The following is a non-exhaustive list of steps mentors can take to help their mentees thrive during their time in our department. Past experience suggests that mentoring can take from five to ten hours per semester, depending on the semester.
Foster a sense of connection with our department
- Meet with your mentee early in his/her first semester, preferably before classes begin and before you are both occupied with teaching and other activities.
- Ask your mentee about his/her background, interests, and career aspirations and more broadly, what kind of experience he/she would like to get during his/her postdoctoral fellowship.
- Offer to introduce your mentee to other people in the department who share his/her interests.
- Help your mentee identify projects and opportunities for involvement in the department that match his/her interests and goals.
- Share information about professional listservs and professional development opportunities that you are aware of.
- When necessary, remind your mentee of people in the department who can provide assistance and resources.
- Encourage your colleagues to invite postdocs to departmental social functions when appropriate, so that postdocs can socialize with other faculty members.
- Agree on frequency of meetings with your mentee.
- If possible, offer to observe your mentee’s teaching at least once each year and meet to discuss his/her teaching strengths as well as possible areas for growth.
- Take notes about what you observed and what you thought was exceptional about your mentee’s teaching.
- These notes will come handy when writing a teaching letter for your mentee.
- If you are not able to observe your mentee's teaching, please refer him/her to colleagues in the department who have volunteered to help:
- Bruce Bayly
- Tina Deemer
- Deb Hughes-Hallett
- Rob Indik
- Bill Velez
- If your mentee's research area is the same as yours, offer to provide feedback on referee reports (for the papers they have submitted) or on panel reports (e.g. for NSF applications).
Encourage professional development and growth
- Meet with your mentee at the end of each academic semester to touch base about his/her successes and challenges.
- Ask if he/she has any lingering concerns about his/her work or about the job.
- Ask for an update on his/her career goals.
- Offer feedback on what your mentee is doing and can do to achieve his/her goals.
- Do not try to produce a clone of yourself. In particular remember that your mentee may not want a job at a Research I institution.
- When appropriate, help your mentee distinguish between projects that are essential, either for his/her job performance or for career advancement, and projects that do not help either of these very much (and that may get in the way of more meaningful work).
- If a postdoc has been asked to do something and is not sure whether it is mandatory (e.g., teaching a summer course), offer to look into it on his/her behalf.
- When it is time to select courses for the following semester, talk to your mentee about course content and discuss upper-division courses he/she may like to teach.
- Encourage your mentee to suggest colloquium or seminar speakers, or work with them to identify researchers they could invite to visit the department.
- If appropriate, suggest your mentee as a potential reviewer for research manuscripts.
- Encourage your mentee to apply for grants. Examples include applying for an AMS-Simons travel grant or for Project Next funding during the first year, and applying to NSF in years 2 or 3.
- Suggest outreach or service activities your mentee can participate in, and which will be helpful when he/she applies for jobs or grants.
- When your mentee goes on the job market, offer to write a letter for him/her. Depending on your relationship with your mentee, this letter may focus on research accomplishments, teaching excellence, or both.
- Offer to look at your mentee’s job application materials, including research and teaching statements.
- Keep in mind that most liberal arts colleges will look more closely at teaching statements than we do for tenure track candidates, and thus teaching statements for such institutions tend to be developed in more detail.
- Research statements should be written so that at least the introductory material is accessible to a mathematician not from the postdoc's field.
Acknowledgments: An initial version of this list was created by Cody Patterson to help with mentoring our Teaching Postdocs.