SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
GRADUATE STUDENT MENTORING COMMITTEE REPORT
committee on Graduate Student Mentoring (GSM) met
on October 11, 2005.
present: Omari Bandel, Elaine Sanders-Bush, Jin Chen,
Yelin Chen, Kristen Guglielmi, Roger Jackson, Ines
Macias, Tamie Swah, Brian Wadzinski, Virginia Shepherd
(co-chair), and George Hill (co-chair).
absent: Bonnie Miller, Linda Sealy
meeting began with a summary of reports from the other
three committees – Postdoctoral, Junior Faculty,
and Faculty/Chairs - by Roger Chalkley and Ann Richmond.
Briefly, the Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring committee
created a draft of guidelines for postdoctoral mentors,
with a plan to develop a Handbook. In addition, it
was agreed that an agreement would be prepared that
both faculty and postdoctoral fellow would sign outlining
basic guidelines and requirements for best practices
in postdoctoral mentoring. The Junior Faculty committee
will put together a program of best practices, and
the Faculty/Chairs committee has suggested that mentoring
will become a part of the criteria for faculty promotion.
co-chairs then distributed summaries of the recent
Vanderbilt graduate student survey and the University
of Michigan document “How to Get the Mentoring
You Want”. Roger Jackson led a discussion of
the student survey data.
from the group included the following:
• Students stated that they start out looking
for a project and/or PI and not a mentor. They indicated
that few students ever hear the word mentor in their
first year. It was suggested that the U of Mich document
should be distributed to all incoming graduate students
• The suggestion was made that perhaps we need
to implement a first year course for students on what
makes a good mentor, and how to look for a mentor.
Roger pointed out that this had been tried in the
past in various forms, and that currently there is
a one day “survival skills” program for
first year students.
• It was pointed out that students need help
in transitioning from undergraduate to graduate status,
and in looking for a project they may miss important
information about the environment of the laboratory.
• More mentoring could be provided by senior
• Instruction for first and second year students
could be structured in a way that is “just in
time” – focusing on issues when they arise.
For example, at the beginning of semester sessions
could be offered on how to choose a lab, and topics
covered in later semesters and years that pertain
to those times.
committee decided on the following preliminary best
• Every student will have an advisory committee
by at least 12 months after entering a specific department
(students will not have committees during their first
year, but will rely on Roger Chalkley and Jim Patten
for advice and guidance). This advisory or bridging
committee will meet every six months to review the
student’s progress and offer guidance and suggestions.
The committee may be comprised of two faculty members
and one senior graduate student. Each department should
appoint three faculty members each year to serve on
these committees, and each student will select two
of the three for their specific committee.
• All departments should encourage the establishment
of Graduate Student Associations, and should provide
money to support activities.
• Workshops or seminars should be offered for
first and second year students, with length of sessions,
timing, and specific topics yet to be determined.
• A grievance process should be considered for
dealing with situations involving “profoundly
• A handbook to guide faculty in mentoring graduate
students specific to the biomedical departments at
Vanderbilt should be prepared: a subcommittee was
established with Ines Macias as the chair to prepare
a draft set of recommendations for this handbook.