Advising can be defined as offering constructive counsel and guidance to graduate students in order to assist them in meeting their academic and professional goals. An advisor helps to evaluate students’ skills, talents, and performance as well as assists in the selection of coursework and other academic and training programs that will further their academic and professional development. Advisors play a central role in supporting the development of a dissertation project as well as supervising the student’s progress on the dissertation. Advisors also support a student’s career post-completion. Advisors collaborate with the graduate program’s Director of Graduate Study (DGS) to make sure that all parties are aware of relevant expectations for progress through the program.
Mentoring is an active process by which faculty establish and foster relationships with graduate students by offering guidance, support, and encouragement aimed at developing their competence and character. Mentors listen actively to mentee’s concerns and care about their personal and professional well-being. Mentors want to help graduate students further develop their strengths, work through challenges, achieve academic excellence, and advance professionally in career paths of the student’s choosing. Mentors act as advocates and role models for their mentees and are committed to helping graduate students meet their personal and professional goals.
While a student should always have an “official” advisor, graduate students generally benefit from having a broader network of mentors with complementary strengths. Graduate students are encouraged to build a network of mentors.
Brown University has developed a brief statement on Getting the Most from Advisors and Mentors.
Key elements of that statment include:
- Choose a principal advisor carefully.
- Understand and respect that each advisor and mentor brings different perspectives, experiences, strengths, and interests.
- Recruit multiple mentors and advisors.
- Be proactive.
- Communicate clearly and frequently with an advisor about expectations and responsibilities, ensuring with each communication that there is mutual understanding.
- Meet regularly with your advisor to review progress, goals, challenges, and future plans.
- Work with your advisor to develop a timeline for completing academic requirements and meeting professional goals.
- Seek, welcome, and respond to feedback.
- Address difficulties and issues you have in the advising relationship and other aspects of graduate student experience head on.
- Be knowledgeable about departmental and Graduate School policies.
- Take advantage of additional resources across the University and beyond.