Advising and Mentoring Students
One of the most important lessons learned from nationwide retention studies is that events that bring faculty and students together, such as research seminars, coffees, discussion groups, etc. are very important to a student sense of belonging and caring and that this translates directly into students staying in the program. In numerous studies, the credentials of students who leave and students who stay in graduate programs are identical; students frequently leave for other than academic or performance-based reasons.
One of the most important components of graduate education is the advising and mentoring of graduate students. UCF retention studies show that our students rely heavily on their advisors for guidance in both degree requirements and in navigating the administrative structure of the university. Therefore graduate program directors must first ensure that their students are receiving advisement from either themselves or some other faculty member, and second, that the faculty are offering appropriate and accurate advice. One of the best practices in several of our programs involves the annual updating of the program faculty by the program director on recent policy and procedural changes. The content of this section of the handbook will provide an excellent resource for advising students.
Advisement and mentoring becomes even more critical if your program is a thesis or dissertation based program with students engaged in independent research. Often the most profound education that our students receive comes from the research guidance and the relationship offered by their faculty mentors. However we must remember that for the most part, few faculty members ever receive formal training in mentoring students and thus it is incumbent on the program director and department chair to ensure that new and junior faculty members receive appropriate guidance in advising and mentoring students. This is one reason why less experienced faculty members should first be nominated and appointed to the graduate faculty as associate members until they acquire some additional experience in mentoring students.