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From the Issues in Graduate Eduation column of the November 2007 Perspectives


Aaron Marrs, November 2007

In graduate school, the relationship between the graduate student and his or her adviser is crucial to the student's development. Graduate students rely on their advisers to mentor them through all aspects of their career development: choosing and developing a dissertation topic, networking, presenting material at conferences, preparing work for publication, and venturing onto the job market. The AHA recognizes the importance of mentoring through its Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship award. Since 1992, the award has recognized graduate, undergraduate, and high school teachers for excellence in mentoring. Yet the profession does not offer much instruction to graduate mentors as to what they are expected to do, nor are all graduate students completely aware of what they can reasonably expect from their advisers.

With the hope of better understanding the nature of graduate advising, the AHA's Committee for Graduate Students sponsored a panel at the 2007 meeting of the Association: "Graduate Mentoring: Issues and Perspectives." Four skilled mentors of graduate students—John French (Duke Univ.), Elizabeth Lunbeck (Vanderbilt Univ.), Terry Seip (Univ. of Southern California), and Ronald Walters (Johns Hopkins Univ.)—spoke at a roundtable about their own experiences mentoring students. Three of these speakers have made their comments available for Perspectives. John French gives us an overview of graduate mentoring, identifying and assessing the different models that professors have adopted. Terry Seip provides a detailed look at one critical component of mentoring: training graduate students to become teachers. Ronald Walters offers some conclusions on mentoring students with diverse needs and working styles.

The CGS thanks all of the panelists for making their thoughts available in Atlanta and here in Perspectives, and hopes that students and advisers will use these essays as a starting point for their own considerations of this important relationship.

—Aaron Marrs, a member of the Perspectives editorial advisory board, is a historian in the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed by the author in this essay are solely those of the author and are not necessarily the official view of the Office of the Historian, the U.S. Department of State, or the U.S. government.