How many mentees should I have?

As a new faculty member, you might have difficulty determining how many students you should take on as mentees. Only you, of course, can know your own limits. However, we would like to remind faculty of the time commitment required of both faculty and students in successful mentoring relationships. Regular meetings with students and responding to student work take a considerable amount of time, not to mention any shared research projects or presentations that mentors may pursue with their mentees. The time required of faculty will differ with each student, with each faculty mentor, and with each project, but mentoring always requires a significant dedication of time and energy. In recognition of this fact, below are some strategies to make mentoring manageable, especially for those faculty with multiple mentees:

Contracts- As discussed elsewhere on this website, contracts enable faculty and students to articulate and agree upon shared expectations for engagement. Developing a contract is a useful way to purposefully consider the time commitment required for a given student and project, and can allow you to more proactively assess your ability to meet the needs of that student. Of course, being the primary director of a student's research project is not the only way to meaningfully interact with that student and their work. By articulating your own expectations and limitations, you and the student together can determine what role you can best play in their research project and professional development, acknowledging that directing their dissertation is not the only way in which you can have a significant mentoring relationship with the student. If you feel obligated to say "yes" to all mentoring requests that come your way, acknowledging and discussing the role of multiple mentoring can be a useful strategy for sustaining meaningful relationships with your students while keeping your formal mentoring responsibilities manageable.

Multiple Mentoring- Even when you have taken on the responsibility of primary research mentor for a student, remember that the responsibility for student achievement and success is a shared endeavor, with which the department and other faculty are often actively engaged. You are not expected to be and do everything for your mentee; ideally, you are responsible for supporting your students' acquisition of other meaningful experiences and connections. This can be as simple as suggesting to another colleague that they might be interested in your student's work, suggesting to your student that a colleague might have interest in their work, or merely making clear to your student that you are comfortable with and support their interactions with other scholars as the student develops their research. Sharing the responsibility for student achievement is a hallmark of the productive intellectual community we want to foster at U of L, and also releases individual faculty from bearing the responsibility for student outcomes alone.

Mentee groups- If you have multiple students under your primary direction, they likely have much in common in terms of research interests and agendas. Promoting and supporting research and writing groups among your mentees is a way to draw on their shared interests and experiences so that they can support one another. Students might respond to conference, publication, or dissertation drafts of their peers under your direction. They might also hold regular meetings about current research in the field, and discuss that research in relation to their own projects. Dr. Carol Mattingly, English faculty and recipient of the 2010 Faculty Mentor Award, describes her own approach to student groups elsewhere on this website.