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Harvard Astronomy graduate student mentors and mentees (Jan 2014)

I am a strong advocate for the mentorship of graduate students, as this both improves the lives of graduate students and makes for a better working environment. I founded a mentoring program within the Astronomy Department at Harvard, and help run one at University of Arizona. I am always happy to share my experiences so please do not hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions. I hope that someday such mentorship programs will become "the normal" for all academic working environments.

I strongly believe that mentoring can benefit both the mentors and mentees. I wrote a guest blog post on Professor John Johnson's site entitled "The Benefits of Being a Mentor in Academia" [link].

Below are brief descriptions of the types of programs I have set up at either Harvard or the University of Arizona.

Graduate student peer mentoring: Pair incoming first year graduate students with older graduate students in the same department. This provides first years with an immediate resource for all of their quesitons. This program can be especially useful for introverted or shy students. Typically mandatory for first years and opt-in for graduate student mentors. Created at both Harvard and Arizona.

Graduate student-Faculty mentoring: Pair older graduate students (who have passed their quals) with faculty-level individuals. Faculty mentors can provide career advice, advocate for their mentees within and outside of the department, and can be helpful in the job search. Typically opt-in on both sides. Created at Harvard, where I made sure that the faculty mentor was outside of the student's research committee, so as not to create any conflict of interest. Over half of the Harvard astronomy faculty now participate in this program.

Graduate student-postdoc mentoring: Pair older graduate students (who have passed their quals) with post-doctorates. This benefits both sides: graduate students get advice from people who are just one level ahead, while post-docs can feel more integrated into their departments. Also brings the graduate student and post-doc population together, and leads friendships that may not have otherwise formed. Typically opt-in on both sides. Expanded upon the ongoing program at Arizona; currently, half of the older graduate students have opted in.

Career Advice Hours: Monthly talk series geared toward the career development of graduate students and post-docs. Each month, a faculty-level individual, either local or visiting, holds an informal discussion on a specific topic. Past topics have included how to market yourself, making the most of conferences, dealing with the impostor syndrome, the decision to leave astronomy, and more. The key is to keep things informal and leave ample time for Q&A. Created at Harvard.