By: Beronda Montgomery

January is National Mentoring Month, and thus an excellent time to reflect on mentoring – both the mentoring you need and the mentoring you’ll offer. This month’s focus on mentoring also offers an opportunity for us to focus on mentoring not only as individuals but to assess how our communities (including collaborative groups, units, departments, colleges and beyond) can cultivate mentoring cultures and the leadership needed to sustain them.

Too frequently, our initial focus is on mentoring as a “fix” for deficits in individuals. We thus commonly use mentoring as an avenue to improve individual “performance” and presentation or outcomes—less frequently we focus on mentoring at the level of groups or the community. Some recent resources and conversations have encouraged looking beyond individual deficits and the common use of mentoring as a “fix” to focusing on cultivating mentoring cultures founded on best practices, mentoring principles, and the development of mentoring philosophies. One such resource is the recently released national consensus study report “The Science of Effective Mentoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine, and Mathematics (STEMM)” from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics (NASEM). This comprehensive NASEM report was released late in 2019 together with a very useful interactive online guide. Included in the report, an online platform, and a set of commissioned papers are meaningful definitions, literature resources, program development recommendations, and implementation suggestions related to multiple aspects of effective mentoring. Although the study (being led out of NASEM) centers on STEMM, the report offers mentoring knowledge, insights, and interventions applicable across multiple disciplines and career stages.

For local information on effective mentoring in the context of research relationships, the MSU Graduate School offers resources and frequently in-person opportunities such as mentor training and workshops.

Additionally, many engaging and meaningful conversations are happening this month in multiple digital platforms including Twitter under the hashtag #NationalMentoringMonth. While the tips, tools, and insights have meaning and are certainly needed year-round, this month’s national focus on mentoring offers a wealth of opportunities to improve our access, knowledge, and utilization for supporting our own personal and professional growth, as well as for supporting those individuals we have the privilege to mentor. I’m looking forward to this concentrated annual opportunity to contribute to and learn from others focusing on mentoring. I hope to see you in some of these mentoring-focused conversations!