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Mentoring Manual

Designing and implementing an effective program

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Why mentoring?

The NSF has made clear its view that mentoring in STEM is crucial to developing national intellectual capital.  By improving retention of students in the discipline, the enhancement of the student experiences in research, and the professional challenges and satisfaction brought to mentors, the mentoring experience is beneficial to students, faculty, the program in which mentoring occurs and the greater STEM community.

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Why be a mentor?

There is much written about why we mentor. The motivation to mentor will differ from person to person, and role to role, but it is likely comprised of a combination of practical, professional, and personal imperatives, including:

  • Potential graduate students can be identified.
  • Including undergraduates and underrepresented minorities and women is sometimes required for the funding, or satisfies the broader impact criteria.
  • Undergraduates can contribute effectively to a research program.
  • Having additional students adds positive energy to the research group.
  • This opportunity for my graduate students to perform the daily mentoring will help their job prospects and professional development.
  • This is my role and obligation as an educator.

Mentoring can be demanding and requires a responsible approach, but at the same time mentoring can provide an enjoyable means for acting in accordance with one's personal values.


"I enjoy seeing what students can accomplish and helping to push them beyond what they think they are capable of. By guiding engineers who are just entering the field, I also feel I am giving something back to a profession and discipline I care about. On the other hand, mentoring takes time - there were some summers when I knew that I did not have the time or energy to effectively mentor, so did not take any interns."

- Dr. J. Adin Mann, M.E., faculty mentor, Iowa State University

Among a number of compelling reasons to mentor, Richard Myer of UC Davis highlights the learning experience of mentoring. In his article, "Why You Need To Mentor, No Matter What Your Level" he cites mentoring as a unique means to advance the knowledge and capabilities of the mentor through the act of teaching and guiding others.

The National Academy of Science publication, Advisor,Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering, provides additional information on the benefits of mentoring.


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Why diversity?

A growing body of research suports what many teachers and professionals know from expereince: diversity improves academic outcomes and suports innovation in science.  This research has informed the NSF Strategic Framework for Broadening participation, which states: "The creative engagement of diverse ideas and perspectives is essential to enabling the transformative research that invigorates our nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise. Broadening participation infuses science and engineering excellence into varied individual, institutional, and geographic networks and provides for the discovery and nurturing of talent wherever it may be found." Additionally, refer to IBP's online presentation The Diversity Brief for more information on the importance of diversity to your program.

A well-considered, well-rounded, comprehensive plan for broadening participation directly addresses at least the following five areas of focus (for example, in the Diversity Section of a proposal) and also presents a number of concrete actions, activities and practices that, implemented, will achieve the goals of each area.

Areas of focus (expanded below with subsections and examples of concrete activities):

  1. Growing the diversity awareness and cultural competency of project faculty and partners.
  2. Developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for outreach and retention.
  3. Embracing the pipeline.
  4. Evaluation: putting the systems into place that will enable you to track your efforts and assess change.
  5. Dissemination: sharing your work, findings and successes at conferences and in publications.

In addition to these areas, provide introductory context describing your awareness of diversity issues and your vision for creating change in this area. If you and your partners have an excellent record for diversity or strong areas – highlight them.

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Utilizing Difference to build stronger teams

Select students who can bring something unique to your research group.

In his book, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (2007), Dr. Scott Page has demonstrated that teams with members holding a diversity of perspectives outperform those teams comprised of like-minded individuals. At the core of these findings is the observation that people with diverse backgrounds look at the same set of information differently, whereas people with the same background will look at the same set of information in roughly the same way. From a design engineering perspective, broadening viewpoints broadens the design space.

One of the sources of diversity within research teams is ethnic/cultural diversity, which can give people different perspectives.

"One of the best pieces of advice that I was given when starting as a faculty member was 'get graduate students who can do what you can’t do otherwise it is easiest to just do the work yourself.' Applying this to research teams, I have typically selected students with different educational backgrounds, but backgrounds related to the work. For example, a student from an HBCU (that typically does not include a large engineering college) will have a stronger background in mathematics, physics, or chemistry than many students from a large predominantly white mid-western university with a well-known engineering college. Teaming the student with stronger physics background and a student with strong practical engineering skills will likely produce better work than two with the same skill set."

- Dr. J. Adin Mann, M.E., faculty mentor, Iowa State University

The Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison has also published an excellent primer on the topic: The benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings.

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Plan for institutionalization

* Additional content is in process

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Re-think resource allocation

If mentoring is a significant aspect of your program, it is worth considering the creation of a position dedicated to mentoring development, maintenance and assessment tasks. The Graduate College at Western Michigan University established a Mentor Coordinator position as part of its effort toward fulfilling AGEP’s objectives. Specific duties and responsibilities of the position include:

  • Monitoring student progress.
  • Fostering faculty/student mentoring relationships.
  • Developing mentoring programs for doctoral and master’s degree students that include meetings each semester.
  • Developing a faculty mentor training program in collaboration with the Director of the Graduate Center for Research and Retention.
  • Preparing written evaluations of all mentoring programs and activities.

The link for additional information on this program:

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Examples of successful programs

These are just a few of the most successful programs we have found that integrate mentoring and diversity into their program designs. Many of the important elements of these programs have also been documented and are available to learn from or borrow as is appropriate for your experience.

Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland at Baltimore Country

MIMSUP: Multicultural Initiative in Marine Sciences,

SOARS: Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science.

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Mentoring models to consider

How to Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty produced at the University of Michigan, covers many issues related to mentoring grad student mentors, including a section (chapter 8) on mentoring underrepresented minorities. . Similarly, the Faculty Handbook: Mentoring Undergraduates in Research and Scholarship has been developed and is offered by the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

More Graduate Education at Mountain States Alliance conducted a faculty doctoral mentoring institute and captured many short video segments addressing common questions about mentoring and diversity.

This practical mentoring guide to some of the fundamental skills of mentoring was developed by Mentoring Physical Oceanography Women to Increase Retention (MPOWIR).


* Additional content under development

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Focusing inward: Growing the diversity awareness and cultural competency of project faculty and partners

Designate a diversity point person, offer training, improve access to support materials, and follow up on an individual basis. All of the above keep broadening participation in the spotlight. Here are some tactics for implementing this inward focus.

Offer and implement training/orientation.

For example:

  • Include diversity focused workshops, training, or orientation sessions at annual meetings or other gatherings
  • Webinars
  • Online training modules

Improve access to materials and resources that can help faculty succeed in their efforts to address barriers to participation and increase diversity.

Materials and resources that can be helpful:

  • Relevant research or other publications that provide context, statistics and understanding
  • Checklists and topic-based handouts
  • Case studies and narratives highlighting strategies used by other programs, how they carried them out, and the impact that resulted
  • Contacts who are willing to discuss certain topics and strategies
  • Templates and draft plans that can be adapted

Some methods of providing them:

  • Include in presentations and materials at training sessions and workshops
  • Gather resources into one easy-to-access web portal, or use the resources already gathered on IBP’s
  • Include links in emails, newsletters or messages to listservs
  • Reference in conversation and attach to follow up emails

Follow up with project faculty, partners and leaders on a low-key, individual basis during calls, small meetings, or networking at conferences and events.

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Preparing faculty and graduate student mentors

Some faculty and grad student mentors have never been asked to spend time or effort developing themselves as mentors, and may benefit from some guidance. The Wisconsin Center for Education Research has developed a set of curricula and website, Research Mentor Training, designed to facilitate a collaborative approach to developing faculty and grad student mentors. Another useful resource is offered by ENGAGE (Engaging Students in Engineering) on “Faculty-Student Interaction: Faculty Focus” which provides a simple set of strategies to improve programs. And Entering Mentoring is a commonly used guide to training mentors, which also asks the mentor to consider one's own orientation toward underrepresentation.

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Promoting diversity: Empower faculty allies

At the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan, department chairs, graduate chairs, and program directors associated with each program were asked to identify people in the program who might fulfill the role of "Faculty Allies."

"The precise nature of the diversity challenges varies by program, as does the nature of the best solutions. For that reason, the Graduate School sought to identify aculty allies within the programs. Our hope was that in this way we could support and encourage 'local' efforts to recruit and retain diverse students" (University of Michigan staff, 2011).

They asked their Faculty Allies to perform a new role, including:

  • To be visible to the faculty and students in their program as someone who cares and is available as a resource or can help find the right resource.
  • To be willing to consider volunteering for new initiatives the college or program proposes to enhance diversity.
  • To suggest new initiatives to enhance diversity.
  • To provide the college or program with feedback on its efforts as well as areas where improvement is needed.
For additional information:

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Focusing outward: Developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for outreach and retention

Steps to consider when enhancing your outward focus:

  1. Reaching & recruiting students from underrepresented groups:

Set specific goals. I.e. “Recruit [x number] of underrepresented students per program year . . . increasing the participation of underrepresented students by [x%] in three years.”

Use IBP’s web resources and widespread recruitment activities to support your efforts. For example:

  • Post your project’s opportunities for undergrads, grads and post-docs on IBP’s IBP’s family of sites features opportunities searchable by institution, discipline, keyword, level of study, and geographic area. Our travel and virtual outreach, focused on reaching and supporting underrepresented students, generates over 60,000 visits (400,000 page views) per month during peak portions of the academic calendar. 
  • Submit inspirational student and faculty profiles to be posted on
  • Use the Partners Directory and Institution Hub on to identify contacts at institutions, programs, and minority serving organizations in your area or where you’ll be traveling.
  • For more detailed plans and tips, tap IBP’s diversity-focused draft plans and handouts, checklists and handbooks on topics such as making the most of conference travel and attendance, and making your website into a more effective recruitment tool.
  • Tap IBP’s Online Diversity Reference Library. It provides an annotated list of resources (policy documents, studies, and other publications) that relate to broadening participation in the sciences, divided into the categories of:
  • Demographic Patterns of Diversity in the Sciences and Higher Education
  • How People Learn in Diverse Communities
  • Culturally Responsive Science Instruction
  • Establishing Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
  • Programmatic Approaches to Broadening Participation in the Sciences
  • Culturally Reliable and Valid Program Evaluation

Focus on making your website and admissions and enrollment processes friendly, clear and multi-cultural. For example:

  • Conduct a review of your admissions and enrollment processes that asks questions like: are your admissions criteria appropriate? Does your program follow up promptly and thoughtfully with interested faculty and students?
  • Conduct a review of your website and check off or identify areas that need work, for example:
    • Inspiration: gives students an idea of what their experience will be like and inspires them
    • Features images and bios of current faculty and students carrying out research and activities
    • Bi-lingual
    • Addresses topics that may be of concern to family
    • Provides contact information for a real, live, specific individual who handles inquiries.
    • Clear dates and deadlines

Focus on fostering partnerships – real partnerships with specific individuals:

  • Start with your current networks. Add detail to your proposal about your current collaboration networks that you will tap for recruitment, such as faculty at other institutions, professional societies, etc.
  • Tap into your own campus resources. Identify the resources on your own campus and within your campus networks that you plan to work with. For example:
  • Office for Campus Diversity
  • Office of Minority Affairs
  • Minority and women student chapters
  • Student Career Services
  • AGEPs
  • LSAMPs
  • Plan on fostering partnerships with faculty and administrators at minority serving institutions.  Realize that joint partnerships are a two-way street, take time to develop, and are built on trust and presence. Reach out, show up, and follow up.
    • Identify and reach out to minority serving institutions in your local area: HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institutions), Tribal Colleges and Universities, community colleges and women’s colleges.
    • When you travel for conferences or meetings, plan ahead and include site visits to minority serving institutions in the area to meet and talk with faculty and students in person.

Focus on travel and conference participation:

  • Leverage your current travel and conference participation. For example:
    • Create a powerpoint slide about your project’s opportunities and give it to involved faculty to include when they do presentations at conferences or meetings.
    • Look for events and opportunities at conferences (such as the annual AGU or OSM meetings) that are oriented towards supporting underrepresented students, such as poster sessions, research symposiums, meet-and-greets, career center activities. See how you can be involved: attend poster sessions and talk with students, volunteer to be a conference mentor, seek to be a presenter.
    • Plan ahead and include site visits to minority serving institutions in the area to meet and talk with faculty and students in person.
  • Expand your travel and conference participation.
    • To get the word out more broadly about your opportunities, you can target specific national organizations for recruitment, such as AISES (American Indians in Science and Engineering Society), SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science), SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), NSBE (National Society for Black Engineers), WEPAN (Women in Engineering Proactive Network) and others – all have excellent national conferences annually.
  • Plan events that will increase your project’s visibility to the students you seek to recruit. For example:
    • Host a poster presentation/competition for students, to be judged by project/program faculty.  Winning students receive a travel grant to attend a national conference and present.  These kinds of activities can really raise awareness about your program.
    • Host bi-weekly or monthly seminars open to the broader community.

Request a targeted student mailing list from IBP’S National Student Directory of 40,000+ students, most of whom are underrepresented minority students.

  1. Retention:

Implement program structures and activities that build program community, help students connect with support systems, and provide checkpoints and response on student progress throughout the program.

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Recruitment templates and draft plans

IBP offers several tools to assist directors, including a guide to recruitment strategies , a template for drafting a recruitment plan as well as one for assisting with a retention plan . Each of these can be easily adapted to individual programs or used to enhance approaches, especially in trying to make the most of conference participation with an eye to recruitment. Additionally, IBP's guide for writing diversity plans into proposals can be found here.  These resources and others can be found on the Pathways to Science Faculty link in the Resource Toolbox.

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