Berkeley is a step ahead of many research universities in its policies regarding faculty mentorship of graduate students. In the 1990s the Graduate Council established its Policy on the Appointment and Mentoring of GSIs (revised most recently in 2016), outlining steps faculty and departments should take to provide guidance to graduate students in teaching. In 2006, the Graduate Council approved a set of Best Practices for Faculty Mentorship of Graduate Students. In 2011 faculty mentoring of graduate students was formally brought into the faculty performance review process as an area of evaluation through the adoption of Guidelines on the Evaluation of Graduate Student Mentoring in Faculty Performance Review.

“I see now that there are lots of ways that I can improve the [mentoring] relationship by being assertive and proactive and by setting explicit expectations for myself and for the relationship.”  

The value placed on faculty mentorship of graduate students is evidenced by three campus-wide mentoring awards for faculty:

These awards are presented each spring to faculty who exemplify the qualities of excellent research and teaching mentors.

The success of mentoring relationships depends not only on faculty but also on you as the mentee, as these relationships are reciprocal. As one graduate student put it: “I see now that there are lots of ways that I can improve the [mentoring] relationship by being assertive and proactive and by setting explicit expectations for myself and for the relationship.”

Here are a dozen specific steps you can take to get the mentoring you need:

  1. Be intentional in seeking out a mentor and in establishing a mentoring relationship.
  2. Gather information from other graduate students and former graduate students about their mentoring experiences with specific faculty.
  3. Be clear on your expectations. Faculty and graduate students who share the same expectations for the mentoring relationship generally fare better than those who do not.
  4. Set realistic deadlines for your work and be sure to meet them.
  5. Respect professional boundaries.
  6. Come prepared for meetings. Articulate what you need from your mentor.
  7. Write up notes after each meeting and provide your mentor with a summary.
  8. Start the next meeting off with a summary of the last meeting.
  9. Be clear about your professional goals and share those with your mentor.
  10. When seeking feedback, be specific on areas you would like input on.
  11. Be open to and learn from constructive criticism.
  12. getting-mentoredDevelop multiple mentoring relationships. No mentor can serve all of your needs.

Specific resources you can draw on:

  • Take a workshop offered by the Graduate Professional Development Program that addresses how to get the mentoring you need as a graduate student and how to be an effective mentor to others. Our next workshop will take place on March 6, 2017, 4 – 5:30 pm in 309 Sproul Hall.
  • Read Getting Mentored as Graduate Students (Johnson and Huwe, 2003), which is the text used in the course titled GSPDP 301, Mentoring in Higher Education. This text has excellent sections on qualities and behaviors of mentored graduate students.
  • Take GSPDP 301, Mentoring in Higher Education, a course offered by the Graduate Student Professional Development Program each spring.

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About Linda von Hoene