Strategies to Address Issues With Your Mentor
- Source: University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School
If you clearly establish the terms of a mentoring relationship at the outset of your graduate program, there will hopefully be few problems between you and your mentor. However, sometimes situations arise that hinder the timely completion of degree work, such as the birth of a child or a family crisis.
In these instances, take the initiative and contact your mentors. Discuss your situation and provide them the information you feel they need to know. As soon as possible, get back to them with a new timeline for completing your degree. Be sure the revised plan is realistic and that you can meet the new deadlines.
Remember that situations also can occasionally arise for faculty that could impact your work.
For instance, other demands on your mentor may hinder their ability to meet with you or provide prompt feedback about your work. If something like this happens repeatedly, talk to your mentor in-person. Face-to-face meetings can lead to more satisfactory results than email, since tone and message can be easily misconstrued when communicating online or by phone.
In either situation, you may find that, despite talking with your mentor, you need to develop a new strategy that keeps your work on schedule. Ask other students working with your mentor if they can suggest possible resolutions. Your peers may be able to explain the norms across your department regarding frequency of meetings, turnaround time for feedback, and general availability of other faculty.
Departmental staff such as administrative assistants or graduate coordinators can also clarify departmental expectations and standards, and may be able to provide suggestions on how to resolve issues. Administrative staff may direct you to other people on campus who can assist you.
Sometimes other faculty members in your program can give you advice about how to deal with issues with a mentor. This is one of the best reasons to develop a team of mentors to support your efforts in graduate school. If you want someone to intercede on your behalf, other faculty members can often provide guidance about how to proceed.
Finally, if you are not able to resolve issues with your mentor on your own, or with the advice of other faculty and staff, it may be worthwhile to talk to the graduate chair or your department chair.
Adapted from University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School. Original source: How to Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty.
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