What is a Mentor?
Role Models, Advocates, Champions + Frank, Honest and Encouraging Feedback
What do you think of when hearing the word mentor? One all-knowing and wise faculty member who will show
you the ropes?
The reality is that we are likely to have many mentors over the course of our careers. These
relationships ideally benefit the mentor and mentee as the mentors provide support to help you be a whole person
— professionally and personally — throughout your career.
Mentoring is a two-way, action-oriented activity. Seeking and providing mentoring should be a mindset rather than a one-time event. Mentoring is critical to your long-term faculty success, generating positive impacts on research
output, teaching, and mental health.1
Mentorship relationships can form through formal and informal mechanisms.
Informal mentorship relationships develop organically through regular interpersonal interaction, whereas formal
mentoring programs are offered by an institution or other entity. Both are helpful and important, but formal
mentorship programs offered at an institution also ensure that all faculty have access to mentorship, normalize the
activity, create a cultural expectation of mentorship, and strengthen the overall commitment to mentoring throughout
Mentees, mentors, academic units, and institutions:
- Benefit from diverse perspectives.
- Gain access to formal and informal networks.
- Make industry connections.
- Receive feedback on ideas, papers and proposals.
- Learn best practices for setting up labs.
- Get support for teaching and learning.
- Get promotion and tenure guidance and support.
- Find personal support throughout your career.
- Get a champion for your ideas and your career.
- Find a role model.
- Enhance professional relationships.
- Learn about funding opportunities and collaborators.
- Strengthen interpersonal skills and relationships.
Additionally, formal mentoring:
- Cultivates a culture of learning in your organization.
- Strengthens the leadership pipeline in your academic unit or college.
- Sets new hires up for success in your institution.
- Provides senior faculty opportunities to serve as role models.
1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. "The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM." Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25568.