Benefits of Mentoring

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Most graduate students and postdocs who choose to mentor undergraduates do so for a combination of reasons, both altruistic and practical. Graduate students recognize how much they have learned in their own transitions between undergraduate and graduate work, and want to help their younger colleagues prepare for such transitions. Many graduate students and postdocs were helped along the way by important mentors, and they want to “give back” by mentoring others. Alternatively, graduate students may recognize deficiencies in their preparation for graduate school (“if only I had known…”) and want to provide timely advice. On the practical side, graduate students and postdocs report that after learning to supervise, they understand their own faculty mentors better. The mentoring experiences help them to reflect on their teaching skills and deficiencies and help them become better professionals. The experiences can provide practical benefits in the humanities and social sciences such as review of an area of literature relevant both to the interests of the undergrad as well as a requirement for a graduate comprehensive exam. In the sciences, the practical benefits can extend to one or more additional co-authored publications as a consequence of the undergraduate project, in addition to demonstrating one’s abilities to manage the work of others.