OGDI mentors assume several different critical roles. Throughout the process, it is important to understand the challenges and barriers that might be faced by LSAMP students.
A large part of being a mentor is encouraging students to identify with their chosen field, explore how they get into the field and develop a concept of themselves as an expert in their chosen field. Before this academic identification can move forward, research suggests that students need to socially identify with their university. Mentors can help in that process by being a contact outside the classroom.
A mentor helps students reflect on learning experiences in their chosen disciplines through honest, safe and caring discussions. The informal knowledge acquired about a field allows students to fit their talents, their interests and what they are learning into a bigger picture. This motivates them and improves their understanding of their classes.
There are three overlapping roles a mentor ideally plays in his or her student’s life: teacher, advocate and assessor.
Your goal as a mentor-teacher is to improve the research proficiency of your student as well as the student’s overall professional development within the field. To fulfill this role, you need to be:
- a knowledgeable person with experience in the field.
- a person who will take the time to talk about his or her field and what it takes and means to be working in the field.
Your goal as a mentor-advocate is to improve the self-confidence, social network and sense of community of your student within his or her department/university/field. To fulfill this role, you need to be:
- a supportive person who cares about your student’s best interests.
- a person who will help the student to meet others in the field.
- a person who is knowledgeable about the resources at your university.
Your goal as a mentor-assessor is to be analytical and gently critical of your student in order to encourage the student to reach for high, yet accurate and attainable, expectations for performance. To fulfill this role, you need to be:
- a person who can give constructive feedback.
- a person who takes the time to guide the student to improve his or her professional skills.
Not all mentors will have the capabilities and/or comfort levels to excel at all three of these mentor roles. Each mentor-mentee relationship will evolve differently, but each mentor should strive to fulfill at least some aspects of the three roles as the roles mirror what research has shown to be most effective in predicting student success.