Instead of a program merely to mentor students, Graduate Studies has established Mentoring at Critical Transitions (MET) – a program to help faculty help students.
Though UC Davis has a higher graduate student completion rate than the national average, the program aims to help faculty better counsel graduate students past three critical transitions. Transition one involves helping students get through the coursework. Transition two concerns getting past the oral doctoral qualifying exam, where students are required to appear before a panel of five faculty members to present their research. Finally, transition three involves researching and writing the dissertation.
“Most mentoring programs you see on campuses are focused on grad students and how to be good [graduate] students,” said Lenora Timm, associate dean of Graduate Studies. “We turned that on its head and said, ‘why don’t we start with the faculty to teach them how to be good mentors?'”
UC Davis Graduate Studies won a grant for the yearlong program from the Council of Graduate Schools and Education Testing Services, umbrella organizations in Washington D.C. UC Davis Graduate Studies is matching the funds the grant provided.
The program seeks to help 35 faculty members in four programs (science, technology, engineering and math) learn how to better help their students through a two-day retreat last summer, followed by monthly seminars by guest speakers on a variety of topics throughout this academic year. Christopher Thaiss, director of the University Writing Program, hosted one such seminar.
Thaiss said the goal of his presentation was to make the faculty aware of the resources available through the University Writing Program.
“[We] offer workshops on demystifying the dissertation and procedures for writing professional articles in graduate fields and also a peer writing fellows program [where] a few [graduate] students work as tutors to help other students with writing,” Thaiss said.
Thaiss said that the main difficulty for graduate students comes from the fact that the writing that is expected of them is very different from what is expected of undergraduate students.
“They are expected to very quickly become professionals, write for publication and do different kids of writing such as dissertations and literature reviews,” he said.
Another guest speaker, Margaret Swain, director of Gender and Global Issues, presented on outreach programs through the women’s center. According to Swain, the women’s center is actively working with other student centers to develop a graduate ally coalition, which offers training programs for graduate students to be allies for people in the program or department.
“[The ally] would be a person to turn to with particular life or mental issues or how to negotiate advisers,” she said. “It’s a support network of people who are trained to know how to find resources.”
Timm hopes that the program can continue in the future though she’s unsure of the degree to which it will be the same as the current program.
“Because it was externally funded, there was lot more money than generally will be available,” she said. “It’s very successful so we’re going to offer something similar in the following years, though maybe not a year-long program.”
AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.