection: Mentoring Advice" By Elisabeth Pain, February 03, 2012 in Science Careers

'Everyone who’s gone through the early stages of an academic career has had an undergraduate research supervisor, and a Ph.D. and postdoc adviser. But not everyone can claim to have had a mentor. Even fewer can claim to have had more than one. And that's too bad.

The essential difference between an adviser and a mentor is that the adviser directs while the mentor guides. An adviser often has an agenda, be it to point your research in a particular direction or merely to publish more papers. Foremost among a mentor's concerns are your professional development and personal well-being. A mentor offers you support, guidance, and even solace with no other motive than helping you identify and reach your own goals. A mentor is someone you can open yourself up to without fearing deleterious consequences.'

Global Feature: Mentoring - a resource page from Science Careers

Performing a search for "mentoring" in Science Careers yields many additional results.

"Perspective: Top 10 Tips for Mentors" by Philip S. Clifford and Joan M. Lakoski, in Science Careers, October 08, 2010

"You need to resist the urge to act and make decisions for your mentee and instead do the difficult task of listening. Stop, focus, and listen."

Includes references/reading list.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM)

'The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) Program seeks to identify outstanding mentoring efforts that enhance the participation and retention of individuals (including persons with disabilities, women and minorities) who might not otherwise have considered or had access to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The awardees serve as leaders in the national effort to develop fully the nation's human resources in STEM. Important information:

  • The PAESMEM program has changed from awarding grants for future efforts to awards bestowed for past work.
  • Former recipients of the Individual PAESMEM award are not eligible. Former recipients of the Organizational PAESMEM award may apply for the Individual award 10 years or more after receiving the award.
  • Eligibility has been expanded. Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has done exemplary, measurable mentoring is eligible, including federal employees (see Announcement) and individuals or organizations in the private sector.'

Full Proposal Deadline: Annually, First Wednesday in June

Administered by the National Science Foundation, which requires that proposals requesting support for a postdoctoral researcher include a plan for the mentoring of that individual.

AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Mentor Awards

"The two categories of the AAAS Mentor Awards (Lifetime Mentor Award and Mentor Award) both honor individuals who during their careers demonstrate extraordinary leadership to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields and careers. These groups include: women of all racial or ethnic groups; African American, Native American, and Hispanic men; and people with disabilities."

This page includes biographical sketches of recent award recipients and lists of past recipients.

Nature Jobs articles and resources on mentoring

Some of the listed items are good.

"Nature's guide for mentors," by Adrian Lee, Carina Dennis, & Philip Campbell

"Having been involved in judging the [Nature mentoring] awards — whether in Australia or in the United Kingdom — we realized that within the pages of the applications was an immense resource that could provide a basis for reflection on what comprises good mentoring. These reflections are presented here, with examples of just a few of the hundreds of quotable quotes included in the nominations supporting the mentors."

How to Mentor Students, by Tara Kuther, Ph.D., About.com Guide

"Throughout your graduate school years, you've spent countless hours honing your research and methodological skills, learning how to think critically, and becoming socialized into your professional role. Think about it: are you really prepared for that faculty position? Most new faculty lament that they are unprepared for a critical aspect of their job: mentoring and supervising students.

It is helpful to consider mentoring from the student's perspective. Consider the difference and role of advisor and mentor. How should students choose mentors? ... Here we discuss tips on developing relationships with students and being an effective mentor."

"Graduate students: Aspirations and anxieties," by Gene Russo, in Nature

'Nature's international student survey reveals changing career preferences — and a need for inspiring mentors.'

The last paragraph of the article:

'Again, mentorship can make a difference — and have a big influence on career directions. Fuhrmann has seen more than one student who was doubtful about pursuing academia decide to go ahead after talking to a mentor. She suggests that more transparency from mentors — not only about successes, but also about disappointments — could help students resolve to stick with their plans. For example, when principal investigators do not get funded, they often shield their protégés from the failure. Perhaps they should instead share such undesirable outcomes with their trainees and explain how they plan to press forward, change tactics or find bridge funding. "Trainees notice these things anyway," says Fuhrmann, "and it could be helpful for principal investigators to share how they deal with stressors."'

Various books on mentoring have been written. Examples:

  1. Dean, Donna J., Getting the Most out of Your Mentoring Relationships: A Handbook for Women in STEM, Series: Mentoring in Academia and Industry, Vol. 3, 2009, XVIII, 168 p. Published by Springer for the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). Can be read on line at Springer (link above).
  2. Liu, E., Guiding lights: How to Mentor – and Find Life’s Purpose, Ballentyne Books, New York, 2006. Link is to amazon.com, for information purposes only.

"Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India," by Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande, and Petia Topalova, in Science, 335, 582

'A 1993 law [in India] reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils. Using 8453 surveys of adolescents aged 11 to 15 and their parents in 495 villages, we found that, relative to villages in which such positions were never reserved, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 20% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages assigned a female leader for two election cycles. The gender gap in adolescent educational attainment was erased, and girls spent less time on household chores. We found no evidence of changes in young women’s labor market opportunities, which suggests that the impact of women leaders primarily reflects a role model effect.'

The National Math + Science Young Leaders Program

' ... is a collaboration between the National Math and Science Initiative, ExxonMobil and FORTUNE that addresses the pressing issue of women being left behind in the critical fields of math and science. It is a prestigious, competitive program that introduces girls who are college juniors majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to female executives at FORTUNE 500 companies. The business women will introduce students to the tangible impact of math and science in their companies. This partnership provides role models for college students majoring in innovative fields and heightens the visibility of the need for more girls to specialize in math and science.'

'Students are nominated by the deans at the universities of the executives' choice. ... '

Looks like a great program. We hope it and similar programs become more widely available.

GPS Groups: Goals & Problem-solving for Scientists

A GPS group is 'a confidential peer-mentoring group for discussing professional concerns, engaging in analytical problem-solving techniques, and developing individualized plans of action. The private and close-knit nature of the GPS group ensures that members can thoroughly explore concerns in an atmosphere that is both supportive and exacting.'

FabFems - a project of the National Girls Collaborative Project

Women in science-related professions are invited to enter themselves in a database of role models, thereby making themselves available as role models for young girls. Without having their contact information published, role models have the option of making themselves available to be contacted through a "contact" button by those looking for a role model.

The site also has a rich collection of resources on mentoring.

"Helping women faculty navigate 'career pressure points'," by Hellen Hom-Diamond in Yale News, March 19, 2012

This article features a professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University, Priyamvada Natarajan, current chair of Yale's Women Faculty Forum. In addition to summarizing her career, the article describes interesting mentoring initiatives being undertaken at Yale.

"The Role of Mentorship for Women in Technology," by Ekaterina Walter, from The Huffington Post Women in Tech blog, March 23, 2012

Report on a panel discussion in which the author participated. Good advice included.

MentorNet's Response to the Department of Education’s Request for Information on Promising and Practical Strategies to Increase Postsecondary Success (PDF)

Detailed description of the philosophy and operations of this important on-line mentoring service.

sciencementor: Step-by-step Guide to "Self-Mentoring" for the Science Professional

'Self-mentoring is a term that I have associated with my individual career development activities. From my personal experiences, a research mentor does not always equate to a career mentor, and if an alternate mentor is not found, then many graduate students and postgraduate researchers never think about career development until it is too late. Frequently, I observe scientists who have labored relentlessly in the lab but have neglected their own career development in the process. This can lead to a frantic scramble for a job at the end of graduate or postgraduate work which sadly causes undue stress and a greater possibility of accepting a non-ideal position or leaving science altogether ...'

"STEM Spotlight: Susan Fitzpatrick Shares How to Get – and Stay on – the Right Career Path," by Karen D. Purcell, October 1, 2012

'Women, Fitzpatrick feels, "often seem to be waiting for someone to invite them to dance, but that's not the way it works in science. You have to say: 'I want to dance!' I remember having a conversation awhile back with some other women scientists. One of them said: 'If women would just be bolder, the men would have no one to complain to but their car pool.'"'

"Why women need sponsors more than mentors," by Penny Herscher, October 11, 2012

... 'Mentoring has been talked about for years but talking about sponsorship is a fairly new fashion. Mentoring is about advice and coaching, helping the younger employee figure out the system and skills. My advice to people seeking mentors is seek someone willing to tell you the truth about yourself. Seek someone who will hold the mirror up to you (and your behavior), even is the image is ugly. And a great mentor will put the time in to teach you.

'A sponsor, however, is not a mentor. A sponsor has power and the ability to help you get ahead. They know you -- strengths and weaknesses, talents and warts -- and are ambitious for you. They help you prepare for opportunity by steering you into the right experiences and the right training. They will advocate for you and make the case when you are not in the room for why you should get the next promotion, the next cool project. They win when you win be because the company, and possibly their reputational capital in the company, are stronger when you do.'

"Mentor vs. Monolith: Finding and being a good graduate advisor," by Mohamed Noor and Caiti Heil, in American Scientist, November-December 2012

'Prof. Mohamed Noor and Ph.D. student Caiti Heil agreed to work together on an American Scientist essay about graduate mentoring. They independently framed outlines and brought them together for a first meeting. Mohamed's essay was more focused on being a mentor and less on choosing one, whereas Caiti's was more focused on how to choose and work with a mentor without much detail about what makes a mentor successful. As a result, they have chosen this non-standard "conversational" format for conveying their thoughts.'

The conversation has interesting insights on a number of issues in the student-avisor relationship.

"Successful female leaders empower women's behavior in leadership tasks," by Ioana M. Latu, Marianne Schmid Mast, Joris Lammers, and Dario Bombari, in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49 (2013) 444–448

' ... In a virtual reality environment, 149 male and female students gave a public speech, while being subtly exposed to either a picture of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Bill Clinton, or no picture. We recorded the length of speeches as an objective measure of empowered behavior in a stressful leadership task. Perceived speech quality was also coded by independent raters. Women spoke less than men when a Bill Clinton picture or no picture was presented. This gender difference disappeared when a picture of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel was presented, with women showing a significant increase when exposed to a female role model compared to a male role model or no role models. Longer speaking times also translated into higher perceived speech quality for female participants. Empowered behavior also mediated the effects of female role models on women's self-evaluated performance. In sum, subtle exposures to highly successful female leaders inspired women's behavior and self-evaluations in stressful leadership tasks.'

"Chair of major law firm champions 'sponsorship' of women and minorities," By Brigid Schulte, in The Washington Post Business November 14, 2013

'Kent Gardiner, chairman of the law firm Crowell & Moring, sat down to talk about why his firm is partnering with economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Center for Talent Innovation to promote sponsorship of women and minorities in the workplace, how sponsoring is different and why it matters.

' ... Q: So what’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

'Gardiner: A mentor is someone who says, "My door's always open. If you have a question or a problem, come by and I will try and help you out." It doesn't require much of anything from the mentor, but it puts enormous pressure on the mentee to have to work up the nerve to come ask.

What I was learning from [discussions with junior attorneys] was that almost everyone had mentors. And sometimes those senior people, particularly if they were working in the same field, were unconsciously keeping them in a subordinate position.

Sponsorship requires you to step aside to allow some of the spotlight to be cast on someone other than you. To potentially give up some power. To go out of your way. And that's the difference.

"The benefits of being a mentor in academia," by Wen-fai Fong, in Women in Astronomy, posted January 8, 2014

'Many articles I've read concentrate on the benefits of being mentored. Indeed, these studies have contributed to the ubiquity of mentoring programs in working environments. From business schools to medical schools1, from small start-ups to tech moguls like Google... even the U.S. military2 recognizes the impact of mentoring on the mentees. But why should people want to be mentors, especially in the stereotypically emotionless world of science and academia? ...

' ... I recently asked the Harvard Astronomy graduate student mentors to write about their experiences, and their responses gave me the inspiration I needed to write this post. In six key points, here are the (unexpected) benefits of being a mentor: ... '

"Mentoring Junior Faculty: Advice to Department Chairs," by Marjorie A. Olmstead

Originally published in the CSWP Gazette, 13(1), 1 (August, 1993). The Gazette is the Newsletter of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics of The American Physical Society.

' ...The comments below are biased towards my personal experience: a young, female, condensed matter experimentalist at a major research university; most of these suggestions, however, are widely applicable.

'The suggestions that follow fall into four basic categories:
  1. Make the Expectations and Criteria for Promotion Clear
  2. Facilitate the Acquisition of Resources to Meet these Expectations
  3. Give Frequent and Accurate Feedback
  4. Reduce the Impediments to Progress towards Promotion

'Many of these suggestions can be implemented by the department chair; others require asking senior faculty in the department or related departments for help; others require keeping an eye out for potential problems. Some departments may find a formal mentoring program to be appropriate; others will function more informally. If all communications are informal, however, new faculty often end up isolated and out of the loop.'

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This page last updated: July 25, 2014