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Improving Academic Mentoring
of the common deficiencies is an inability to write at the lev- el required to publish one or more refereed articles, which is usually the goal of an advanced degree in the fields of study associated with acoustics. An advisor might mark up a thesis to the point of rewriting it for the student, whereas the men- tor might go through draft after draft, teaching technical writing principles along the way, to help the student develop into a strong writer.
It is natural during Separation that the student and facul- ty member both feel a level of anxiety. The mentor should find a student to replace the mentee and may have concerns about the quality of work. The mentee may feel the mentor is being unfair in requiring so much work and may feel anx- ious about the search for employment. The mentor helps in this phase by having clearly defined goals all along the way, by ensuring that two-way communication is occurring, and by providing as much support as possible in the job search. He/she can offer advice on careers, job requirements, typical salaries, and the interviewing process. Taking time to dis- cuss with the mentee issues related to his/her future helps demonstrate to the mentee that the mentor truly has his/her best interests at heart and that the suffering associated with completing a thesis and manuscript drafts is a natural but necessary part of development.
Undergraduate Student Mentoring
The expectations for meaningful undergraduate student mentoring vary widely by department and university. Fac- ulty members at a small private college may be expected to spend more time in a traditional mentoring environment than those at a large research institution (Whiteside et al., 2007), where undergraduate student mentoring may be exclusively carried out by graduate students and postdocs. Likewise, the anticipated outcomes of a mentoring relation- ship vary widely. In some programs, a senior thesis or cap- stone report that results from a mentored research or learn- ing experience is required. In other cases where there is no research expectation, only the highly motivated undergrad- uate students find their way into faculty members’ offices to pursue a mentored learning experience.
When mentoring undergraduate students, the mentor must keep in mind that this is often the students’ first experience with mentoring. They are often, as we indicated previously, ill prepared to benefit from the faculty members’ time and attention. This does not mean that undergraduate mentor- ing is not worthwhile or without benefit but that it may take more time in Initiation than in Cultivation. Consequently,
expected outcomes must be kept realistic, particularly if meaningful technical writing is involved. From our experi- ence, success in mentoring undergraduates can be attributed to mentee motivation, the formation of mentoring forward and team-based mentoring environments where students benefit from having access to multiple mentors at all aca- demic levels, and the establishment of a culture where there is an expected scholarly product of an undergraduate re- search experience. Once undergraduate students understand their potential and the expectations, they can be mentored to work on par with many graduate students and to become highly sought-after graduate students and employees.
Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring
Mentoring of a postdoc is a unique situation in which the individual undergoes a significant transition from near- student to peer during the experience. The NIH and NSF describe a postdoc as an individual who engages “in a tem- porary period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path” ( qPjPux).
Because of the need for the mentor to carefully consider how he/she will establish an effective mentoring environ- ment, NSF proposals that include postdoc funds require the development of a postdoc mentoring plan, such as that described by the National Postdoctoral Association (https:// This mentoring plan generally includes ex- pectations of the mentee and the mentor and should include not only training in research but also opportunities for the postdoc to develop other skills that are appropriate for his/ her future career plans. For someone planning to enter aca- demia, the plan should include opportunities for mentored teaching, writing grants, working with undergraduates, and even getting opportunities for limited service roles.
The postdoc situation is also unique in that there is no an- ticipated time frame for completion of a clear outcome like a thesis. Scholarly goals and timetables are left up to the post- doc and mentor to set together. Thus, it is imperative that during Initiation, the mentor and mentee establish a mutual vision for a successful postdoc experience and set clear goals for the Cultivation phase and that these goals be reviewed and revised on a regular basis. Moreover, the plan may in- clude a discussion as to what Separation may involve when a job opportunity becomes available and, during Cultivation, what Redefinition may look like if there are long-term plans to continue collaborating.
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