Tips for Mentors

Planning for research

You may wish to establish a research contract at the beginning of your work with a student to clearly outline expectations.

The following items are recommended for inclusion in the research contract:

  • Ownership of materials
  • Authorship
  • Timeline for research goals, including student deadlines and faculty turn-around time
  • Evaluation methods
  • Use of appropriate style guide

Accepting students

When considering to mentor or advise a student, we recommend that you:

  • Examine other commitments to determine if adequate time is available to take on advisees
  • Consider personal factors such as rapport with the student, as well as communication styles.

If you are not a good match with a particular student, consider directing them to a colleague that would be more appropriate for them.

Managing progress

The mentoring relationship provides a good opportunity to teach students about planning ahead and making good use of their time:

  • Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces
  • Create a timeline to complete each piece
  • Set aside time for planning and personal responsibilities
  • Regular progress reports may help the student to focus and assist in maintaining clear communication with you

Let students know ahead of time what their responsibilities will include and agree on a timeline.

If a student does not meet time requirements, consider possible causes such as fatigue, unclear direction, lack of commitment or dislike for the task.

Special considerations

As a mentor, you need to be aware of the resources available on- and off-campus to assist with situations requiring special considerations.

Minority students

MSU has a commitment to embracing diversity. You should welcome, encourage and challenge all students in critical thinking skills and good study habits in accordance with Missouri State’s non-discrimination policy.

The office of multicultural student services can provide resources and recommendations for your mentees.

Cultural issues

Some students may have different cultural backgrounds that may necessitate the use of different communication and teaching styles.

Be aware that cultural differences may affect behaviors and communication. Ask colleagues, your student and international student services when you have questions.

Female representation

Females may not be represented well in all disciplines. Female students in these disciplines may need extra support.

While you should avoid singling anyone out for special treatment, be aware of female role models on- and off-campus that may offer guidance if needed.

Family issues

Many students must balance family responsibilities, graduate school and careers. Be patient with students who must cope with stressful situations outside of their studies. Sometimes you may need to connect your student to colleagues or other students who have expertise in this area.

Sexual discrimination, harassment and amorous relationships

Sex differences should not impede students’ opportunities to interact with you. However, a mentor of someone of the opposite sex should take extra care to avoid situations that would create an appearance of sexual harassment.

Use common sense methods such as avoiding discussions outside of the professional settings, keeping your office door open during meetings and practicing clear communication.

Disability issues

Mentors may support students with disabilities by finding them the assistance that they need and making colleagues comfortable with them. These students may be able to function at the same level as other students but may require assistance to do so.

Remember that the student is an expert on their own disability and ask this person for help. Contact the Disability Resource Center if you have any questions on how to assist students with disabilities.