Faculty Development Aims

We aim to nurture the development of outstanding mentors as defined by the National Council of Graduate Schools and the NIH. According to these sources, as summarized by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, mentors can be “advisors, who have career experience and are willing to share their knowledge; supporters, who provide emotional and moral encouragement; tutors, who give specific feedback on one’s performance; supervisors, who monitor their students’ academic and professional progress; trainers, who teach students about professional responsibility; sponsors, who are sources of information about opportunities and assist students in obtaining them; and role models, who exhibit the qualities and ethical values that academics should possess.”

We also draw a distinction between mentor and thesis adviser. Although the latter also may be a mentor, there is an inherent conflict of interest between the long-term needs of the student and the short-term demands of the adviser’s career advancement, scientific project, or funding source. Few studies adequately evaluate mentor-preparation programs or mentoring effectiveness, and many programs overlook preparing protégées to acquire the mentoring they require. Given that most potential mentors our trainees encounter are in academia, these relationships often fail to provide meaningful career advice to the trainees.

We propose a multipronged approach that features a mentoring-preparation program for faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows and experiential exposure to multiple career tracks. We hypothesize that students who receive explicit training in being mentored and who engage trained mentors with multiple areas of expertise will enjoy greater satisfaction and objective success in a STEM career. Our goal is to develop a cadre of highly adept mentors whose skills are transferable and broadly applicable within the institution. In parallel, we will prepare students and postdoctoral fellows to be effectively mentored. We will start with trainees and advisers actively participating in this proposal and then extend the mentoring program to relevant faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows at Emory and Georgia Tech, tailoring the program to the disciplinary cultures and needs. Each trainee will acquire mentors and meaningful experiences in those career areas associated with their selected track. Finally, we will assess outcomes and track career progression for all trainees and matched control subjects to test the hypothesis.