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The Office of Undergraduate Research is committed to helping foster healthy and productive mentor/student relationships.

The advice and direction provided by faculty mentors are crucial to the success of students in their research endeavors. The mentor’s job is to supervise and direct research but also to challenge, nurture, and provide opportunities for young researchers. In all cases, mentors are an integral part in the planning, development, and implementation of students’ research projects. Students benefit greatly from mentor input in all stages of their research.

This funding document indicates support the OUR provides to students; if a mentor cannot pay a mentee, the OUR can help!

Mentoring Considerations

A few basics

  • Mentoring takes time and effort; make sure you have the bandwidth to mentor. Good mentoring also takes practice and the ability to adapt! Talk to other mentors (including mentors from other disciplines).
  • Mentees come to the table with myriad backgrounds, experiences, and languages. One size does not fit all for mentoring.
  • Don’t assume mentees know why something is being studied, done (e.g., a methodology), or concluded. Always ask and explain.
  • Model failure and share your research experiences (good and bad)!

Getting started

  • Consider creating a mentoring agreement or contract.
    • What expectations do you both have? What will communication be like (e.g., meetings)? What does training look like, and how will you check understanding? How will you foster independence? What will milestones look like? What will the project itself be and what (meaningful) role/responsibilities will the mentee have? Who will the mentee report to? What does the “end goal” look like? How will you help them navigate disseminating the work, including interacting with professional, disciplinary communities?
    • You might keep a shared document for notes and reflections. These can be logged in an ongoing manner or updated after meetings.
  • While students learn many skills from research, it takes time and practice.
    • NC State students have highlighted the following as important gains from research and their mentors: time management skills, independence and gaining knowledge, communication skills, being exposed to opportunities and networks, having guidance and support from someone, real world application of skills, and problem-solving skills.

Other notes

  • Will you work with your mentee again? Consider various funding and/or experiential opportunities to help them grow. This may include helping them navigate professional networks, grants, conferences, etc.
  • Science communication is an important but tough skill! It’s crucial that researchers learn to discuss their work with everyone, whether in their discipline or outside of it.
  • Helpful Resource: “Five Effective Strategies for Mentoring Undergraduates: Students’ Perspectives” an article in the Spring 2013 issue of CUR Quarterly, published by the Council on Undergraduate Research.
  • Have concerns about getting started as a mentor or with a current mentoring situation? Reach out to Dr. Catherine Showalter!

Does mentoring “count” as research? Teaching? Service?

Many faculty members new to mentoring have questions about how their participation as a mentor will be acknowledged by their department. Acknowledgment of and rewards for mentoring vary among departments and colleges; faculty should consult with their department chairs to learn promotion and tenure expectations. The NC State Office of Undergraduate Research considers student mentoring to be teaching (and in some cases, research) rather than service.

Additional resources