Mentoring has long served an essential role in developing science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals.1 Despite its important place in academic STEMM culture, mentoring rarely receives the focused attention, evaluation, and recognition of other aspects of professional development such as teaching and research. Indeed, one survey suggests that less than 50 percent of undergraduate faculty believe their institutions consider mentoring in promotion review, and only 7 percent reported significant engagement in training to be a mentor (Stolzenberg et al., 2019).2 Furthermore, only 22 percent of undergraduate science and engineering majors strongly agree they had a mentor (Gallup, 2018). While the nation’s academic institutions have formalized the education and training of budding STEMM professionals, they have with few exceptions largely left mentoring to happen organically or on an ad hoc basis.
However, the scholarship on—or science of—mentorship and mentoring relationships (see Box S-1) can provide guidance on effective behaviors, theoretical frameworks, measures and assessment techniques, mentoring tools, possible structures of mentoring relationships, and the role of institutional support.3 Effective mentoring relationships
3 Mentorship behaviors are described in Chapter 5. Theories used in the scholarship of mentorship are described in Chapter 2. Assessment and evaluation of mentorship is discussed in Chapter 6. Mentorship tools are discussed in Chapter 5. Structures of mentoring relationships are discussed in Chapter 4. The role of institutional support is explored in Chapter 7.
can help engage and develop the talent of a broader group of students interested in STEMM careers, thereby helping develop STEMM professionals by increasing access, equity, and inclusion in STEMM. More diverse and inclusive STEMM workplaces will be more creative, innovative, and responsive to current and emerging problems because teams comprising individuals with diverse experiences and areas of expertise often ask different questions and tend to be more creative and innovative in how they answer those questions.4 More diverse research teams also, on average, produce higher-impact research and make better decisions than less diverse teams.
Social science research documents the pivotal role of identity in the formation and development of social relationships such as mentorship.5 Specific dimensions of identity (e.g., science identity, cultural identities) have been linked empirically to academic and career development and to the experience of mentoring relationships in STEMM. However, despite mentorship’s benefits for underrepresented (UR) students and their development of a science identity, studies have reported that UR individuals enrolled in STEMM degree programs typically receive less mentorship than their well-represented peers.6
Addressing the underrepresentation of major segments of the nation’s population requires a multipronged approach involving an ecosystem of participants, including institutional leadership, department chairs, program leaders, mentors, mentees, and professional associations. Mentorship will likely constitute a significant component of the complex solutions required. Studies show that effective mentorship for UR students enhances recruitment into and retention in research-related career pathways.
Mentoring can and has been used to develop cultures of inclusive excellence, which are more likely to support the development of diverse STEMM professionals.7 Creating a culture of inclusive excellence requires academic institutions to identify where student success is not equal across all demographics, discover which educational practices succeed in addressing those inequities, and work intentionally to build from those practices in a way that sustains institutional change. Given that effective mentoring relationships for individuals across career stages can strongly support mentee success in STEMM fields, creating a culture of inclusive excellence must include providing access to effective mentoring for all students.8
This report and the associated online guide use the growing scholarship on mentorship developed in the context of STEMM and in fields outside of STEMM as a basis for
5Identity refers to the composite of who a person is, the way one thinks about oneself, the way one is viewed by the world, and the characteristics one uses to define oneself, such as gender identification, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, and even one’s profession.
6 This report refers to UR groups as including women of all racial/ethnic groups and individuals specifically identifying as Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native. Where possible, the report specifies if the UR groups to which the text refers are Black, Latinx, or of American Indian/Alaska Native heritage. Chapter 3 discusses the concept of identity, including science identity, the role of identities in STEMM, and how identities can affect mentorship.
7Inclusive excellence is a philosophical approach to higher education administration and processes that means attending to both the demographic diversity of students/trainees and the need for developing climates and cultures in institutions so that all have a chance to succeed in STEMM. For purposes of this report, this includes a mindset where excellence and inclusion are synonymous, a concern for equity in STEMM, active work to develop mentees’ capacities and assets, and a commitment to their success by faculty and the institution. This definition is close to the original term developed by Association of American Colleges and Universities initiatives and adopted by its board of directors. More information is available at www.aacu.org/about/statements/2013/diversity; accessed August 17, 2019.
the findings and recommendations laid out in Chapter 8.9 The report notes that current mentoring systems are structured to benefit the prototypical STEMM mentee—White, male, heteronormative, continuing generation, and upper or middle class. Therefore, the report emphasizes mentorship for UR students and explains the importance of culturally responsive mentorship.10 It also identifies specific practices on the part of both mentors and mentees that increase the likelihood of developing effective mentoring relationships that account for differences in the demographic background, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability status of mentors and mentees. The report provides examples of programs that have included research-informed mentorship practices as a key component for increasing student success in undergraduate and graduate STEMM fields while also reviewing the challenges of assessing mentorship and program effectiveness.11 Finally, the report addresses the importance of institutional culture change to support widespread implementation of effective mentorship practices and makes specific recommendations for the range of actors that must engage to improve the practice of mentorship in STEMM.
THE PROCESS OF EFFECTIVE MENTORSHIP
Mentorship refers to a collaborative learning relationship and working alliance based on intentionality, trust, and shared responsibility for the interactions in that relationship and the effectiveness of those interactions.12 Effective mentorship provides aspects of both psychosocial and career support, and may include role modeling, advising, sponsorship, and helping the mentee develop a supportive network of other mentors and peers.13 Mentorship, like all working alliances, evolves through stages over time, and entails critical and honest self-reflection at multiple stages of the mentorship process.
10Culturally responsive refers to “using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them” (Gay, 2010).
12Intentionality refers to a calculated and coordinated method of engagement to effectively meet the needs of a designated person or population within a given context.
13Psychosocial support refers to a nontherapeutic intervention relating to social and psychological factors that helps a person cope with stressors at home or at work. This definition is adapted from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/psychosocial+support; accessed August 17, 2019. Role modeling is a potential psychosocial support function in which a mentor serves as an inspirational example of the norms, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to achieve success (Lockwood and Kunda, 1997). Advising is a potential career support function that involves providing feedback about specific questions, such as the classes a student needs to take to graduate. Sponsorship is a potential career support function that involves a senior person publicly acknowledging the achievements of and advocating for a mentee.
Trust—an essential element of effective mentorship—develops when mentors and mentees work together to identify and respond to mutual goals, needs, and priorities, which can change over time and thus may require adjustment. Although mentees may seek out mentors with surface-level similarities—which can help with the establishment of trust—deep-level similarities such as shared beliefs, values, interests, and experiences may be more important for effective mentorship,14 particularly when considering the disparity in demographic representation between the individuals in more senior positions and those in more junior ones. Near-peer and peer mentorship models may help provide both deep-level and surface-level matching.
Effective mentoring relationships employ competency-based, inclusive practices to help students see themselves as STEMM scholars with the potential to contribute meaningfully to their disciplines. However, this involves competency-based mentorship preparation or education shown to help mentors and mentees advance their skills in multiple areas.15 As with any complex skill, individual mentors and mentees will have different levels of inherent and acquired skills, but everyone can improve their skills with instruction, practice, and feedback, including ongoing self-reflective processes that encourage intentional practice. Assuming that mentors and mentees are capable of establishing a good mentoring relationship without any instruction advantages mentees who have enough social capital to connect and maximize their relationships with their mentors.16
Typically, mentorship in STEMM is assumed to occur between one mentor and one mentee—a mentoring dyad. While dyads serve an important role in STEMM mentorship, mentorship has expanded conceptually and operationally to include a range of structures to better support mentees’ development. Effective mentorship structures include triads, collective or group mentoring, mentoring networks, and emerging online and e-mentoring communities.17 These non-dyadic structures can provide additional benefits, including varying perspectives. The use of mentoring tools—compacts or plans, mentor maps, and individual development plans among others—can facilitate effective mentoring relationships.18
Mentorship becomes less effective when mentors are absent, set unrealistic expectations, or do not provide clear and relevant guidance. Negative mentoring experiences can include mentor-mentee mismatch regarding work styles, values, and personalities; distancing behavior such as self-absorption of the mentor and neglect of the mentee; manipulative behavior such as the mentor inappropriately delegating work to the mentee or taking credit for the mentee’s work; lack of mentor expertise including both technical (skill- or
career-related) and interpersonal incompetence; and general dysfunctionality, such as mentors having negative attitudes or personal problems. While negative mentoring experiences can arise from ill intent, negative outcomes from mentoring can also occasionally arise from otherwise good intentions.19
THE OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS OF EFFECTIVE MENTORSHIP
Effective mentorship has an overall positive effect on academic achievement, retention, and degree attainment, as well as on career success, career satisfaction, and career commitment.20 Mentees’ perceptions of the quality of their mentored experiences are key drivers in positive outcomes, including STEMM degree attainment, especially among UR individuals in STEMM fields. Positive mentor-mentee relationships and effective mentorship are particularly important for integrating women and UR students into the STEMM academic community.
How an individual’s identity as a STEMM professional fits with an individual’s other social identities, such as gender, race, or socioeconomic status, has a significant effect on their career goals.21 Many factors—including a lack of access to effective mentorship and a need to subsume other aspects of their identities to fit into a predominantly White, male STEMM culture—keep students from UR groups from choosing and remaining in STEMM disciplines. Moreover, some negative mentoring experiences have been linked to attrition, especially for UR students. Mentees without access to culturally responsive mentoring can experience identity interference or identity conflict and concealment, which is the perceived or actual discordance between different aspects of an individual’s identity.22 This can lead to self-doubt, reduced psychological well-being, and lower academic or professional performance.
Many STEMM faculty mentors unintentionally devalue cultural and social diversity in mentoring relationships, neglecting the fact that important social identities shape their mentees’ academic experiences. For this and other reasons, many UR students prefer to have mentors of the same race and gender and who have life experiences similar to their own.23 However, the scarcity of UR STEMM faculty may lead UR students to believe they cannot find safe spaces in which they can discuss their identities and interests. Mentors, regardless of race or gender, of UR students who acknowledge their students’ sociocultural-based experiences may be better able to help them to navigate invalidating experiences, affirm their belonging in STEMM contexts, and reinforce their self-efficacy
22Identity interference refers to when cultural meanings and stereotypes assigned to social identities cause those with multiple identities to feel that one identify interferes with the successful performance of another identity.
beliefs. However, this may involve crossing cultural boundaries and often requires culturally responsive mentorship that involves mentors moving out of familiar and prescribed ways of interacting and communicating with mentees if they are to establish equitable, reciprocal, respectful, and honorable relationships.24
THE SYSTEMS TO SUPPORT EFFECTIVE MENTORSHIP
Theoretically sound mentorship measures can help shape how mentors and mentees define, align, and guide their perceptions and behaviors within their relationships in a way that increases the likelihood of benefiting from mentorship. Measures can be adapted from existing ones or developed for postsecondary STEMM, but the decision of whether to adapt or develop is not trivial, particularly given limited empirical evidence supporting the assertion that context-specific measures necessarily result in enhanced measurement or prediction.
While effective mentorship occurs at many institutions, many barriers exist that make it difficult to disseminate and implement effective interventions in STEMM mentorship. These barriers include a lack of time, resources, rewards, expertise, and confidence needed to implement new programs and practices. Broader access to effective mentorship and support systems at academic institutions may entail significant institutional change.
THE COMMITTEE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
The committee presents nine sets of recommendations to encourage a shift away from a culture of ad hoc mentorship and toward one of intentional, inclusive, and effective mentorship in all institutional contexts. For the first seven sets of recommendations, the committee lays out specific roles for various participants in the mentorship ecosystem—including institutional leadership (e.g., presidents, provosts, deans), department chairs, program leaders (e.g., research, training, and graduate program directors), mentors (faculty members, staff, and others who have extensive contact with graduate and undergraduate students), and mentees (undergraduate and graduate students participating in mentoring programs and other mentoring relationships), and professional associations. The final two sets of recommendations are directed at agencies that fund mentorship programs and scholars of mentorship.
The committee’s recommendations are best understood in the context of a common understanding of mentorship. Therefore, the first recommendation is directed toward all participants in the mentorship ecosystem.
Recommendation 1: Adopt an Operational Definition of Mentorship in STEMM
Institutions and programs should adopt an evidence-based, operational definition of mentorship, such as the one used by the committee in its work:
Mentorship is a professional, working alliance in which individuals work together over time to support the personal and professional growth, development, and success of the relational partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support.
Mentorship is operationalized for STEMM contexts through the career support functions (e.g., career guidance, skill development, sponsorship) and psychosocial support functions (e.g., psychological and emotional support, role modeling) aimed at mentee talent development. Mentorship complements other developmental processes like teaching or coaching to support mentees in developing knowledge and skills, and is essential to the holistic development of scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians, including but not limited to developing a strong identity as a STEMM professional, developing confidence in one’s ability to work as a STEMM professional, and successfully navigating the culture of STEMM.
Recommendation 2: Use an Evidenced-Based Approach to Support Mentorship
2.1: Institutional and departmental leadership should support the use of evidence-based mentoring practices by both mentors and mentees, starting with new faculty and student orientation. Support should include tested mentorship education curricula, resources, and tools (guided discussions, mentoring compacts, individual development plans, and mentor maps) as well as time for professional development and mechanisms for feedback, improvement, and accountability.
2.2: Program leaders should support mentorship by ensuring there are evidence-based guidelines, tools, and processes for mentors and mentees to set clear expectations, engage in regular assessments, and participate in mentorship education. Program design should take into account the stages of mentoring relationships and ensure that the evolving needs of undergraduate and graduate students are met as they shift to career stage–appropriate independence.
2.3: Department chairs should deliver professional development on effective mentorship to support mentors and mentees in understanding how successful mentoring relationships can be created, cultivated, and nurtured; addressing challenges such as those caused by biases and micro- and macroaggressions; encouraging self-reflection; and mastering critical skills over time.
2.4: Mentors should learn about and employ evidence-based mentorship tools and strategies through a process that includes exploring evidence-based mentorship resources, dedicating time for mentorship education, and participating in relationship-level, department-level, and institution-level mentoring accountability mechanisms.
2.5: Mentees should acquaint themselves with evidence-based mentorship tools and strategies, including compacts, individual development plans, mentor maps, and mentoring accountability mechanisms. When possible, mentees should take advantage of any mentee-focused mentorship education and resources and be aware of which faculty members in their program, department, or institution have participated in mentorship education and which faculty use evidence-based mentorship tools.
Recommendation 3: Establish and Use Structured Feedback Systems to Improve Mentorship at All Levels
Assessment and evaluation of mentorship are necessary to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Evaluation through structured systems may reduce unintentional bias and protect mentees who are in inherently more vulnerable positions as students and trainees.
3.1: Institutional and departmental leadership should regularly and systematically review formal mentorship activities and programs to support development of mentorship skills and student success and well-being. Such reviews should involve different stakeholders groups, check for alignment with stated program goals and missions, ensure that practices for effective mentorship are incorporated throughout activities and programs, and work to create a culture of accountability.
3.2: Program leaders should establish and systematically review formal mentoring activities and programs and other structured feedback systems to make programmatic decisions such as who is allowed to serve as a mentor, when to intervene if relationships are not effective, and how to help mentors improve their skills over time using established methods and instruments for measuring mentorship effectiveness. Program leaders should regularly provide deans, department heads, and other program leaders with program metrics, including data on mentorship processes and outcomes.
3.3: Mentors and mentees should work with each other and their institutions to develop feedback systems to document, evaluate, and advance mentorship competencies over time using established methods and instruments for measuring mentorship effectiveness. They should also participate in institutional
reviews of formal mentorship activities and programs to enhance mentor and mentee outcomes and inform periodic self-reflection.
3.4: Professional associations should regularly review and gather evidence on formal mentorship activities and programs that are designed to enhance students’ success outside of their home institution. Such reviews should also check for alignment with stated program and association goals, missions, and accountability mechanisms and for widespread use of effective mentorship practices.
Recommendation 4: Recognize and Respond to Identities in Mentorship
All participants in the mentorship ecosystem should recognize that identities influence academic and career development and thus are relevant and significant for effective mentorship.
4.1: Institutional leadership should intentionally support mentorship initiatives that recognize, respond to, value, and build upon the power of diversity. Leaders should intentionally create cultures of inclusive excellence to improve the quality and relevance of the STEMM enterprise.
4.2: Mentors should learn about and make use of inclusive approaches to mentorship such as listening actively, working toward cultural responsiveness, moving beyond “colorblindness,” intentionally considering how culture-based dynamics like imposter syndrome can negatively influence mentoring relationships, and reflecting on how their biases and prejudices may affect mentees and mentoring relationships, specifically for mentorship of underrepresented mentees.
4.3: Mentees should reflect on and acknowledge the influence of their identities on their academic and career trajectory, including the potential for imposter syndrome to disrupt mentorship. Mentees should seek mentorship that is intentional in considering their individual lived experiences.
4.4: Professional associations should intentionally address sociodemographic factors in mentoring relationships, specifically for mentorship of underrepresented mentees. Professional associations should also intentionally create cultures of inclusive excellence to improve the quality and relevance of the STEMM enterprise.
Recommendation 5: Support Multiple Mentorship Structures
5.1: Institutional leadership should support policies, procedures, and other infrastructure that allow mentees to engage in mentoring relationships with mul-
tiple individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution, such as professional societies, external conferences, learning communities, and online networks, with the ultimate goal of providing more comprehensive mentorship support.
5.2: Mentors should provide opportunities and support for mentees in mentoring relationships with other individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution (such as professional societies, external conferences, learning communities, online networks) who can provide complementary or supplementary functions that enable mentees to progress and succeed.
5.3: Mentees should consider developing, as needed, a constellation of mentoring relationships with multiple individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution using tools designed for this purpose such as mentoring maps and individual development plans.
5.4: Professional associations should proactively facilitate the development of mentoring relationships among individuals from different programs or institutions, as needed, who can provide complementary or supplementary mentorship functions. This could include activities such as pairing first-time conference attendees (mentees) with returning conference attendees (mentors) to orient them to conference events and support their networking or establishing and supporting online communities for mentees to find and make supportive connections outside their own institutions and environments (e.g., academia).
Recommendation 6: Reward Effective Mentorship
6.1: Institutional leadership should reward and visibly recognize mentors for documented, effective, and inclusive mentorship in the same manner as effective teaching is recognized, including through annual awards. Consideration should be given to all forms of mentorship, including informal and formal relationships that occur beyond the research advisor or other academic advisor and the student. Leaders should also structure job recruitment, application, and selection procedures to make evident an applicant’s commitment to and success with mentorship and ensure mentorship quality and potential are weighed in hiring decisions, possibly through the inclusion of mentoring statements in applications.
6.2: Department chairs, in consultation with institutional leadership, should use promotion, tenure, and performance appraisal practices to reward effective mentorship. Elements of a promotion or tenure package could include descriptions of approaches and resources used in mentoring, reflective statements of ways the candidate has worked to improve their mentoring over time, evidence of mentored scientists as coauthors on manuscripts and grants and
their placement into positions, letters from program leaders and testimonies from students, institutional and national awards for mentorship, and process measures that assess mentoring relationship quality from the perspective of the mentee and the mentor.
6.3: Professional associations should provide visible recognition of effective mentorship through prominent rewards for documented, effective, and inclusive mentorship, such as certifications for completing substantive mentorship education, named awards for sustained contributions to mentorship, and noteworthy track records of effective mentorship supported with assessment data.
Recommendation 7: Mitigate Negative Mentorship Experiences
Mentorship education for both mentors and mentees can help to reduce or prevent negative mentoring experiences. However, negative mentoring experiences do and will occur, and direct steps should be taken to mitigate harm from such occurrences.
7.1: Institutional leadership should appoint and make visible one or more neutral third parties (e.g., ombudspersons, research integrity office) to serve as a point of contact to identify and address negative mentoring experiences. These individuals, offices, or committees should be selected based on their potential to engender a sense of trust and approachability among mentees and mentors. The appointed neutral third parties should also be prepared to carry out their role effectively by participating in professional development on mentorship, conflict management, and workplace laws and ethics.
7.2: Program leaders and department chairs should periodically review mentorship assessment results to identify and mitigate negative experiences. They should be open to the possibility of having to serve as a neutral third party to improve ineffective or negative mentoring experiences, and they should also be prepared to carry out their role effectively by participating in professional development on mentorship, conflict management, and workplace laws and ethics.
7.3: Mentors should recognize that negative mentoring experiences can occur even with well-intentioned mentors and mentorship practices and be open to addressing unintended negative mentoring experiences with a neutral third party. In addition, mentors should become familiar with and recommend resources, such as ombudspersons, who can help identify and address negative mentoring experiences.
7.4: Mentees should maintain relationships with a network of faculty outside of their primary advisor, research supervisor, or mentor and, when necessary, seek out an ombudsperson or other neutral third party who can serve as a resource to address negative mentoring experiences.
Recommendation 8: Recommendations for Funding Agencies that Support Mentorship
Funding agencies play a key role in shaping the values of institutions and the projects that scholars pursue. As such, funding agencies’ role in encouraging and supporting effective mentorship practices is essential.
8.1: Funding agencies should encourage the integration of evidence-based mentorship education for mentors and mentees and assessments of mentorship into grant activities that involve undergraduate and graduate student research, education, and professional development to support the development of the next generation of talent in STEMM.
8.2: Funding agencies, when supporting STEMM student development, should require tools such as mentoring compacts and individual development plans to operationalize intentionality and promote shared understanding of the goals of mentoring relationships on sponsored projects.
8.3: Funding agencies should support the study of the process and impacts of mentorship and the development and validation of new or adapted measures for use in STEMM mentorship to comprehensively understand the relationship between mentorship processes and outcomes, as well as demographic disparities in student outcomes.
8.4: Funding agencies should support in-depth, cross-program evaluation and research to better understand the processes and outcomes of mentorship, particularly the outcomes of diverse student populations.
Recommendation 9: Recommendations to Scholars of Mentorship
When the committee reviewed the literature on mentorship and mentoring relationships, it became apparent that more scholarship is needed on specific aspects of mentorship and mentoring relationships. Items 9.1–9.5 represent some of the areas that would benefit from additional scholarship and make contributions to advance the science of mentorship.
9.1: Scholars should conduct multidisciplinary research on mentorship in STEMM, including employing advanced multimethod approaches, using current technologies, and establishing standards for measurement to uncover the relational processes that drive effective mentorship. Scholars should particularly attend to the reciprocal and dynamic nature of mentoring patterns, processes, and outcomes in STEMM to advance theories of mentorship in STEMM.
9.2: Scholars should make greater use of study designs that allow for causal and longitudinal inferences, paying particular attention to the antecedents, processes, correlates, and outcomes within effective mentoring relationships in STEMM to determine the effects of mentorship on persistence and success in STEMM as well as on the STEMM enterprise.
9.3: Scholars should define and characterize negative mentoring experiences or ineffective mentorship in STEMM and investigate their prevalence and impacts, specifically addressing the possibility that negative mentoring experiences may disproportionately harm underrepresented students and compromise science and research itself.
9.4: Scholars should intentionally expand the knowledge base for populations that remain little-studied in STEMM and account for how differing conditions and contexts of mentorship may differentially affect individuals with diverse sociocultural identities. Scholars should examine mentorship assets at the individual, department, and institutional levels to assist STEMM researchers and universities in creating targeted recruitment and retention programs for underrepresented and underserved populations.
9.5: Scholars should investigate how different aspects of mentor-mentee sociocultural similarity may help shape mentorship outcomes to elucidate the effectiveness of matching practices and processes in formal mentorship programs and provide greater access to quality mentoring.