Mentoring and advising policies

A mentor-mentee relationship is based on trust and discretion. Good mentoring involves treating students respectfully and fairly providing reliable guidance, and serving as a role model for upholding the highest ethical standards. Faculty mentoring of graduate students, both academic and professional, is a necessary and integral part of the graduate experience. There is a distinction to make between being a mentor and being an advisor—a mentor is someone who is attentive to the professional future of the student, while an advisor is someone who directs the student on what steps are needed to graduate. Both, however, exhibit characteristics that span beyond formal classroom instruction and can be found in one individual together or distributed across multiple supporters.

It is common for the faculty advisor to also serve as a student's mentor. In this case, the faculty advisor shares wisdom, technical knowledge, guidance, and support that helps students understand how to succeed in their graduate program, excel in their field of study, and to recognize and choose among career options. At the Department of Cognitive Sciences, we enhance mentoring beyond the role of the faculty advisor through incorporating peer mentoring, professional development workshops, and other activities. While it is necessary to have one primary faculty advisor, multiple mentors may be beneficial to mentees' study, reading, research, writing and career development.

Understanding that both the mentor and mentee play an active role in their relationship is a vital first step; both should be aware of the following guiding principles regarding this relationship:

  • Mentors and students should discuss and come to a clear understanding of their expectations, clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
  • Either party has the right to terminate the mentoring relationship if not seen as satisfactory, despite genuine attempts at conflict resolution. However, departments may require students to have a primary faculty advisor at all times to remain in the program.
  • The relationship should enable shared decision-making regarding the mentee's professional development, incorporating both individuals' points of view.
  • Meetings should be held in an appropriate environment where both parties feel they can speak freely.
  • Commitments made should be honored. Both parties should be considerate of each other's time and provide as much notice as possible when cancelling or rescheduling meetings.
  • Information shared in mentoring meetings is subject to standard rules of professional confidence.

Role of Faculty

It is expected that each student receives advising and mentoring. It is the responsibility of the department's faculty to advise and monitor academic progress while encouraging the professional development of each student. Faculty should be attentive to the future of their students and serve as advocates on their behalf when appropriate. Guidelines for advising and mentoring are provided below.

Advising

In coordination with program staff, faculty advisors guide students through degree requirements by providing a clear map from the very beginning. This includes defining a timeline for completing coursework requirements and qualifying examinations.

  • Faculty advisors assist students through the thesis and/or dissertation process. This includes providing advice on timely initiation and completion, topic choice, acquiring sources of funding, committee formation, etc.
  • Faculty advisors clearly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their student's research and ensure that the grades assigned for independent study are consistent with the student's performance.
  • Faculty advisors provide regular and timely feedback on the progress of students, including constructive criticism on progress. Individual Development Plans (IDP) can be used as a tool to help facilitate these discussions.
  • Faculty advisors must meet quarterly with students not making satisfactory progress to evaluate their progress.
  • Faculty advisors foster the development of communication skills, written and oral, as it pertains to the students' particular area of study.

Mentoring

  • Mentors provide constructive advice and guide the professional development of students.
  • Mentors affirm students' pursuit of health and wellness, as well as professional skills beyond research which are necessary to career success.
  • Mentors encourage students' participation in appropriate professional meetings of national and regional groups and societies.
  • Mentors share their resources and networks, as appropriate, to facilitate interaction with other scholars, both on campus and in the wider professional community.
  • Mentors assist with applications for research funding, fellowship applications, and other applications specific to the program or discipline.
  • Mentors provide career guidance, assistance in the preparation of a CV and/or resume, coaching for job interviews, and writing letters of recommendation in a timely manner.
  • Mentors direct graduate students to various career resources available at the Graduate Resource Center (GRC) and UCI Career Center (workshops, career fairs, etc.)
  • Mentors recognize that there are a variety of career options available to their students and encourage students to explore multiple career paths.

Role of Graduate Students

It is essential that graduate students see themselves as partners in the mentoring relationship. As mentees, graduate students should:

  • Be aware of their own mentoring needs and how they can change through their graduate tenure. Changes should be discussed with their faculty advisor and/or mentor in a timely manner.
  • Proactively seek out mentorship; be aware of advertised workshops and resources. Keep in mind that one faculty advisor may not be able to satisfy all needs.
  • Recognize that their mentoring needs must respect their mentor's other responsibilities and time commitments.
  • Be aware of, and meet, the deadlines associated with the degree program and develop a plan to accommodate to them.
  • Maintain and seek regular communication with their mentor(s), especially their primary faculty advisor.

(This is a lightly edited excerpt from the UC Irvine Graduate Policies and Procedures.)