Develop a Mentor Relationship

Finding a Mentor

  • Consider the faculty you already know from the classroom.  It's possible that one of them is working on something directly related to your interests.
  • Talk with your faculty advisors, including your pre-major advisor and advisor(s) in your major. 
  • Even if the faculty mentioned above conduct scholarship outside your field of interest (perhaps a completely unrelated field), they can be good resources as you prepare to introduce yourself to new faculty.  They may even be able to to refer you to specific colleagues.
  • In addition to faculty you already know, familiarize yourself with faculty across the University that are working in areas of interest to you:
  1. Consult websites of departments related to your field of interest and note the faculty whose specific work most intrigues you
  2. Find a recent publication from each of the professors on your short list, and read it
  3. When you introduce yourself, highlight your questions about what you've read
  • Visit your Academic Director or other advisors to talk more about the kinds of responses you're getting, and how you might move forward.

Working with a Mentor

When a professor responds to your initial inquiries, they are providing mentoring of one kind or another.  Whether that mentoring consists of a one time meeting to recommend further steps, or an extended relationship aimed at your development into a scholar, the mentoring will be most useful to you if you approach the relationship deliberately and proactively. 

  • When faculty give you something to read, read it and come back with questions.  Their selection of material is one of the most efficient kinds of assistance they can offer.
  • When faculty refer you to colleagues, seminars, or other resources, follow up.
  • Don't be reluctant to clearly express what you hope to get out of a project, and don't be reluctant to listen openly to what a professor advises. 
  • If you're unsure about your mentor's expectations, ask.  Questions about time commitments, communications styles, and materials to be handed in are best asked as a project is still developing. 
  • Talk with your Academic Director or other advisors if you're confused or hesitant about the way you interact with your mentor.  A strong mentoring relationship can make an enormous difference in the kind of project experience you have.