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Graduate Mentoring and Advising

The role of graduate advisor and mentor is critical - not only to our students, our disciplines, and the University, but to all who stand to benefit from the contributions made by those we advise and mentor. Despite its importance, few faculty receive any formal training to meet the demands and challenges of the advising and mentoring role. The resources listed provide a brief
overview of graduate student advising and mentoring by...

  • articulating characteristics of exemplary advisors and mentors;
  • discussing challenges associated with advising and mentoring relationships;
  • suggesting "best practices" for advising and mentoring; and
  • offering the mentoring philosophies of several award-winning graduate advisors.

Below are some online resources to help graduate advisors.

Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan (1999). How to Mentor Graduate Studies: A Guide for Faculty at a Diverse University. (available at –http://www.rackham.umich.edu/downloads/publications/Fmentoring.pdf).  In addition to providing general suggestions for good mentoring practice, this handbook also explores some of the special challenges and rewards of advising an increasingly diverse graduate student population.

Fine, M.A. and L.A. Kurdek (1993). “Reflections on Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order on Faculty Order on Faculty – Student Collaborations.” American Psychologist 48(11):1141-1147. (available at : http://www.apastyle.org/manual/related/fine-1993.pdf).  Fine and Kurdek use a series of case studies to raise issues related to authorship decisions and suggest guidelines for discussing and determining authorship. The authors explore the problems associated with faculty who assign too little – or too much – credit to student contributions. Although the cases involve Psychology faculty and students, the issues and the advice cross disciplinary boundaries.

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (1997). Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. National Academy Press: Washington, DC. (available at - http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5789).  This booklet provides a comprehensive overview of advising and mentoring relationships between faculty and a broad range of students (i.e., undergraduate to post-doctoral). Different mentoring/advising roles are addressed along with tips for being a successful mentor. Issues related to diversity and professional ethics are also examined.


Essays on Mentoring from Utah State University - Written by winners of Utah State University’s Graduate Mentoring Award, this series of thoughtful essays discusses good mentoring practice, as well as the personal mentoring styles of faculty in disciplines ranging from poetry to soil science. Essays include:

Brewer, K.W. (1998) Mentoring Poets. Department of English (Poetry).

Bugbee, B. (2001) On Mentoring. Department of Plants, Soils, and Biometerology

Miller, B.C. (2000) On Graduate Mentors and Mentoring. Department of Family and Human Development

Salzberg, C.L. (1996) Reflections on Mentoring. Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Provenza, F. (1999) On Mentoring. Department of Rangeland Resources


Other Resources - From the Graduate School's Best Practices in Mentoring handbook.

Mentoring the Successful Graduate Student of Tomorrow, Research in Higher Education Journal. http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/11803.pdf

Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering, The National Academies Press http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5789&page=1

Ph.D. Completion Project, Council of Graduate Schools, Mentoring and Advising http://www.phdcompletion.org/promising/mentoring.asp


Relevant Scholarly Articles

Zhao, C. M., Golde, C. M., & McCormick, A. C. (2007). More than a signature: How advisor choice and advisor behavior affect doctoral student satisfaction. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(3), 263-281.  Abstract: A satisfactory relationship between doctoral students and their advisors is an essential component of successful doctoral training. Using responses to a national survey of doctoral students in the US from 27 universities and 11 disciplines, this paper explores factors affecting students' satisfaction with the advising relationship. We find that both the criteria used in selecting an advisor and reported advisor behaviors influence satisfaction. Moreover, there are pronounced disciplinary differences in both choice criteria and advisor behavior, and these are more robust predictors of satisfaction than individual characteristics.

Hall, L. A., & Burns, L. D. (2009). Identity development and mentoring in doctoral education. Harvard Educational Review, 79(1), 49-70.  Abstract: In this essay, Leigh Hall and Leslie Burns use theories of identity to understand mentoring relationships between faculty members and doctoral students who are being prepared as educational researchers. They suggest that becoming a professional researcher requires students to negotiate new identities and reconceptualize themselves both as people and professionals in addition to learning specific skills; however, the success or marginalization that students experience may depend on the extent to which they attempt to enact identities that are valued by their mentors. For this reason, Hall and Burns argue that faculty mentors must learn about and consider identity formation in order to successfully socialize more diverse groups of researchers, and they believe that formal curriculum designs can be used more intentionally to help students and faculty understand the roles identity plays in professional development and to make doctoral education more equitable.

Sambrook, S., Stewart, J., & Roberts, C. (2008). Doctoral supervision... a view from above, below and the middle!. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(1), 71-84.  Abstract: Doctoral supervision is a complex process, and a critical success factor is the supervisory relationship. The aim of this article is to share experiences of doctoral supervision from three different perspectives, offering a view from above, below and the middle. The author was inspired by the activities associated with a recent conference. It presents reflections from three researchers at different stages of their research careers. Key themes to emerge were: the problematic transition from being an undergraduate/postgraduate student on a taught programme (a star performer) to a doctoral candidate (novice researcher, and to some extent ‘peer’), with associated issues of developing independence; the potentially problematic aspect of giving and receiving feedback, where genuine constructive critique can often be perceived as being ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ when it could be argued that all feedback is positive in its attempt to improve performance; and the development of relationships from tutor/student to critical friends and beyond, for example into mentoring roles, although again there are issues of (in)dependence.

Barnes, B. J., Williams, E. A., & Archer, S. A. (2010). Characteristics that matter most: Doctoral students' perceptions of positive and negative advisor attributes. NACADA Journal, 30(1), 34-46.  Abstract: The relationship doctoral students develop with their advisor is reputed to be one of the most important of their graduate education. Research shows that advisors play a critical role in many aspects of the doctoral degree process. However, the literature is sparse regarding doctoral students' perceptions of the positive and negative attributes of their advisors. We address that gap by identifying several recurring themes that emerged from a qualitative content analysis of open-ended survey responses from doctoral students regarding their advising experiences. Students spoke most positively about advisors who were accessible and helpful as well as socializing and caring. Conversely, they identified being inaccessible, unhelpful, and uninterested as negative attributes of advisors. We offer implications for advisors and advisees.

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