This last summer (2016), UPRM offered a REU in Soft Materials where graduate students engaged undergraduates students on research. Graduate students participated in the Entering Mentoring workshop series in order to serve as mentors to participating REU students. They were offered by Prof. Ubaldo M. Córdova and Prof. Patricia Ortiz from the Department of Chemical Engineering. The students that participated on the workshops and completed the requirements received a certificate. Those students are: Margie Guerrero, Moisés de Jesús, Paul Meza and Rebeca B. Cabán.
Effective mentoring can be learned, but not taught. Good mentors discover their own objectives, methods, and style by mentoring. Most faculty learn to mentor by experimenting and analyzing success and failure, and many say that the process of developing an effective method of mentoring takes years. No two students are the same or develop along the same trajectory, so mentoring must be continually customized, adjusted, and redirected to meet each student’s needs.
The goal of the Entering Mentoring workshop series is to accelerate the process of learning to be a mentor
of undergraduate researchers. The workshops provide mentors with an intellectual framework to guide them, an opportunity to experiment with various methods, and a forum in which to solve mentoring dilemmas with the help of their peers. Discussing mentoring issues during the seminar provides experience—direct or indirect—working with diverse students, tackling a range of mentoring challenges, and considering a myriad of possible solutions. Participants of the workshops may hear about, and discuss, as many mentoring experiences as most of us handle in a decade, thereby benefiting from secondhand experience to learn more quickly. We hope that, when mentors complete the workshops, they will have articulated their personal style and philosophy of mentoring and have a toolbox of strategies they can use when faced with difficult mentoring situations.