Resources for Graduate Programs

Studies on graduate student attrition indicate that departmental structure and culture play a large role in student persistence and completion. Dedicating time and effort to properly introduce and socialize students in the department can greatly increase student success. Further, “students who perceive themselves to be a valuable member of their departmental and/or scholarly communities report better well-being, higher interest, and better achievement” (Sverdlik, 2018).

Onboarding course

Many graduate programs offer a course for first year students that serves as an introduction to the field and to the department. This is an excellent opportunity to set the tone for the course of the students’ training in the program. Suggestions of topics to include:

  • Library services and citation managers
  • Writing standards for the field
  • Fellowships and grants
  • Responsible conduct of research
  • How to be a good mentee/graduate student
  • Completing an Individual Development Plan
  • Professional conduct
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Physical and Mental Wellness in graduate school
  • Time management

There are numerous resources on campus that can help to address these topics. It is also encouraged to include as many faculty members as possible in such courses to illustrate investment of the program in the success of the students.

Diverse career paths

The career landscape for PhDs now is much broader than in the past. Professionals with doctoral degrees now occupy careers in a variety of sectors, including industry, government, consulting, and non-profit. In most fields, more PhDs now work outside of the academy than in colleges and universities.

While it is not expected for faculty mentors to know how to mentor students who want to pursue non-academic positions, efforts should be made to fully support students in these endeavors. It is important to be explicit about your support because students often hesitate sharing their desires to pursue careers that are different from their advisors out of fear that the mentor will think the student is less engaged with their research. These fears are not always unfounded, so please be mindful of potential biases against non-academic careers.

Examples include:

  • Encouraging students to explore different careers. Two helpful tools include:
  • Maintaining and sharing with students a list of alumni that have pursued non-academic careers
  • Introducing students to colleagues
  • Inviting alumni that pursued non-academic careers to come to campus
  • Encouraging collaboration with non-academic partners
  • Encouraging students to seek information and resources outside of the department and college

More resources

Mentoring students in the Humanities

The science of effective mentorship in STEMM

Center for the improvement of mentored experiences in research

The international mentoring association (based at the University of Florida)