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.