Mentoring is one of my core roles as a faculty member. I see it as a bedrock element of my position and identity as an academic. In work with our graduate and undergraduate students, regardless of their program or planned trajectory, I work to engage them, challenge them, provide them with relevant applied experiences, and facilitate their educational and professional success. I believe it is critical to provide developmentally appropriate mentoring for the student and the situation, that is, I seek to strike the balance between fostering students. autonomy and independent thinking and providing the support and guidance they need at a given level of training, experience, and capacity (mentoring of a first year student very well ought to be distinct from work with a 5th year student). To that end, over time, I try to take steps to facilitate the relationship’s evolution into a collaborative, partnership model, rather than one characterized by the “student-teacher” roles. Indeed, my approach to mentoring “looks different” for every student, depending upon his or her strengths and competencies, areas in need of attention or further development, goals, and the like. Those individual differences are meaningful.
As constants across my work with our graduate students, I challenge my students to think and want them to work to “connect the dots” and integrate information from the extant literature and the results of their data analyses. I work extensively with them in the context of their research interests, projects related to programmatic milestones, and, with my collaborators, provide opportunities for them to take initiative and develop ideas for projects growing out of the infrastructure of our larger, ongoing efforts. In fact, my applied scholarly activities yield numerous hands-on training and mentoring opportunities for our students. Through this research-service blend, we can put programmatic content into action and promote real, on the ground learning of necessary competencies with applications across settings. It also provides the opportunity for our students to see us “in action” in the community and learn by example.
I have been active as a mentor in my time at UNC Charlotte, chairing or co-chairing numerous dissertations, doctoral advisory committees, comprehensive projects, theses and the like.
I have generally attempted to foster our students’ participation and involvement with efforts that will lead to professional products, and some of those involvements have been quite fruitful. A number of students have authored or co-authored papers published in peer-reviewed journals or have co-authored book chapters.
In an effort to help them build their dossiers, I have also encouraged students to attend and present their work at professional conferences, and my supervisees have earned authorship on or given a number of presentations. See my CV for listings of publications and presentations, with student authors noted. I have been quite significantly involved in preparing these materials, and these works largely grow out of various faculty-developed research efforts.
Moreover, given that preparing students for their professional lives post-graduate school is a key objective of mentoring, I work actively with my students in exploring what we term “the master plan”, the short- and long-term steps needed to complete their degree and develop or enhance the student’s competencies and record to increase the likelihood that he or she will secure a job that aligns well with his or her goals. I think that the quality of the mentor-mentee relationship is crucial. In my view, so much of what makes a strong mentor cannot be captured on a cv, a website, or summary on the web. There are numerous intangible factors and ways in which we influence our students and demonstrate our commitment and dedication to them, and sometimes the “little things” can make a very substantive difference and show them that we care about and value them as people and that we are invested in their success.