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Example: A mentor-training experience

Dr. Maggie Stone directs the McNair Scholars Program at the Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. She works with junior and senior undergraduates, usually first generation low-income or under-represented who are academically talented and capable of successfully completing doctoral programs. The program focuses entirely on research, and she talked to us about how it works.

She said that their purpose is to mentor the protégés through an undergraduate -funded research project and help them get prepared to enter graduate school, being successful once they get there. Dr. Stone sees training adult mentors as a unique experience for most faculty members on her campus."The opportunity for faculty members to mentor funded undergraduate research students one-on-one modeling for masters and doctoral level theses and dissertations is unique." She believes that the faculty members' dealing with undergraduates who are academically gifted or talented, but who don't have the background to know what to expect from graduate school or to be prepared to do undergraduate research at an appropriate level, is a valid experience for both mentors and protégés.

"One of the reasons we really do enjoy having our faculty involved is that this gives them an opportunity to work with the student one-on-one rather than with an entire class," Dr. Stone said."The mentoring process one-on-one is very, very different from standing up and talking to a whole classroom full of people for 50 minutes and then going away. So this is the opportunity for the student to self-select faculty and for the faculty to share a research experience with a student one-on-one over the course of a year. One-on-one relationships with students do differ."

The students choose the mentors they want to be put together with."It is up to the student to convince a faculty member that their project is worthwhile and that they are worth the time and energy that faculty member to work with them. And it also gives the student the experience of approaching a faculty member with a project and convincing them to work with them on it, rather than simply being assigned and removing all the responsibility from the student. And the student is selecting a person that they can work with but their primary reason for selecting that person is the common interest in the research topic. It is a function somewhat of the interpersonal fit between the two of them, but on the other hand it is precipitated by an academic interest that the two of them share. So we're not really talking about mentoring from the standpoint of generation to generation or social mentoring. We are really talking about introducing that student into that particular academic arena."

Three times during the year that the program lasts, Dr. Stone conducts a feedback survey to follow how the program is going."We ask [faculty members] to complete a faculty mentoring report form that outlines the amount of contact they've had with the student and the nature of that contact. And then asks them for some qualitative evaluations on how the student was responding." For the students, there's a feedback survey twice a year, at the halfway point in the program."At the end of our program we ask them to complete an evaluation form which it looks at the entire program including the nature and quality of the mentoring they've gotten from their faculty member. And whether or not they would recommend that faculty member to somebody else."

To train faculty members, Dr. Stone organizes orientation sessions in which they talk about the mentoring process."We don't have an organized mentoring program but through another program in this campus, which is associated with our undergraduate freshman experience, we have a mentoring program full force. That engages faculty and students. Our mentoring is specialized in that it is focused on their academic area of interest and it's a research project."