2016 SMART team
2016 SMART Team

Knowing how to effectively mentor students and junior colleagues is a vital skill for graduate students preparing for diverse careers, whether within or beyond academia. Berkeley’s Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) program, a professional development program for graduate students and a capstone learning experience for undergraduates, provides graduate students with the opportunity to consciously develop their mentoring skills through course work and an applied ten-week summer program in which they guide the work of an undergraduate on a clearly defined research project associated with the graduate student’s dissertation. While many graduate students come to the program having already mentored undergraduates, the SMART program helps graduate students purposefully develop their mentoring skills and take them to a new level. As one former SMART mentor put it, “I realized that before the SMART program, I had been mentoring without a license.”

The program begins in the spring, when the SMART mentors take a semester-long course on mentoring in which they learn to develop:

  • research mentoring contracts
  • research budgets
  • processes for interviewing, assessing, and selecting mentees
  • a plan for the development of the mentee’s research skills over the course of the summer research project

The results of the research and the impact of the program are then presented at a final poster session in early August.

The importance of having graduate students attend to this aspect of their professional development while in graduate school is underscored by an Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) grant that the Graduate Division has received from the National Science Foundation. This will enable the materials developed through the SMART program to be transformed into a flexible mentoring toolkit for use by other graduate students, postdocs, and faculty, so that they can become more conscious of their mentoring practices and work to improve the quality of mentoring provided to students and junior colleagues.

Whether you take part in the SMART program, serve as a mentor to undergraduates in other programs such as Berkeley Connect  or GiGs (Getting into Graduate School), or simply want to start now to develop your mentoring skills, you are welcome to enroll in Mentoring in Higher Education (GSPDP 301), offered each spring on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5 pm. We encourage graduate students to combine their attendance in this course with participation in any one of the mentoring opportunities on campus. For more information on how to apply for the SMART program, please go to the SMART website. Application deadline is November 21, 2016.

Information on mentoring can also be found on the Graduate Professional Development mentoring webpage.