The Mentoring Relationship

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Autumn Core Programs
Mentors are essential in guiding and supporting us into becoming the best people we can be—academically, professionally and personally. At the Graduate School, we hear from students that they’re hungry for effective mentoring. It’s a process of discovery and takes effort from both mentor and mentee. We’ve gathered some tips on cultivating effective mentoring relationships, and on being an effective mentor yourself, and will grow these resources over the next year. We welcome input from you on what really works and mentors who have made a difference in your life!

The Mentoring Relationship

  • Mentoring relationships develop over time—they’re an investment!
  • A mentor is different than an advisor or a personal hero. A mentor is genuinely interested and invested in you.
  • Being invested in you, and your long-term professional development and success, means the mentor can guide you toward the path that makes sense for you (not create a “mini-me”).
  • Studies show that graduate students who receive effective mentoring are more set up to succeed and demonstrate greater productivity in the areas of research activity, conference presentations, grant writing and professional success.
  • Different mentors may play different roles in your life. They may act as one or all of the following: a guide, counselor, advisor, consultant, tutor, teacher, role model. Gathering together a team of mentors is an effective strategy to getting a variety of your needs met.
  • Every student is different. The more you know about your goals, needs and passions, and the more openly you can share these with your mentor, the better they can support you.
  • How do you know if you have found a great mentor? A good place to begin is to ask yourself: Are they open, approachable and caring? Do they engage with you in ongoing conversation? Demystify graduate school for you? Provide constructive and supportive feedback? Provide encouragement? Foster networking and seeking out multiple mentors? Look out for your interests? Treat you with respect?
  • Just getting started? Or haven’t found the right fit yet? (See point number one above!) Don’t give up, it’s worth it. Have “informational interviews” with faculty to find out more about their work and their approach to research, teaching and learning. These conversations will create a spark (or not) and you’ll know which relationships to invest more time in.
  • Mentors can come from all directions. Peers can be great mentors for each other, as can some amazing staff here at UW, or family and people in circles outside of academia.
  • You, too, can be a mentor to others. Being able to give in both directions is the best way to learn and grow.

For further details on the points above, please refer to the following online resources on the Graduate School website:

How to Obtain the Mentoring you Need – A Guide for Graduate Students

Building your Network: Finding Mentors – Mentor Memo

2013 Graduate School Mentoring Award for Postdoctoral Trainees

And on the subject of effective mentoring… the Graduate School and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs are thrilled to feature this year’s recipients of the Mentoring Award for Postdoctoral Trainees. In this first year of the award, we received many compelling nominations from more than 25 departments. The stories we heard reinforced why postdocs are such an essential part of our education and research ecosystem here at UW. Postdocs are the ones who undergraduate and graduate students alike look up to, learn from, confide in, and strive to emulate. The patience postdocs demonstrate in spending time investing in students, even while advancing their own research and careers, is a model of what we would hope to see among mentors. As we heard over and over again in the letters, postdocs serve as mentors who guide, push and inspire students to become their best selves. We are very pleased to announce two award recipients and three postdocs we could not let go without an honorable mention. The two Mentoring Award recipients will receive an honorarium of $2,000 each.

2013 Awardees

Simon Sponberg, Mathematical Biology
Joan Schellinger, Chemistry/Bioengineering

Honorable Mention:

Thomas Portet, Chemistry & Physiology
Celia Payen, Genome Sciences
Lisa Ibenez, Psychology

On behalf of the Graduate School, THANK YOU to all of the postdocs on campus who contribute to our rich learning environment and the future of students.

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