Graduate student success hinges upon many factors, faculty mentorship being arguably one of the most impactful elements during a graduate student’s journey. Aida Midgett, professor and chair of the department of counselor education, and Kristin Snopkowski, associate professor in the department of anthropology, are two faculty members at Boise State University whose dedication to mentoring is clear. Midgett and Snopkowski received this year’s Boise State Graduate College Excellence in Graduate Mentoring Award and an award of $1,000 each.
Tyler Brown, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology, and Cynthia Curl, assistant professor in the department of community and environmental health, each earned honorable mention.
Honoring two graduate mentoring award recipients and two honorable mentions each year, this award seeks to recognize the considerable efforts of faculty who consistently serve as effective mentors. “Our faculty play a pivotal role in the experience our graduate students receive,” said Tammi Vacha-Haase, dean of the Graduate College. “It is our pleasure to celebrate those who go above and beyond to help their graduate students succeed through dedicated mentorship.”
Mentorship is invaluable to the graduate student experience. Although students may encounter a variety of challenges, a positive mentor relationship can assist in the hills and valleys of graduate education. “In my experience, the mentorship that a graduate student receives can be the difference between success and failure,” said Snopkowski.
“Early on in my academic career, I was unprepared to help students with the various aspects of their life that were unrelated to graduate studies. Now, I have learned to collate different resources to provide help to students depending on their current life situation – whether it be mental health, housing, or financial needs.”
For Snopkowski, a mentor relationship creates the space for transparent and honest conversations about what graduate students can come to expect, including “…sitting down with students to provide them a clear overview of what graduate school is like, what the expectations are, and developing a timeline for their thesis early on helps students achieve success.”
Rooted in authentic conversations and trusted advice, mentoring can foster a healthy professional relationship that benefits both graduate students and faculty members.
“I want students to be set up to succeed, not only in their current work with me, but in the future as well,” said Midgett. “As I have developed in my role as a professor, I have come to deeply appreciate the role of mentorship and how having an invested mentor who helps you develop particular skills can positively impact and change the trajectory of your professional career.”
Mentoring in higher education is fundamentally rooted in technical skill development and support of the whole student. For graduate students particularly, their experiences can include a number of stressors such as balancing academic requirements with jobs, financial responsibilities and/or family life. Mentors help to highlight opportunities that are germane to graduate student success beyond their graduate studies.
Snopkowski seeks to achieve this by directing students to relevant professional resources like presenting at conferences, but also said teaching general skill development is equally important, regardless if students stay in academia.
“I think a very important aspect of the mentoring relationship is to help students to develop a strong professional ethos and to be able to recognize quality work and to learn that they have the ability to produce high quality work that contributes to the field and improves people’s lives in some way,” Midgett adds.
“Boise State University is fortunate to have many outstanding faculty who serve as graduate student mentors,” identified Dean Vacha-Haase. “Drs. Midget and Snopkowski are excellent role models, and their efforts are to be applauded. The mentoring our students receive during their time with us helps to prepare them to be successful in their future endeavors, and leaders in their discipline.”
To learn more about the Boise State Graduate College Excellence in Graduate Mentoring Award, visit the Graduate College mentoring award webpage.