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