Mentoring Students

With the advent of online classes and the proliferation of the Internet the responsibilities of professors, like most other professions, has shifted. Read on for the answers to your frequently asked questions about how expectations regarding a professor's role are evolving.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is defined as a professor who cares about a student as a person, who makes them excited about learning, and encourages them to pursue their dreams. Many schools now require students to have a mentor, but even if it isn't required, mentorship can provide great benefits for students.

How important is my role as mentor as well as instructor?

For professors, playing the role of mentor is critical: a study conducted by Gallup and Purdue University shows that if an employed graduate had a professor who mentored them, the graduate's odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, and they are nearly three times as likely to thrive at work. Given that the emphasis for instructors is shifting from solely imparting content knowledge towards helping students develop professional and person soft skills along with broader skills like problem solving, modern-day professors serve in two roles as both instructors and mentors.

Adjunct professors who are practicing their professions are especially qualified to serve as mentors. They can help students understand the importance of acquiring professional skills like: written and oral communication, research, interpersonal and even software acumen. Additionally, teaching students how to solve the real world problems they will encounter in their future professions is invaluable to student's education and development.

How can I help support students in their educational and professional endeavors?

Studies show that mentorship can engender greater learning and personal development. Taking a personal interest in students can go a long way in helping them feel as though someone is interested in their professional development. Tokens of personal touch and respect to reflect care for their professional endeavors include: writing reference letters, suggesting outside readings in professional journals, encouraging research and presentations at conferences important to your field and helping them begin to establish a professional network.

How can I help students learn soft skills and professional skills?

An excellent method to teach students softer personal skills and professional skills is to model appropriate behaviors in your classroom. For example, depending on the age level of your students, it may be appropriate to ask them to dress professionally for presentations or certain classes. In addition, stressing clear and consistent communication, along with good email etiquette, can help students practice important professional skills. Finally, teach students how to work in groups so that they have a chance to practice working in a team before they enter their profession.