How do I make my mentoring relationships successful?
Though the choice of primary research mentor in your department may be more or less in your control, all graduate students can take responsibility for their mentoring relationships and their graduate educations.
Walker et al. emphasize the role of graduate students in shaping their own scholarly formation and the departmental culture in which it occurs in The Formation of Scholars. Their summary remarks to students are worth quoting at length:
"Doctoral students who take this kind of intentional approach to their own learning will, in turn, reap benefits from the leadership experience and the satisfaction of being part of something larger. Deliberation with others about the educational process and how it can and should work will make you a better learner--now, as you complete your doctoral program, and in the guture as you move into your chosen professional setting as a scholar. Of course it is true that faculty members, individually and collectively, are responsible for creating a culture and a set of experiences in which students develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and values to become responsible stewards. But ultimately you must take charge of your own learning. Expert learners are purposeful about their own learning, intentional about their goals and how to reach them, and good at monitoring their own progress. Seek out powerful learning opportunities; look for ways to nudge existing elements and requirements in directions that make them more progressive, integrative, and collaborative. Actively cultivate multiple mentoring relationships and look for ways to make their benefits reciprocal. Ask to be involved in department committees; to host a visiting speaker, or to organize a seminar. Above all, recall that graduate school is one stage of a longer voyage of formation which the learner herself must steer" (145).