Mentoring Students through Research Experiences

Friday 1:30pm-2:45pm Student Union: Santa Ana A and B
Round Table Discussion


Aisha Morris, National Science Foundation
Developing confident, capable geoscientists from diverse backgrounds requires, among many variables, the development of confident, capable mentors to help guide and support students along the path to professional positions. This round table discussion will seek to illuminate the approaches that have been successful in mentoring undergraduates in research, with particular focus on the nuances of mentoring students from underrepresented groups. The goals of the discussion are to: 1) share experiences to elucidate the differences between mentoring, advising, and sponsorship, and 2) share available resources to facilitate incorporation of successful strategies in mentoring undergraduates (including underrepresented groups) in conducting scientific research. All interested mentors and potential mentors, regardless of experience level, are invited to attend.

Mentoring Students through Research Experiences -- Discussion  

Symbiotic relationship - faculty benefit as well as students.
Mentor is someone you can talk to about anything. Being a role model.


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Definition of mentoring from our table: Emotional support component, at least one level above the mentee, separate from role model or just directing the student's research


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What is Mentoring?
Guidance, sharing your experience
More than information transfer, also life advice, aid in skill building
Providing professional development, help figuring out time management, how to ask for help or guidance
Broaden understanding of the scientific community, give them the big picture
Support, acknowledging failure as a place to work from (not the end)
Role model for collegial peer interaction, work life balance
Emotional support, provide resources for seeking more support, NOT the parent, help students understand you should not be their sole support.

What is a: Mentor, Adviser, and Sponsor?
Mentor- investing time to role model, could imply more of a peer relationship, someone with more experience
Adviser- a few meetings, not as involved in the student's life, more authority
Sponsor- someone to provide an opportunity, introduce you to contacts, encourage to apply for opportunities


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At the beginning of the program, make sure to have a conversation with the students about the different possible roles: research advisor, career mentor, emotional support/life navigation, general advising. Let the students know that it is okay that more than one person could fulfill these roles for them. Design the research program carefully to allow for them to have access to multiple people.


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What about Sponsor as in PI on a project, where people under you are mentors?


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This post was edited by Kim Hannula on Jul, 2017
What is a mentor?
- Mentoring as a symbiotic relationship - not only faculty helping/supporting students, but students are helping faculty.
- Mentor as someone student can talk to about anything - not necessarily someone working in faculty's lab. Giving advice to someone (informally, not about what classes to take).
- "Here's how you go through this time in your life, here's how I did it."
- Role models.
- You studied (something), I want to study that too, but evolves into asking for help about other things (career advice, issues with a different class).
- How does that relationship start? (Recruiting students or the students reach out to faculty.)
- "You might want to take a GIS course."
- Mentor would coach student to prepare for a conference, or how to behave on a job site.
- Mentor would help the students understand the expectations.
- Help students how to navigate working with difficult people or difficult situations.
- How to help with situations if a student doesn't reach out - mentoring is pro-active. Could be telling students to check in a particular time, or it's reaching out in person or via text message.

What is an advisor? (We were thinking more about academic advisors as opposed to research advisors.)
- More mechanical.
- "You need to take a GIS course for your degree."

What is a sponsor?
- "If you want to work in my lab, you should have taken GIS."
- Provide funding for the work.
- Or provide the research problem.
- Or recommend a student for a program or to another person for a research collaboration. (Vouching for a student.)
- I want to write a paper using the data that the student collects.
- If I recommend you, you need to work out, because your work will reflect on (other people from my institution).


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This post was edited by Andy Darling on Jul, 2017
What are characteristics of a mentor?
- Mentor is different from advising but overlaps in what is done and may range from very similar or somewhat different
- Person with skillset or expertise the mentee wishes to adopt
- could be a role model but a mentor may not look like what the student wants to be fo rsome reason
- helps foster deeper understanding
- someone who helps someone accountable
- discussion fosterer
- acknowledge and embrace failure to move forward in a positive direction
- structuring career preparation
- responsive to student needs
- helping a student identify strengths and weaknesses
- can point student to other more appropriate mentors for particular ideas and experiences.
- time management advice and modeling
- source emotional advice and guidance
- someone who helps navigate complex systems, like a university and like learning to conduct research in a field
- trusted person, honest advice.

Bad mentorship:
- not invested in student success
- violating trust

A definition of a mentor: A vested, experienced guide toward personal and/or professional growth of a person.

Second Question:What are the roles of mentors, advisors, sponsor?
- Can mentors take part in only part of the total mentorship a person receives?
- Advisors are often a designated official role, part of the institution, helpful for getting over particular requirement
- Mentors are much more likely to have some sort of personal relationship with the student than an advisor, but advisors, especially like a PhD advisor, is likely to be a mentor.

What is a sponsor?

- provides resources, vouching for someone, advocating on behalf of a student.


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UNAVCO resources:


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More resources for mentoring undergraduate students:


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