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Mentoring Toolkit for Faculty Mentors Who Work with Undergraduate Student Researchers


Establishing expectations

One critical element of an effective mentor-mentee relationship is a shared understanding of what each person expects from the relationship. Problems between mentors and mentee often arise from misunderstandings about expectations. Importantly, expectations change over time so frequent reflection and clear communication about expectations is needed on a regular basis.

  • Establish expectations and clearly communicate them to the mentee
  • Design and communicate clear goals for the mentoring relationship
  • Listen to and consider the expectations of their mentee in the mentoring relationship
  • Assess the mentee’s knowledge and skill level and adjust the project design accordingly
  • Consider how differences may impact the relationship

A great way to establish clear expectations is to create a contract between the faculty member and the student. Click for a sample contract.


Good communication is a key element of any relationship and a mentoring relationship is no exception. As mentors, it is not enough to say that we know good communication when we see it. Rather, it is critical that mentors reflect upon and identify the specific characteristics of effective communication and take time to practice communication skills.

  • Foster open communication with the mentee
  • Address how difference in communication styles, background, position of power, etc. can alter the intent and the perception of what is said and heard
  • Use multiple strategies for improving communication

Examples of supportive communication skills.

It is also important to foster good communication skills for your students. You may wish to share the following group dynamic and behavior tips with your students as well.


Diversity along a range of dimensions offers both challenges and opportunities to any mentor-mentee relationship. Learning to identify, reflect upon, and engage with diversity is critical to forming and maintaining an effective mentoring relationship.

  • Be aware of the biases and prejudices you bring to the mentor-mentee relationship
  • Have some concrete strategies for addressing issues of diversity and engage in conversation about diversity with your mentees
  • Understand your impact on a mentee: how your interaction with and role modeling for the mentee can impact that mentee’s decision to commit to careers in research
  • Actively seek opportunities to improve your multicultural competency

Being aware of one’s unconscious bias is important in encouraging an open and welcoming environment for your students. Examples of people’s unconscious biases.

This Toolkit was developed with the support of the Kellogg Legacy Foundation and uses materials developed by Dr. Bettina Casad (Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis), Dr. Christine Pfund (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison), and Dr. Angela Byars-Winston (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison).

Kellogg Legacy Project Endowment