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Meaningful Mentorship Event: Resources and Recap

By Elena Suglia. https://www.elenasuglia.com/mentoring.html

During this event we talked about how to cultivate meaningful mentor-mentee relationships, from setting goals and expectations to maintaining long-term relationships. We discussed strategies for establishing, formalizing, and deepening impactful mentorships. The following is a summary of the main points from our discussion, along with a list of mentoring resources.

Anyone who has either mentored or been mentored (or both) knows that these relationships can be fruitful and beneficial to both mentor and mentee. But effective mentoring is really challenging. We couched our discussion about how to effectively mentor within some mentoring pedagogy to provide a structured framework that can help everyone approach mentoring more intentionally and confidently. Our goals for this discussion were to 1) brainstorm specific actions that we can all take to improve our mentoring relationships and 2) share tools and resources that could provide some inspiration or facilitate implementation of proactive, solutions-based mentoring.

Specifically, we focused our discussion on three key components of good mentoring: fostering effective communication, aligning expectations, and addressing equity, inclusion, and diversity in mentoring relationships. For each of these, we discussed tools for setting up a mentoring relationship in a way that makes the relationship more meaningful to both parties.


As with any aspect of an interpersonal relationship, communication works best when approached with care, thought, and intention. One way to determine the mentor’s and mentee’s communication styles is for each person to take an abbreviated Myers-Briggs personality self-assessment that can allow one to determine where they lie along the extroversion-introversion spectrum. This test is not as exhaustive as the full Myers-Briggs personality test but can at least provide a baseline for proactively identifying how and why communication problems may arise. Partners should also explicitly discuss preferred frequency and methods of communication (email, in person, etc.) early on.

Adapted by Steve Lee, UC Davis Graduate Diversity Officer for the STEM disciplines

When challenges communicating do occur, one way to approach the issue is to fill out the following National Research and Mentoring Network worksheet to aid with identifying barriers to communication and addressing them.

Created by the National Research and Mentoring Network.

Aligning expectations

Part of clear communication between mentor and mentee is aligning expectations. This is ideally done at the start of the relationship and then updated periodically as the relationship proceeds and each individual’s needs change. A first step could be to take the following questionnaire. Answers will likely vary based on each individual mentor/mentee relationship – for example, a mentor may emphasize independence as more important in a graduate student than an undergraduate student.

Another method is to use a mentoring contract. The mentor and mentee can fill out their individual expectations under categories like classes, funding, publications, travel, goals, and teaching. Then, they meet and go over the contract together, discussing and reconciling any differences between expectations. This meeting could include a clear and specific conversation about criteria for authorship, lab culture, funding availability, and other pertinent topics. At this meeting, the value of the mentoring contract becomes immediately clear: there are inevitably differences between expectations and needs outlined by each person, and therefore going through the intentional process of aligning expectations prevents those assumptions from being proven false later on. A mentoring contract is also a good way to allow the mentee to have a voice and be able to express their needs and expectations from the very beginning, a process that may not be easy for mentees to initiate. The mentoring contract should be revisited at least yearly to reflect new goals and expectations that arise and to assess progress – this is also a great opportunity to remind the mentee just how much they’ve accomplished in a year!

Some mentors craft mentoring philosophies, which they then either go over with students individually or even include on their websites or professional profiles. Others use mentor/mentee evaluations to maintain a healthy relationship. During all of these discussions, it can also be useful to talk about unrealistic expectations for each partner. For the mentor, it is especially useful to consider whether the mentee has realistic expectations about their mentoring needs. For example, a mentee can be categorized into four groups: needing a mentor a lot vs. a little and wanting a mentor a lot vs. a little – and out of the four possible combinations, mentors should carefully approach interacting with the mentees who need help but don’t want it (or don’t ask for it).

Addressing equity, inclusion, and diversity

Equity, inclusion, and diversity are the lens through which we focused on the issue of meaningful and effective mentoring. The logic behind this focus is that if you were mentoring yourself, you’d know exactly what you want. Conflicts between people in general, and by extension difficulties in mentoring, often arise from differences between mentor and mentee. Cultivating our own awareness, understanding, and empathy towards folks who are different from ourselves will naturally translate into more meaningful and effective mentoring relationships. We would argue that attending trainings about working specifically with women and underrepresented minorities makes one a better mentor in general, because the basic tenets from such training (respect, empathy, communication, awareness) can be applied to all relationships.

In order to engage in more effective partnerships, we recommend self-educating on pertinent diversity and equity issues and literature (the readings listed at the end of this post are a good place to start) as well as seeking opportunities for trainings and discussions and dialogue on campus, including:

  • UndocuAlly training
  • The UCD LGBTQIA+ Center’s Allyship training
  • NRMN Culturally Aware mentorship
  • Graduate Diversity Orientation Program Extension workshops for graduate students

Such self-education and workshops can greatly increase understanding of others’ experiences besides our own, which fosters empathy and better communication in relationships in general. For example, a recent study has suggested that women benefit more from same-gender role models, but the same is not necessarily true for men. This could be important and useful information in certain situations: for example, if a male PI were advising a female graduate student and the lab, department, and graduate group she belonged to were composed in large part of men, the PI could improve the student’s experience by introducing her to other female faculty, scientists, or researchers in the field to help her foster relationships that best enable her to succeed. Alternatively, if for example a post doc attends a workshop on microaggressions and realizes that her lab-mates have participated in such behavior towards one of her undergraduate assistants, she could organize a meeting in which lab members discuss lab culture and how to create a welcoming and comfortable working environment for everyone in the lab.

We hope this event was fruitful for everyone involved, and we encourage you to explore, share, and contact us if you have anything to add to the resources listed below. Keep calm and mentor on!

Mentoring resources


  • On getting what you need out of a mentor:



Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity

These resources may be used to help mentors to:

  • Partner with organizations to increase recruitment and retention of women and members of Under-Represented Minority groups
  • Become better equipped to mentor students from a diverse range of backgrounds (resources and trainings through the WRRC, LGBTQIA+ center; UndocuAlly training through the AB540 center)
  • Provide these resources to mentees as needed

General resources:

Resources at UC Davis:

  • ESA SEEDS (UCD chapter)

Related readings (listed on Graduate Group in Ecology’s outreach web page):

Armstrong, M.J., A.R. Berkowitz, L.A. Dyer, and J. Taylor. 2007. Understanding why underrepresented students pursue ecology careers: a preliminary case study. Front. Ecol. Environ. 5: 415-420

Spalding, H.L., A. Gupta, D.J. Burshis, M.L. Knope, and K.A. Tice. 2010. K-12 science education and “broader impacts.” Front. Ecol. Environ. Front. Ecol. Environ. 8: 217-218

Torres, L.E. and B. Bingham. 2008. Fixing the leaky pipe: increasing recruitment of underrepresented groups in ecology. 6: 554-555

CV workshop recap

Our first meeting of 2018 was a CV workshop led by Emily Delaney and Emily Josephs. We discussed general tips on how to write a CV or resume, looked at several example CVs and resumes, and then broke into small groups to comment on our own CVs.

The discussion started with motivating why it’s important to have a good CV/resume. CVs are used for a variety of purposes throughout our careers. For example, CVs are an important component of grant, fellowship, and job applications. CVs can help with introductions, from expressing interest in joining a lab for graduate school to forming new collaborations. You will want to include your CV when asking for a reference letter or applying for a talk in a special symposium. Finally, CVs published on personal websites or networking sites such as LinkedIn increase your web presence and may lead to new collaboration/job opportunities.

Given the various functions of a CV/resume, a good CV/resume must convey who you are, what you’ve accomplished, where you’re going, and why you’re great. For job applications, your CV/resume also needs to show how you fit the advertised position. Your CV therefore needs to be constantly updated – you will want to add and/or remove items as you accumulate more accomplishments, and you may want to tailor your CV for a particular job (more on this later). Tips include keeping a folder on your Desktop to store your accomplishments for a given year, keeping a “long version” of your CV that has detailed information for all your accomplishments ever to serve as a reference. A key point here is that making a CV often feeds imposter syndrome, but it can also combat it.

Typical sections of an academic CV include Appointments, Education, Publications, Fellowships/Awards & Honors, Funding/Grants, Teaching Experience, Research Experience, Presentations, and Professional Activities. Some people divide Presentations into Invited vs Contributed Presentations. Other sections to include are Professional Training (to list special workshops/courses you’ve taken) and References. The number and order of sections on your CV will change with career stage and with the purpose of that particular CV. For instance, graduate students may want to include a section on relevant research experience (internships, etc.), but this section is often omitted once you reach the postdoc/faculty stage. You can order the sections to place your strengths up front. A CV for a research job may list Publications and Grants near the beginning, but a CV for a teaching job may have Teaching Experience first.

When putting together or editing your CV, it can be helpful to search the web for examples. Here are some general comments from our discussion of different example CVs: Whitespace is important. Make the different sections clear, use consistent bolding/italicizing to make it easier for someone to quickly find key information (but don’t overdo it), and minimize redundancy. Serif fonts are easier to read, and make sure your font size isn’t too small or too big. If you want to add hyperlinks to publications without introducing a blue underlined link (which is distracting), you could hyperlink your name in the author list. Other tips include numbering your publications, adding the dollar amounts for grants, and using asterisks to denote co-authors who are mentees.

Since not everyone will be applying to just academic jobs, we also talked about how to convert a typical academic CV into a resume for industry or government positions. Because of the variation in resume formats and requirements, the best thing to do is to talk to someone who works for the same organization. In general, resumes tend to be limited to two pages in length. You can shorten your CV by replacing your full publication or presentation list with highlights (Select Publications) and a summary (give total number of publications and citations). Tailoring your resume to the job ad seems especially important for non-academic jobs that undergo an initial screening by HR. Make sure your resume shows that you have all the expertise specified in the job ad and includes relevant keywords. You can even include a section on Select Relevant Skills or begin your resume with a short description of how you fit the job. Unlike academic CVs, resumes often emphasize both hard and soft skills. You can point out technical skills and collaboration or teamwork experience under work experience or a separate skills section. Your cover letter is another venue for you to demonstrate why you’re the best person for the job.

For more resources, including a handy verb list, check out http://icc.ucdavis.edu.

Finally, it’s also useful to use other professional networking tools, such as personal websites, LinkedIn, github, Google Scholar profiles, and social media.

Nancy Chen

Come to our “Non-Traditional Academic Career Panel”

At this event, panel members will discuss options for careers at research-intensive institutions outside of the standard model of tenure-track research-focused faculty. Career paths to be discussed include permanent research positions, teaching-focused faculty, academic coordinators for large-enrollment undergraduate courses, and directors of major analytical facilities. Panel members are Susie Gagliardi, Laci Gerhart-Barley, Erin Easlon, and Joy Matthews.

Monday, Feb 26th in 2342 Storer Hall

Our mentoring program has launched!

We have paired life sciences graduate students with postdoc mentors for our pilot mentoring program. We will be soliciting feedback in the spring to determine how we can further improve this program. Happy meeting!



2018 winter quarter events

This quarter, we’ll have the following events! All events take place from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm in 2342 Storer Hall.
Jan 22: CV workshop
Feb 26: Non-Traditional Academic Careers at R1 Institutions
Mar 12: Meaningful Mentorship