UC Berkeley places a high value on faculty mentorship of graduate students, recognizing that this personal relationship is an essential part of a student’s academic success, as well as being a foundation for their career development beyond Berkeley. It is important for students to be their own advocates for establishing and maintaining successful mentoring relationships, and communicating their needs to faculty. Campus resources for students are widely available, but have been scattered and sometimes difficult to find. To assist students in being more proactive in crafting this important part of their education, the Graduate Division has created a new website, “Getting the Mentoring You Need,” full of practical tips and links to other websites and documents.
Do you currently have a good mentor? Or are you just starting to look for one? In either case, the resources on this new website will be helpful to you. If you feel awkward asking faculty for what you want, then perhaps you can use this as an icebreaker. Just point them to the website and say something like “Hey, check out this new resource! I was delighted to see that you and I are already doing many of these things, but discovered some new tips that I think would really help me.” Please know that many faculty truly want to be a good mentor, but they themselves don’t always understand the myriad of ways to do it well. You can help them help you, by sharing this website with them.
Perhaps you’re thinking “this website is fantastic, but there’s just too much here. What should I prioritize and how can I get started?” Great question!
- If you don’t already have a mentor, then of course your first step is to find one. Talk to other students, and attend office hours of several faculty to see who you might have a rapport with.
- If you have a mentor, but don’t see them often enough, then ask to set up regular standing meetings throughout the semester, perhaps every 2 – 3 weeks, or whatever frequency you both agree to. This will avoid a lot of back-and-forth trying to find an opening in their busy calendar each time you want to meet. And having regular meetings will also give you more incentive to be productive in-between meetings, and come prepared with a summary of what you’ve accomplished in the intervening period, what your next goals are, and any questions you have.
- If you already meet regularly, but aren’t feeling like the quality of mentoring is sufficient, then this is where these resources are most intended to help. Although sometimes difficult, it is critical that you find positive, constructive ways to communicate your needs, be graciously open to the advice that you’re given, and give positive feedback to your mentor when such advice hits the mark.
The efforts you take now to get the mentoring you need, are certain to provide you with invaluable life skills that will stay with you, whatever the future brings. Good luck!
Gail Brager is a Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley, and an Associate Dean for the Graduate Division.