Mentoring

What is Effective Undergraduate Research Mentoring

Based on some of the literature on mentoring and personal experience, the Scholarly Activity Mentoring Study Group (SAMS), a faculty Community of Practice, put together a Definition of Effective Undergraduate Student Research Mentoring. The definition document describes mentor attributes and activities that enhance the student learning experience.

Definition Document

Key Mentor Attributes

  • Mentor has the disciplinary expertise required to mentor the project
  • Mentor designs a project appropriate to the student and the subject matter
  • Mentor leads the student through stages of the research project and personal development
    • Recruitment
    • Initiation
    • Cultivation
    • Transformation
    • Closure
  • Mentor maintains a supportive collaborative environment throughout

Awards for Mentoring 

The Community of Practice also developed a process for selecting an early-career Emerging Mentor and a more experienced Career Mentor each year for an award. Criteria for these awards are based on the Definition of Effective Undergraduate Research Mentoring and input from focus groups of student researchers. 

Excellence in Mentoring RSCA Awards

Two awards have been created to honor faculty and staff who mentor students in their research, scholarly and creative projects. 

The Emerging Mentor in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award is for a mentor who has worked at UW-Eau Claire for 5 years or less. 

The Excellence in Mentoring in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award is for those who have been at UW-Eau Claire longer. 

Nominations are solicited from students and alumni. Based on the nomination materials a committee with broad disciplinary representation selects the finalists. Finalists submit materials including

  • a 1-page philosophy of mentoring
  • up to two collegial letters of support
  • a "mentoring vita" that demonstrates successful student outcomes related to mentoring activities
  • a 2-page CV

Criteria for selecting the award recipients were developed based on the campus Definition of Effective Student Research Mentoring.

2018 Mentoring Award Recipients

The Emerging Mentor in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award highlights mentors who have been at UW-Eau Claire no more than five years.

Dr. Arthur Grothe

 

Dr. Arthur Grothe, assistant professor of music & theatre arts. A student nominator said "Arthur is enthusiastic, careful, intelligent, and patient with his mentees. While in the preliminary stages of each project, Arthur asks the student what they would like the project to be, and aids them in constructing an outline and schedule of the project. The research process is very flexible, and the end product stems from a truly collaborative effort."

Dr. Laura Suppes

Dr. Laura Suppes, Watershed Institute assistant professor. A student nominator said, "Dr Suppes cares about her students' success. She puts in so much effort to see her students excel and develop their passions." 

The Excellence in Mentoring Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Award
honors a mentor who has been at UW-Eau Claire five years or more.

Dr. Jerry Hoepner

Dr. Jerry Hoepner, associate professor of economics. Letters of support from Jerry's colleagues note that his mentoring practice is based in the research on mentoring. They described how he embodies every aspect of UW-Eau Claire's definition of an effective mentor, including careful project design, intentional recruitment of students beyond the cream of the crop, and appropriately scaffolded support and encouragement leading to a broad program of dissemination and building professional connections. In addition, they noted that he also generously mentors his departmental colleagues on mentoring research students.

Faculty + Staff Quotes about Mentoring

Recruitment

In your opinion, what is the best method of recruiting students?

After trying several different approaches over the years, I have discovered that both the student researchers and I are happiest and most productive when I hand-pick them. I do not have a nice, tidy set of selection criteria that I can articulate cogently. They are almost always students that I first meet in my classes. I gravitate toward the ones who are curious, engaged, creative thinkers. Lots of intelligence is a plus, but I've had some outstanding research apprentices that were academically average in comparison to their peers - but they excelled with the intensive mentoring in the lab. I also look for students whose personalities mesh well with my own, and with other members of the team, because we spend a lot of time together and I want it to be fun, both for them and for me. Nothing kills productivity like drama, so I try to select students who are friendly, straightforward, collaborative, and not competitive at the expense of their peers.
- Mickey Crothers

Initiation

What are the first steps you take with a new project/student?

First of all, I meet with the students to interview them to see if they are truly committed to the project. I try to find out what their goals and interests are. Are they only interested in doing the F/S research for their resume and not really committed to the work? Or, do they have a true interest in learning research and are they committed to seeing the project all the way through, even if it means 1-2 years. I also give them an introduction to research, to my project, and we decide on a timeline and a regular meeting time. I answer all of the questions they may have.
- Lisa Quinn-Lee

Cultivation

What are the most important things you can do to support students as they start on the project?

In the initial stages, I think it is most important to let students know that research can be a frustrating undertaking and that we may change directions many times before we figure out what we don't know. I think meeting often to guide their literature review and taking that process in steps is very important.
- Martha Fay

Transformation

What do you do to help students gain confidence and develop independence?

I like to put them into situations where they must make decisions and to help them realize the nature of research often is about making decisions along the way. I put them in charge of maintaining the equipment and organizing samples and supplies. I also have them document their methods and enter their data as they collect it, stressing the importance of this organization. I think these actions help them feel ownership for their portion of the project.
- Tali Lee

Closure

How do you define successful closure of a project?

Were we able to complete the project? If not, did we learn something from it - for example, last summer I had SREU money for a project in which we would be going to Eau Claire County Jail to interview inmates. The jail was very supportive of the research and was very willing to accommodate us. The inmates did not want to talk with us. So, it was a good lesson in formal access and informal access - sure, we had the formal access from the institution, but could not get informal access from the inmates. Plus, it helped show that we could not put pressure on the institution to coerce the inmates to participate, so that reinforced the notion of ethics and the importance of protections for various populations of potential research subjects.
- Jason Spraitz

Tools for Mentors

A collection of tools mentors can modify and use for working with their student scholars.

Models

Student-Faculty Research Agreements

Aspects of Research Meetings

Assessment of the Mentor

Assessment of the Student Outcomes and Experience

Frequently Asked Questions by Mentors

What is Effective Undergraduate Research Mentoring?
Based on some of the literature on mentoring and personal experience, the Scholarly Activity Mentoring Study Group (SAMS), a faculty Community of Practice, put together a Definition of Effective Undergraduate Student Research Mentoring. The definition document document describes mentor attributes and activities that enhance the student learning experience. 

  • Mentor has the disciplinary expertise required to mentor the project
  • Mentor designs a project appropriate to the student and the subject matter
  • Mentor leads the student through stages of the research project and personal development
    • Recruitment
    • Initiation
    • Cultivation
    • Transformation
    • Closure
  • Mentor maintains a supportive collaborative environment throughout

What are some examples of Student-Faculty Research Collaboration projects?
At the core, these experiences involve faculty mentoring and a student's in-depth scholarly activity. Student-Faculty research can take place in any discipline and include activities ranging from running experiments in a lab to writing poetry. Here are examples that show the variety of possibilities:

  • Two students spent three weeks on San Salvador Island researching the impact of coral reef health and ecology on fish distribution, under the guidance of a Biology faculty member.
  • An English faculty member mentored two students as they wrote a script and created a feature-length thriller film, shot entirely in Eau Claire. They plan to submit the final project to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
  • A student worked with an Economics professor to study wage penalties in majority-female occupations. The student went on to present results at the annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA) and win first place.

How do I get started?
Student-Faculty collaborative projects can be initiated in several ways:

  • If you notice a student who has the potential to work independently, invite them to participate in a research project with you.
  • Hear about projects from colleagues who are doing research or conference presentations, and inquire if they are interested in collaborating with you on that project or a future project. Invite students to collaborate with you.
  • Encourage students to contact you with ideas for a scholarly or creative project based on class activities such as reading, research for class assignments, or in-class discussions.
  • Take a look at what internal funding opportunities are available for student-faculty collaborations. Contact ORSP to find out what projects are available (contact Karen Havholm).

What makes a project eligible for funding?
To be eligible for funding support at UW-Eau Claire, the project should extend beyond the confines of classroom assignments, and the student should be involved in many or all of the steps in scholarship:

  • development of the question, problem or idea within its scholarly/creative context
  • design of the approach to be applied
  • execution of the project
  • analysis, application, synthesis, and/or evaluation of the results
  • dissemination of the results/conclusions/creative product in appropriate scholarly venues

Challenges for Mentors

Based on this definition, a survey was created by a student-faculty research team to query faculty about their priorities and challenges as they relate to mentoring students in their scholarly projects. An interesting finding was that project design and student recruitment are considered the most challenging components of a mentor's role and that mentors provide the most consideration to project design and to the initial stages of the project. Preliminary results were reported in an oral session at the Mindful Teaching conference (UW System Office of Professional and Instructional Development, April 2014) and in a poster at the UW-Eau Claire Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity, April 30-May 1, 2014.

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