The program helps early graduate students navigate and identify the resources that will be most beneficial to their personal needs and expedite the integration of new students into our department.

Peer Mentoring icon

The objectives of the peer mentoring program are to:

  • Provide new graduate students with the resources, support, and guidance to thrive within the Illinois Chemistry Department.
  • Give first-year graduate students early access to resources and mentoring for personal and professional development.
  • Make the transition to graduate school easier, less stressful, and less isolating by facilitating the integration of first-year graduate students into the department community and creating a built-in support network with senior graduate students.

Mentor-Mentee Selection, Training & Expectations

Mentees are paired with one or more senior graduate student(s). These mentors may be from any year or sub-discipline (area of chemistry). Mentor-mentee pairs are matched based on background, identity, and interests, not by scientific expertise. When possible, mentees are paired with two or more mentors to strengthen cross-cohort and cross-discipline mentorship networks further. Each summer, mentors are trained to familiarize themselves with the resources available to help students navigate common challenges in the first year. Some of these challenges include university policies, teaching, fellowships, the group joining process, and much more. Training also provides tips for being a great mentor and guidance on what to do if the mentor does not feel suited or capable of answering the mentee’s questions.

Both mentor and mentee are expected to maintain confidentiality as it is crucial in successful mentorship to build trust and respect. Mentor-mentee pairs are expected to meet regularly to check-in and discuss questions and issues the mentee may have. The mentors are also provided with a list of relevant topics to talk through if the need arises. The list covers a wide range of issues, including fees, teaching, work-life balance/integration, the department, outreach, and classes.

It has become increasingly clear from departmental surveys that students frequently experience isolation and mental health challenges. Providing a systematic support network should raise student satisfaction and retention by lowering the burdens of beginning a difficult program in a new place. Additionally, deploying these supports using peers will facilitate the personal relationships that strengthen departmental unity and collaboration.

To learn more about the program: