Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Advising and Mentoring

June 25, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

A central component of MIT’s graduate education is the opportunity for students to learn from and model their faculty mentors. Excellence in graduate student mentoring and advising is a fundamental responsibility of our faculty and fosters innovation and scholarship. Programs and policies that support faculty and students in this regard are essential to the Institute's mission.

Within this context, we write to announce the formation and launch of the Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Advising and Mentoring, co-chaired by Professor Paula Hammond, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Associate Provost Tim Jamison. The committee members include 10 graduate students and 11 faculty and staff, with representation from the MIT Graduate Student Council (GSC) and each of the schools and the college.

The committee’s primary aim is to deliver a strategic plan to guide policies and programs that would be implemented at MIT. It will include the following elements based on recommendations provided in a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) on the Science of Effective Mentorship:

  • Evidence-based educational programs that provide platforms for mentorship skill development and learning
  • Mechanisms for graduate student feedback
  • Normalized, equitable metrics for mentoring assessment that can be incorporated into existing faculty development and performance and promotion reviews
  • Competencies, expectations, and best practices of effective mentorship at various stages of career development
  • Policies and programs that support multiple mentorship structures and models
  • Rewards or incentives for excellence in mentorship
     

The plan for this committee is based on a proposal from Task Force 2021 and Beyond and will build upon ongoing initiatives led by the Provost’s Office, the Chancellor’s Office, the schools and college, and the GSC. These recent efforts include the MIT response to both the NASEM report and the NASEM Report on the Sexual Harassment of Women in Academia. Those efforts include guaranteed transitional support for graduate students who switch advisors; a pilot mentorship training program for faculty in the School of Engineering drawing upon expertise from the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research; and the GSC's Research Advising Survey.

We are grateful to the members of the community who are serving on this important committee, and look forward to the leadership of incoming Chancellor Melissa Nobles and Faculty Chair Lily Tsai to carry these efforts forward into the future.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor
Rick L. Danheiser, Chair of the Faculty, A. C. Cope Professor of Chemistry
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost