Academic journal article College Student Journal

Mentoring within a Graduate School Setting

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Mentoring within a Graduate School Setting

Article excerpt

Mentoring is considered to be the heart of graduate education. Accordingly, this study sought to determine which graduate students were being mentored or were mentoring other students. It was postulated that students' mentor status would be related to their perceptions of the graduate climate, as well as the receipt of special benefits. Six hundred and seventy graduate students in a large Midwestern university were interviewed regarding their demographic information, mentor status, and their perceptions of the racial/ethnic and academic climate. The findings indicated that those receiving mentoring had better outcomes, and that this relationship is more crucial for non-Caucasians. Further, the results yielded valuable information for universities interested in devising ways to increase the support received by graduate students.

It is commonly known that the relationship between faculty and graduate students at universities is extremely important. Many graduate degree recipients have reported that their relationship with faculty has been the most important aspect in their completion of and satisfaction with graduate school (Blackwell, 1981; Hartnett & Katz, 1977). The quality and frequency of interaction with faculty are also seen as more important in determining graduate school success than both the personal characteristics of students and their undergraduate experiences (McGhee, Satcher, & Livingston, 1995). In fact, mentoring, a specific type of faculty-student relationship, is considered to be the heart of graduate education (Cusanovich & Gilliland, 1991).

Mentoring occurs when an older, more experienced organization member dons a guiding role with a less experienced protege (Kogler Hill, Bahniuk, Dobos & Rouner, 1989). Faculty mentors teach graduate students the technical aspects of their profession, collaborate with them on research, and assist them with job placement, networking, and professional development. In addition, collaboration with mentors is associated with higher productivity both before and after attaining the doctoral degree (Wright & Wright, 1987).

Unfortunately, while researchers have suggested that mentoring is crucial in academic settings, in comparison with other settings such as the business world, mentoring is less likely to occur (Wright & Wright, 1987). As Merriam (1983) has indicated, "no distinct line of research can be traced with respect to mentoring in academic settings" (p. 169). Further, when academic mentoring is researched, most studies investigate inner-city youth and undergraduate students as opposed to graduate students (e.g. Frierson, Hargrove, & Lewis, 1994). Yet information about teens and undergraduates is not easily applied to the graduate population, because of differences in age, career stage, life circumstances, finances, and reasons for pursuing an education (Cooke, Sims, &

Peyrefitte, 1995).

Mentoring According to Race, Nationality, Gender, and Other Demographic Characteristics

Since mentoring is important for graduate students, knowledge of which graduate students are being mentored and/or are mentoring others will assist universities in targeting students who may need assistance in finding mentors. Research reveals that minority graduate students have a harder time forming bonds with faculty members than Caucasian graduate students (Pruitt & Isaac, 1985). Mentors are likely to choose proteges with whom they identify, typically based upon race, gender, and social class (Wright & Wright, 1987). Caucasians hold 90% of all faculty and administrative positions in the U.S. (McGhee et al., 1995), and these faculty are less likely to be interested in research pertaining to minorities. Thus, minorities often have few, if any faculty of the same culture or ethnicity (Frierson et al., 1994; Wright & Wright, 1987).

African American and international students may have particular difficulty identifying mentors. …

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