group of students leaning over laptop
Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

Navigating UC Berkeley as a graduate student can be difficult—and at times, it can feel like you are in a never-ending institutional labyrinth. This journey can be particularly difficult for underrepresented graduate students, including those who are undocumented, first-generation college students, and those who are educationally and financially challenged.

That is why it is critical for all graduate students, including underrepresented graduate students, to intentionally foster a robust infrastructure of sponsors, mentors, and collaborators necessary to thrive at Berkeley and beyond. If this is the first time that you are hearing about different types of mentors—don’t worry, we’ve got you. Below we describe some of the different types of mentoring needs that you may not have yet considered!

In their illuminating webinar, “Cultivating Your Network of Mentors, Sponsors, and Collaborators,” the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) asks us to reimagine mentoring as not only useful early in our professional careers, but as a transformative tool that can help us navigate different career stages and career transitions. In order to build a mentoring network that will support us throughout our career we need to let go of outdated and unilateral mentoring models composed of either one or a handful of mentors. This is particularly important because each person has an array of unique mentoring needs that cannot be easily met by just one or two mentors. To some extent, the pandemic has enhanced and accelerated our ability to connect virtually and develop mentoring networks with individuals beyond our university campuses—now it is time to use this level of interconnectivity to our advantage and expand our mentoring networks. 

If you are in the middle of expanding your mentoring network, NCFDD’s advice is to assess the different types of mentoring that you need. By carefully reflecting on and continuously updating your mentoring needs, you will be better equipped to identify potential mentors and more likely to receive mentorship that is intentional. Mentoring needs can include but are not limited to: professional development, emotional support, intellectual community, role models, substantive feedback, access to opportunities, and accountability. Also, it is important to note that some of your mentoring needs may not propel you to reach out to either professors or academic advisers but instead, to your own peers and coworkers whose interests, background, or experiences may align with your own. Peer mentors can become an invaluable part of your network, particularly when it comes to gaining advice and support as you navigate the unwritten and unspoken rules of UC Berkeley and other similar institutions. With their wisdom and mentorship, mentors can help you develop a sense of belonging as you navigate the labyrinthic nature of academic and professional spaces. 

If you are interested in watching NCFDD’s mentoring webinar in its entirety, activate your NCFDD free membership by using your UC Berkeley credentials. 

Martha Ortega Mendoza is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Education and self-identifies as a first-generation student who comes from a working-class background. Currently, Martha serves as a Professional Development Liaison (PDL) and is excited to connect with fellow graduate students.