It is well known that success in Ph.D. programs is connected to the quality of advising received (Adams, 1992; Heinrich, 1995; Johnson and Huwe, 2003; Tuttle, 2000; Zhao et. al., 2005). This success is largely dependent on the development of the advisor-advisee relationship. It is not an exaggeration to say that the single most important factor in the successful and timely completion of a Ph.D. program is an open and productive relationship with your advisor. Your relationship with your advisor in your Ph.D. Program is likely to be qualitatively different from the advising you may have had in your undergraduate or Master’s program. Of course, information, support and advice can be provided by many people, including staff in the College of Education Student Services Office, the Graduate College, your course instructors, and your classmates. However, there is no substitute for the mentoring that a Ph.D. advisor can provide. This mentoring can take many forms, including helping you to complete necessary paperwork, select courses, and develop conceptual frameworks for your research.
One metaphor often used to capture the nature of the advisor-advisee relationship is the “apprenticeship” model, in which the student works closely and individually with one faculty member who shares his/her research interests. The student’s goal is not only to acquire the knowledge and skills that are central to the profession, but also to become a member of an intellectual community. However, Walker et al. (2008) make the important point that mentoring involves reciprocal roles, and that students should be “apprenticed with” rather than “apprenticed to” (p. 115) their advisors. To develop this kind of relationship, they recommend some strategies that apply to both advisor and advisee.
Know One’s Self and Each Other Well. As each mentoring relationship must be tailored to two sets of needs, motivations and working styles, it is important for the advisor and advisee to understand their separate and mutual goals and negotiate the similarities and differences.
Communicate Clearly and Provide Regular Feedback. Understanding the expectations of each side of the mentoring relationship entails early, frequent, and clear communication. Especially valuable are explicit conversations about expectations about the frequency and format of communication (for example, e-mail, monthly meetings), as well as the range of appropriate topics (for example, advice about coursework, financial aid, career guidelines, teaching, research goals). These negotiations may head off later misunderstandings.
Most doctoral program faculty members work together to provide a formal and annual process for evaluating students’ progress and giving feedback. However, more frequent and regular feedback between the advisor and advisee is critical to sustaining momentum and avoiding pitfalls in developing a research program.
Take Time. An “apprenticeship with” relationship entails a considerable investment of time and energy from both advisor and advisee. Of course, the amount and nature of the time spent together may vary at different points of the student’s program.
The Advisor/Advisee Match
Most programs assign new doctoral students to advisors based on a match in research interests and experiences, using the goal statements that are included in admission portfolios. This first-year advisor will help you develop your program of study, select courses, and plan your program of research. Your advisor will also help you answer questions and solve problems you may encounter in your program.
Of course, students’ research goals often develop and change directions during coursework. If so, it is not unusual for students to change to an advisor whose interests and expertise are a better fit for the new focus. Your department’s Director of Graduate Studies or your doctoral program’s coordinator can provide guidance if you are considering such a change. After communication with both your current and prospective advisors, you may change your advisor at any time during your program. (To change your program advisor, you must complete a Change of Advisor Form. This form may be obtained from the College of Education Office of Student Services).
The purpose of the Advising Covenant is to support the advising relationship, which is undergirded by an ethical agreement that the advising process is built upon dynamic mutual expectations in good faith. The Advising Covenant represents a set of expectations for both the advisor and advisee, along the dimensions of sharing professional knowledge, and responsible collaboration. It aims to serve as a guide that is flexible enough so that the advisor and advisee can meet their particular needs.
Role of Advisors
Share Professional Knowledge
- Advisors are knowledgeable about their advisees’ department/program requirements, policies and procedures.
- Advisors provide constructive feedback on program progress and alert advisees when they are or are not meeting expectations. If not meeting expectations, advisor and advisee discuss a plan of action. When needed, advisors provide counsel to advisees regarding the balance of academics and other obligations.
- Advisors help advisees develop their research interests. They guide advisees by familiarizing them with different paradigms, perspectives, approaches, and resources that may be helpful.
- Advisors provide information on various career paths open to advisees and in the process discuss advisees’ career goals.
- Advisors help advisees with search for employment by providing leads and references.
- In cases where there are mutual research interests, advisors invite/provide advisees with co-participation in advisors’ research and teaching activities. Examples are co-authorship of a conference presentation, journal article or book chapter, assistance in teaching a course, or help with finding opportunities to do so if the advisees so choose.
Collaborate Responsibly – Advisors and Advisees
- Advisors respond to advisees’ questions within 72 hours (via email, phone or in person, if only to let them know that they have received the message and will respond by a certain date).
- Advisors keep commitments and meet mutually negotiated deadlines.
- Advisors work with advisees to plan the course of their study (for example, course schedule and dissertation timeline) to ensure a timely completion of programs.
- Advisors work with advisees on a meeting schedule that works for advisees based on their stage in their studies. For example, the closer to the dissertation stage, the more often they might need to communicate.
- Advisors help advisees make connections and “network” with other students, with other faculty, and with other scholars in their respective fields outside of UIC. For example, advisors may invite all their advisees for a group meeting each semester, so advisees can discuss common issues/concerns to create an advising community.
- Advisors show an interest in their advisees’ interests and/or point them to faculty who may be more appropriate if necessary.
- Advisors advocate for advisees with others when necessary and appropriate.
Role of Advisees
Share Professional Knowledge
- Advisees familiarize themselves with departmental/program policies and procedures. They consult with their advisors for clarification about issues specific to their cases. Advisees note suggestions so as to minimize repeat visits/issues.
- Advisees are self-directed in the sense that they know what their goals are and work towards them. They periodically share their goals with the advisor, including revisions, so that if they need help in terms of direction, guidance, or feedback, their advisors will be better prepared to serve them.
- Advisees do their best at all times. They maintain high standards of excellence, allowing for the development of more challenging and creative goals.
Collaborate Responsibly – Advisors and Advisees
- Advisees respond to advisors’ inquiries within 72 hours (via email, phone or in person, if only to let them know that they have received the message and will respond by a certain date).
- Advisees keep commitments and meet deadlines.
- Advisees work with their advisors to plan the course of their study (for example, course schedule and dissertation schedule) to ensure a timely completion of program
- Advisees plan a meeting schedule with their advisors.
- Advisees are mindful of their advisors’ investment in their own goals and seek ways to also support their advisors.
- Advisees communicate directly and honestly. Advisees and advisors discuss reasonable time requirements for the review of advisees’ written work. Advisees keep advisors abreast of any changes in their plans and let them know what they need as well as suggest how their advisors can help them.
- Advisees admit to challenges so that advisors can help with assessment and develop a plan so that these problems do not arise in the future.
- Advisees are coachable and willing to learn from their advisors. Advisees are open to suggestions by their advisors. If they do not agree, advisees can communicate with their advisors further to work on the issues at hand.
Adams, H. G. (1992). Mentoring: An essential factor in the doctoral process for minority students. Notre Dame, IN: National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minority Students. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED358769).
Davis, L., Little, M. & Thornton, W. (1997). The art and angst of the mentoring relationship. Academic Psychiatry, 21, 61-71.
Golde, C. M. & Walker, G. (2006). (Eds.) Envisioning the future of doctoral education: Preparing stewards of the discipline. Carnegie essays on the doctorate. New York: Jossey-Bass.
Heinrich, K. T. (1995). Doctoral advisement relationship between women: On friendship and betrayal. The Journal of Higher Education, 66(4), 447-469.
How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students at a Diverse University © 2008 University of Michigan, The Rackham School of Graduate Studies The Regents of the University of Michigan. A web version of this handbook can be obtained at: http://www.rackham.umich.edu/downloads/publications/mentoring.pdf
Johnson, W. B. & Huwe, J. M. (2003). Getting mentored in graduate school. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Tuttle, K. N. (2000). Academic advising. New Directions for Higher Education, 111, 1524.
Walker, G., Golde, C., Jones, L., Bueschel, A., Hutchinson, P. (2008). The formation of scholars: Rethinking doctoral education for the twenty-first century. Stanford, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Zhao, C., Golde, C. M., & McCormick, A.C. (2005, April). More than a signature: How advisor choice and advisor behavior affect doctoral student satisfaction. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada.
From 2007-2009, Graduate Students in Education (GSE) and other graduate students in Master’s and Doctoral programs at UIC began the process of creating a document intended to provide academic advising guidelines. In 2008, the Doctoral Programs Steering Committee collaborated with the students to bring this document into its current form.