Assessment and Support of Advisor-Student Mentoring for Graduate Engineering Students at a Land-Grant Institution

Rachel Elisabeth Gehr, Emily Garcia, Suzanne Swaine, Stephen McBride, Joseph Vincent Rispoli, Christopher Greg Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

The faculty advisor-student mentee relationship is often the most influential aspect of the student's experience during their graduate education. In an effort to optimize graduate student mentorship experiences, Purdue University launched the Mentoring Improvement Initiative (MII). This three-year program aims to research mentorship and implement positive changes across various levels within the university. The MII included the inception of the Mentoring Fellows Program (MFP), a student-led and faculty-advised initiative aimed to research current relationships and design improvements at the college level. The College of Engineering Mentoring Fellows began by evaluating existing data collected through surveys from the Graduate Student Experience in the Research University (gradSERU) online service. The fellows recognized several gaps in Purdue's graduate mentoring experience that needed to be addressed: an engineering-specific individual development plan (IDP), surveys of faculty members, and educating students about taboo mentorship topics. An IDP was created for PhD or master's students in the College of Engineering. The document is intended to guide students through four steps: a skillset self-assessment, goals for Year 1 of graduate school, a meeting between student and advisor, and progress updates after the first year. The IDP was published on the university website and distributed among the engineering departments in August 2022 and has since received 1,292 views. In September, a workshop was held to teach students and faculty members how to utilize the document most effectively. The anonymous faculty survey was designed to evaluate five areas of mentoring graduate students: (a) faculty's prioritization of time, (b) considerations when mentoring, (c) expectations set by the College of Engineering, (d) interests in using an IDP, and (e) interests in incentives for effective mentorship. A brief series of demographic questions, including years of mentoring experience and tenure status, concluded the survey. Out of the 103 engineering faculty that completed the online survey, 36% currently use an IDP and an additional 39% would be interested in using one if a template were provided to them. Of the faculty that had an opinion on the level of consideration given to graduate student mentoring for tenure, 47% stated that it should be a more important consideration. A four-part seminar series was held over the Fall 2022 semester to inform students about mentorship resources on campus and address complex topics. The series included: (1) IDP creation, implementation, and other vital resources for graduate student success; (2) guest speaker on the topic of Navigating Toxic Mentoring Environments; (3) discussion on effective mentorship with a panel of Purdue mentoring awardees; and (4) panel discussion on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations in mentorship. Follow-up surveys after each seminar showed that 91% of attendees gained new perspectives about mentorship. This first year of the Engineering MFP focused on providing practical resources for students and surveying faculty members to evaluate their mentorship perspectives. The upcoming year will focus on the opposite; a survey will be created to evaluate the advisor-student relationship from the mentee's point of view, and practical resources for faculty will be implemented.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering

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