CVG Mentoring Program

Fall 2022

The CVG is excited to announce the second iteration of the mentoring program to be run by the CVG trainee executive committee (Alaa Farghli, Anusha Shankar, and Chloe Cheng). The response from our trainee community to this program in the Spring of 2022 was very positive, and we are delighted to continue refining the program this semester. Our goal with this initiative is to promote cross-disciplinary conversations that we hope will lead to new connections and ideas. The intention of this program is to supplement existing departmental or graduate field mentoring programs, *not* to replace them. The CVG comprises members from all across the university and is well-positioned to help forge inter-disciplinary connections, specifically within the realm of genetics and genome-scale biology.

For this semester, we are requesting postdocs and faculty to sign up as mentors, and graduate students to sign up as mentees. In future semesters, depending on feedback from these two iterations, we envision expanding the program to include mentor-mentee relationships across a wider range of career stages. Mentors are not expected to have “all of the answers”, but rather serve as useful sounding boards and offer informal guidance and ideas based on their experiences.

You might wonder - why do trainees need mentors outside of their committees/advisers or other research-based mentoring relationships? Early-career researchers greatly benefit from relationships with mentors who don’t necessarily determine the course of their future or will never be letter-writers for them. Such mentors can provide more informal advice and may be an extra resource that mentees can rely on for both scientific and professional growth. Less formal academic mentor-mentee relationships, even ones that are shorter-term, can also make a real difference in promoting inclusion and retaining trainees in science. As explained in more detail below, the time commitment for mentors is minimal.

Time commitment

We request mentees and mentors to commit just one hour per month for the duration of one semester. If university COVID guidelines allow, we will start and end the semester with an in-person event, to allow mentors and mentees to get to know each other and establish a relationship. So, in total, we anticipate about 4-5 hours in a semester. The impetus for beginning with an introductory and closing event is that many mentoring relationships in programs like this fizzle out and do not have clear direction. We hope to preempt that by first finding the matching pairs that are likely to be most productive and second, facilitating open conversation between mentors and mentees at the very start of the program.

Matching and in-person event

Before the first get-together, we will ask potential mentors and mentees to fill out a form expressing their needs/interests with regard to an informal mentoring relationship. We will do some preliminary matching to pair each mentor with three potential mentees and vice versa. At the introductory event, we will have these subsets of matches meet one-on-one (for 15 minutes per pair – so in 45 minutes, all mentors will have met with three potential mentees and all mentees will have met with three potential mentors). Immediately after, mentees will list their choice of mentor from 1-3, and we will assign pairs. We will then have a break with free interactions (and COVID permitting, food). For the second half of the event, we will have mentees meet with the assigned mentors for 45 minutes. At this point, we would suggest that mentors and mentees discuss what they would like to achieve at the end of the semester-long relationship. We would recommend that they write down 1-3 goals for the mentorship (these goals can be as specific – e.g., learn a particular computational approach, or as broad, e.g., discuss career paths – as the pair wishes). If we cannot do this meeting in person, we will conduct it virtually, with break-out rooms.

Semester-long plan and close

During the rest of the semester we will ask that the pairs meet for at least one hour every month. At the end of the semester, we will all meet again and have a debriefing about how the semester went. We’d suggest that they bring the mentee’s goals back up and discuss how far they got and what they can do going forward. We would then have mentors and mentees check-in with other groups, and if anyone wishes, present their thoughts on the program, what worked for them and what didn’t, etc. We also plan to conduct an anonymous 5-minute pre-and post-survey, to help evaluate the efficacy of this mentoring program. If we cannot do this meeting in person, it will be virtual, with break-out rooms.

Projected benefits of this program

We intend for the in-person meetings at the beginning and end of the program to help create a sense of community and allow for networking beyond just the mentor-mentee pairs. This is a rare opportunity for an organized, inter-departmental mentoring program to foster connections between postdocs and grad students that may not have a chance to meet otherwise. Postdocs can benefit from getting the chance to mentor a graduate student within a casual and informal framework, and mentees have the opportunity to have someone rooting for them outside of a more formal academic context.

Number of pairs

For this semester, we will only be admitting 12 mentor-mentee pairs, for a total of 24 people. Registration for the Fall 2022 Mentoring program is closed.