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The Key to Becoming a Mentor in the Research World

Graduate school research

The mentor-mentee relationship is a key ingredient for successful student research. Effective faculty mentors support and guide students to build skills and achieve their goals, but who supports the faculty in strengthening their mentoring skills? Enter the Stony Brook Graduate School. 

Graduate school researchStarting in 2023, the Graduate School began offering Research Mentor Training workshops for faculty, graduate students and postdocs. The workshops — which are hosted by Kathleen Flint Ehm, assistant dean for professional development and postdoctoral affairs, and Molly Lotz, director for research training initiatives from the Graduate School — are grounded in the curriculum from the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Research Experiences. 

Faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students across disciplines have the opportunity to reflect on their past mentoring experiences and discover new strategies to use when mentoring challenges arise. The two-part training takes participants through a variety of challenging scenarios while equipping them with tools to better support students through the research process.  

Many participants shared how they often think back to when they were in their students shoes and how an experience with their mentor shaped how they conduct themselves now. Every faculty or staff member had a unique story to share about how to empower students to ask questions or encourage them through a difficult situation they are facing in their research.  

Jackie Collier, associate professor and graduate program director for the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, shared, “I learned from this workshop that I have many colleagues all over campus, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom I just met at this program, who care deeply about doing mentoring the best they can. We have each come up with our own solutions to our mentoring challenges, mainly based on what we learned from our own mentors, but our struggles are not so unique that we can’t learn from others’ experiences and ideas. In fact, I picked up a lot of ideas I’ll be looking to implement in both personal and programmatic mentoring over the coming year. The biggest takeaway for me is that building on this workshop by creating regular opportunities for everyone — faculty, staff, students — to further develop common language about mentoring and share best practices would have a huge positive impact for everyone.”

Grad school workshopWhen asked what they planned to change about their mentoring, all attendees planned to add more structure to their mentoring relationships with respect to expectations, career planning and communication. Kathleen Flint Ehm shared, “Facilitating research mentor training is an extremely rewarding part of my role as it gives me the opportunity to have really important conversations about mentorship in the graduate education space. Supporting our faculty is also a way to support our graduate students and postdocs, which in turn enhances education and research at Stony Brook.” In a post-event survey, all participants reported that they found the sessions valuable and would recommend the series to a colleague.

The Graduate School at Stony Brook University has long been committed to enhancing the professional development of graduate students and postdocs. These new workshops expand the Graduate School’s capacity to serve as a resource for faculty and staff who are looking to enhance their mentorship skills and gain new strategies for fostering student success.  

There are two upcoming Research Mentor Training sessions being offered in person by the Graduate School.

Research Mentor Training for Graduate Students
Friday, November 17, and Friday, December 1, 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, Wang Center 201
Learn More

Research Mentor Training for Postdocs
Wednesday, January 10, and Wednesday, January 17, 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, Wang Center 201
Learn More

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