Mentoring is something very important to me. Personally, I have had wonderful mentors over the years, and working with both undergraduate and graduate students is a great way to give back to my own mentors. It is so rewarding. Whether it is sitting down for coffee with undergraduate to discuss career options, to teaching a graduate student how to conduct an interview with a research participant, to providing feedback on a paper to improve writing skills, I love each of these opportunities.
My approach to mentoring can be summarized in three main ways.
First, just like in teaching, I seek to challenge the students I advise and mentor while also creating a supportive environment to learn. I have high expectations for understanding communication theory and research but also guide students throughout their academic journey. For example, for undergraduate students interested in graduate school and graduate students interested in the of academic profession, I encourage goals and tasks such as the following: taking multiple methods classes, conducting research projects, presenting at conferences, publishing in journals, and applying for research and travel based grants.
School is the time to learn. School is the time to grow. School is the time to master. There is nothing like school. That is why I emphasize taking advantage of all possible opportunities while in school. I encourage my students to attend professional development workshops about diversity in the classroom, academic writing, and career planning; participate in communication salons where students discuss current research projects and practice their conference presentations; and create writing groups to share writing and provide feedback. There are so many opportunities offered in departments, colleges, and the university, which help students achieve goals and prepare them for desired future careers one just has to maximize on them.
Lastly, when mentoring and advising, it is important for me to get to know my students’ preferences, tendencies, and strengths. Understanding how students work and learn assists me in teaching and collaborating. For instance, if a student wants to work with me, we sit down and talk about what they want in the long run and how a project I am working on or an experience I can provide them with will help them reach their goals. Additionally, because students have different types of learning styles and patterns, I seek to strike a balance between being “hands on” and “hands off.” One student might work well alone and reach a deadline; while another needs to sit down at a coffee shop once a week to work on a project; and others may like to stop by frequently to check in and chat. Overall, my goal as a mentor is to help students achieve their goals and prepare them for their dream job.