Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders

Amanda K. Hund, Amber C. Churchill, Akasha M. Faist, Caroline A. Havrilla, Sierra M. Love Stowell, Helen F. McCreery, Julienne Ng, Cheryl A. Pinzone, Elizabeth S.C. Scordato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Effective mentoring is a key component of academic and career success that contributes to overall measures of productivity. Mentoring relationships also play an important role in mental health and in recruiting and retaining students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields. Despite these clear and measurable benefits, faculty generally do not receive mentorship training, and feedback mechanisms and assessment to improve mentoring in academia are limited. Ineffective mentoring can negatively impact students, faculty, departments, and institutions via decreased productivity, increased stress, and the loss of valuable research products and talented personnel. Thus, there are clear incentives to invest in and implement formal training to improve mentorship in STEM fields. Here, we outline the unique challenges of mentoring in academia and present results from a survey of STEM scientists that support both the need and desire for more formal mentorship training. Using survey results and the primary literature, we identify common behaviors of effective mentors and outline a set of mentorship best practices. We argue that these best practices, as well as the key qualities of flexibility, communication, and trust, are skills that can be taught to prospective and current faculty. We present a model and resources for mentorship training based on our research, which we successfully implemented at the University of Colorado, Boulder, with graduate students and postdocs. We conclude that such training is an important and cost-effective step toward improving mentorship in STEM fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9962-9974
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume8
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Keywords

  • STEM
  • leadership
  • mentoring
  • professional development
  • scientific practices

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