Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry

Faculty and Graduate Student Mentors

Why mentor undergraduate students in research and artistry?

Undergraduate research and artistry projects are rewarding “apprenticeships”. Mentoring an undergraduate student in a research or artistry project gives you the chance to help a student develop critical experiences in the field that extend beyond the classroom. You are deepening a student’s understanding of disciplinary content, while including the student as a participant in the discovery of new knowledge in your field. Many students and mentors continue to correspond as the students advance in their own careers, and you may find your role particularly rewarding as your former mentees develop into your colleagues.

Undergraduate research and artistry is mutually beneficial. You may earn some positive marks towards your promotion (and/or tenure) and some highly motivated help with your own work. Undergraduate students get opportunities to explore their field in a hands-on way and grow skills that will advance their careers.

Undergraduate students bring fresh perspectives to a project. Undergraduate students, because they are newer to the field, may not have ingrained habits or biases. If you create an environment in which undergrads are encouraged to ask questions and supply ideas, they can push your own work in directions you didn’t anticipate. Your projects may be in need of a skill set traditionally outside your field, and recruiting an undergraduate student from a different major might be a perfect fit.

student and instructor working with fossils

Resources for Faculty and Graduate Students

How to get involved

While many of our CSU students’ mentors are faculty members, many other mentors are post-docs, graduate students or have other roles (sometimes even outside the university). There are many ways you can get involved:

If you already have an active research or artistry program and feel comfortable seeking undergraduate students for positions, we encourage you to use the Handshake platform to advertise your position. By advertising on Handshake, a tool used by CSU’s Career Center, your advertisement will reach a broad audience of students, making the opportunity and selection more equitable. See “How to Post Opportunities” page.

If you are a faculty member in the Liberal Arts and have an idea for an interdisciplinary project that could involve a cohort of students, you can work with a few other faculty members to create an Undergraduate Research Academy

If you already are mentoring students, encourage them to become active through OURA programming. Students attend our responsible conduct of research (RCR) training and our “research etc.” workshops, they can present their work at CURC, and participate in the Mentored Research and Artistry Distinction.  If you are mentoring a student that is you feel could be a strong candidate for a nationally competitive scholarship, reach out to the Office for Scholarship and Fellowship Advising.

Join the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). CSU has an enhanced membership to CUR, an international organization that strengthens undergraduate research in STEM and non-STEM disciplines. You can join CUR with a free faculty membership (activate your enhanced benefits here), and then you will be able to access to free webinars, online professional development and other resources.

Hints on establishing a successful mentorship experience

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Set clear expectations for students’ engagement: Establish expectations such as the number of hours per week students should commit to the project, the duration of commitment (a term, an academic year, etc) and the level of independent work. Be sure to make yourself aware of other commitments that students may have (with coursework, jobs, etc.) and help them set balance these commitments while still maintaining forward momentum on their projects.

Set periodic check-ins for productivity: If your research group has regular meetings, ask the student to attend some fraction of them, and arrange times in these meetings for the student to present to the group or tell members what work has been accomplished. If you are mentoring the student on a more independent project, arrange your own regular meetings with the student. Be sure to communicate availability to the student between scheduled meetings as well.

Integrate the student’s work with other engaging experiences. While you may not be the student’s academic advisor, almost all majors have room for electives, and you can help the student select coursework that may integrate well with the student’s project goals. You could also provide extra reading or encourage the student to explore community-based resources (visiting museums, viewing public performances, joining community reading groups, other labs, etc.). When appropriate. try to create opportunities to introduce the student to others in your field or overlapping interdisciplinary areas.

Set developmentally appropriate expectations and intellectual ownership. Familiarize yourself with the coursework the student has been taken, as well as any skills the student has from extra-curricular experiences. Then set appropriate scaffolding to develop the student’s skills. Build in an appropriate level of responsibility and intellectual independence. Plan for growth in responsibility and ownership. Point them to appropriate OURA programs and resources.