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Mentoring for Faculty and Staff

Two of the most important responsibilities for academic faculty members are teaching and mentorship. Remarkably few faculty members have received significant training in either of these areas during their graduate studies, or during a postdoctoral fellowship. The Graduate School defines mentorship as the leading and guiding of others and, with regard to faculty members, mentorship of students figures prominently. A complementary definition of mentorship is offered by Huwe and Johnson (Getting Mentored in Graduate School); “Mentoring is a personal relationship in which a more experienced faculty member acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced graduate student. A mentor provides the mentee with knowledge, advice, challenge, counsel, and support in the mentee’s pursuit of becoming a full member of a particular profession.”

Quality mentorship can help students thrive in their undergraduate and graduate careers, and far beyond. Quality mentorship can help to create future leaders who have had that crucial example in their lives of what an effective mentor looks like. Poor mentorship can create damage that may be very difficult to repair.

We believe that learning principles of effective mentorship must be a crucial element of training early career Virginia Tech faculty members. We would like to see mentorship training extended to all Virginia Tech graduate students, so that the second sentence above will no longer be correct, at least for VT students. It is important for graduate students to be aware of the principles of good mentorship, and to take shared responsibility for creating mentorship agreements with principal investigators and academic advisors (mentorship “contracts”), and initiating, when necessary, conversations about mentorship issues that may arise during the student’s graduate career. Our current offerings include:

  • The Mentorship Road Show that is offered to all departments, programs, and colleges to train all of their faculty members in a scenario-based, highly interactive session.
  • Brown Bag Lunches with the Dean of the Graduate School, in which faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students can take part and raise mentorship issues for group discussion and/or feedback from the Dean.
  • The University of Wisconsin mentorship training program (Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research, CIMER) that is practiced by the Virginia Tech College of Engineering with their junior faculty members, and that is under consideration for uptake by other colleges.
  • Mentorship recognition programs that seek to spotlight quality mentorship from which we can all learn.

We appreciate your feedback and ideas about how to further promote the development of great mentors here at Virginia Tech; we believe that doing so is central to our most important ambitions as a university.

The Graduate School associate deans have created an interactive, scenario-based training session on mentorship that is appropriate for departments, schools, colleges, and other groups. To date it has been presented to more than a dozen departments and other faculty groups, with strong participation and with constructive interactions in every instance. The intent is for everyone to learn from real scenarios that have occurred at Virginia Tech, discussing together possible actions that could be taken by participants or observers to resolve or at least mitigate the issues encountered. We believe that the “Road Show” (which can typically be delivered within a one-hour format) is also appropriate for groups of postdoctoral fellows, and of graduate students. Please contact Kevin Edgar ( or Bill Huckle ( to schedule a “Road Show” event with your group. 

McGill University offers tips on iproving supervisory skills and practice:

Here's a useful student and supervisorframework to use as a reference:

The Council of Graduate School has a resource page providing links to websites on culturally aware mentoring.

NCFDD provides tools and resources associated with mentorship in the academy. The University has an institutional membership, so faculty members can use their VT login to sign into the pages and resources.

The University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School has produced a guide for faculty on mentoring graduate students. It is available as a pdf on their website

Duke University has a mentoring toolkit aimed at graduate faculty and students. 

Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching offers a webpage on Mentoring Graduate Students.

The University of Wisconsin's Center for Improvement of Mentoring Experiences in Research  (CIMER) offers a wide range of resources. 

Also from the University of Wisconsin, the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research has developed a slate of resources for mentors. You can access them at this website.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn has a Faculty Mentoring page that offers additional resources and ideas for activities.

Brown University Graduate School also has a list of resources for faculty members mentoring graduate students.

Here are a few other resources for faculty members:

Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering

Nature’s Guide for Mentors

How to Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty (from University of Michigan)

Self-Assessment: How Good a Mentor are You? (from Nature)

The Graduate School recognizes excellent faculty mentors from each college monthly and annually. The award winners are nominated by graduate students. You can read more about the awards, and about the award winners, via this link.