PhD Alumni Mentor Program

Schar School PhD Alumni-Student Mentor Program

This program connects doctoral students from underrepresented groups in higher education (including but not limited to first-generation students and students of color) with PhD alumni mentors.

Program Overview


In a PhD program, the faculty advisor or committee chair is expected to play the role of a mentor in many areas of the student’s academic journey – research, scholarship, writing, career development, and networking in the field. For most students, this faculty mentor lays the groundwork for the student’s development as a scholar.

It is also the case that certain demographic groups are underrepresented among the graduate faculty of research institutions. Students may see few faculty members who share their background and experiences, and that small number of faculty may be stretched thin trying to serve the many students who need their attention. While PhD students from underrepresented groups in higher education will have a faculty advisor guiding their research and writing, they may be lacking the support of a role model who recognizes their unique experiences and challenges.

Program Benefits and Objectives

Students who participate in this program will…

  • Receive support navigating the challenges that come with balancing research, writing, career planning, professional responsibilities, and family commitments
  • Hear expert, seasoned perspective to supplement the advice of friends, family, and faculty
  • Develop awareness of career opportunities and professional culture within their chosen field
  • Gain opportunities to make valuable contacts and networking connections
  • Build a beneficial relationship that transcends a mentor’s job title and can open doors to new interests, service opportunities, and social connections
  • Be free to reach out with any question, big or small – the guidance can extend beyond strictly professional topics to more personal mentoring

Mentors who participate in this program will…

  • Establish meaningful, rewarding relationships that prepare students to be better employees and leaders
  • Share experiences and knowledge about education, career path, successes and failures, and lessons learned
  • Stay connected to their alma mater
  • Support the next generation of professionals and scholars

Expectations of Participants

A good mentor focuses on the mentee’s total development by…

  • Helping the mentee develop proficiency in the professional and academic skills necessary for success in his/her fields
  • Sharing resources and network contacts
  • Challenging the mentee

A good mentee cultivates a successful mentoring relationship by…

  • Establishing an environment of open communication and active listening
  • Putting in place a regular meeting schedule, the frequency and formality of which will depend on the mentor’s schedule and personal style
  • Reflecting on professional and scholarly goals, and developing a list of objectives and questions to discuss with the mentor
  • Respecting the mentor’s time and other commitments by staying in touch, showing up on time, and arriving at meetings prepared

How to Apply

PhD Student Services reviews the applications on a rolling basis and makes pairings based on the availability of mentors and appropriate fit. Once a student and graduate have been paired, the student initiates contact. The mentor-mentee relationship is expected to last two years or until the student graduates. Alumni mentors commit to meeting with their mentee at least once a semester. PhD Student Services will collect written evaluations from the participants and make adjustments as necessary.

Toolkits for Participants

Schar School PhD Alumni Mentor Program Toolkit

This toolkit contains guidance and activities to help mentors and mentees make the most of the program. You may find it helpful to use these tools to establish goals together and engage in effective discussions.

Questions? Contact Shannon Williams in PhD Student Services.