12. Expectations for Faculty Advisors and Students

12. Expectations for Faculty Advisors and Students

Graduate programs help to advance human knowledge, educate professionals, and resolve problems to address societal needs. Faculty Advisors and graduate students have a joint responsibility to accomplish these goals. Each graduate student should develop an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual honesty. Faculty and students must work together to create an atmosphere that ensures freedom of inquiry, fosters mutual respect, and demonstrates professional integrity.

Faculty Advisors have the privilege of working with talented students and the student has the privilege of working with a global expert in the field. Good practice in graduate education centers on responsible interactions between the graduate student and their Faculty Advisor, supported by college and department staff. Faculty Advisors should strive to serve as a mentor to their graduate student and not just an advisor (see 12.4 UNL Faculty/Student Mentoring Guidebook below). The following guidelines are intended to be constructive and instructive to Faculty Advisors and graduate students; as such, they do not constitute statements of institutional policy or requirements. Each category below provides information for students and Faculty Advisors on their individual roles and responsibilities.

12.1 Faculty Advisor/Student Guidelines

Both Faculty Advisors and students should be aware of some general common-sense guidelines, as follows:

  1. Entering a mentoring relationship is voluntary. Mentors and students should discuss their expectations of the mentoring relationship upon entering it.
  2. Either party has the right to withdraw from the mentoring “contract” if, despite genuine attempts to make it work, the relationship is not satisfactory. The department head must be included in this discussion. Portability of assistantships should be discussed.
  3. While often the mentor will have more experience on aspects of work, the relationship should be one of partners who jointly make decisions, with consideration of the budget and time limitations of the specific project.
  4. Meetings should be held in a quiet environment where both parties feel they can speak freely without being overheard.
  5. Meetings should be long enough and paced so as to allow the two people to get to know and feel comfortable with each other.
  6. Information shared in mentoring meetings is subject to standard rules of professional confidence, which means that information shared to you in confidence should remain private unless permission is obtained to share that information. However, if information arises regarding situations harmful to the student or possibly others, obligation rests on the advisor to disclose such information to an appropriate party.
  7. Commitments made should be honored. If meetings are canceled or delayed, adequate warning of non-availability or delay should be given. A postponed meeting should be re-booked promptly.
  8. Either party has the right to ask for a review of how the mentoring is progressing, or for agreements or plans made at an earlier stage to be reviewed.
  9. If either party feels unclear about the current status of the mentoring, that party should seek to clarify the views and wishes of the other party.
  10. Mentors should recognize their limitations and avoid working with the student in ways that exceed those limitations.
  11. Should either party sense there is a conflict of interest between the mentoring and any other role, this should be made known to the other as soon as is practicable.

12.2 Expectations of Faculty Advisors

Faculty are expected to provide consistent guidance for the student’s program and research, teaching, and/or extension project(s). This will include the following:

  1. Guide students through the degree program, including:
    1. Ensuring the student meets all graduate degree requirements.
    2. Advising graduate students on the selection of a thesis or dissertation topic that offers realistic prospects for successful completion within an appropriate time frame, and on the formation of the thesis or dissertation committee.
    3. Providing training and oversight in the design of research projects, in rigorous research methodologies, in theoretical and technical aspects of the thesis or dissertation research, and in professional integrity.
    4. Encouraging graduate students to stay abreast of the scholarly literature and of cutting-edge ideas in the field.
    5. Providing regular feedback on the progress of graduate students toward degree completion, including timely feedback on research, creative activities, and teaching, and constructive criticism if the student’s progress does not meet expectations.
    6. Evaluating clearly and explicitly the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s research.
    7. Encouraging an open exchange of ideas, including contemplation of the student’s ideas if considered feasible by the Faculty Advisor.
    8. Providing and discussing clear criteria for authorship of collaborative research.
    9. Assisting in finding sources to support dissertation research; such as, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, internal and external fellowships, awards, etc.
    10. Being aware of the student’s research needs and providing assistance in obtaining required resources.
    11. Encouraging and constructively criticizing oral and written communication.
  2. Communicate expectations:
    1. Faculty should notify students when they plan to be unavailable and be accountable to their students.
    2. Faculty are expected to provide clear direction for the students program with regular and frequent contact (e.g. weekly meetings – or as needed).
    3. During the onboarding process, faculty are expected to provide knowledge of how to manage lab and field research responsibilities.
    4. Not all labs will have the same exact operational procedures, but all labs should operate under an ethical code of conduct that is professional and respectful of all students and workers in the lab. Faculty are expected to clearly communicate how they personally run their lab.
    5. Since graduate students do not accrue vacation or leave time, clear expectations should be communicated by the Faculty Advisor as to their policy for work schedule and time off. A recommendation is to expect no less vacation than a regular UNL employee in the first 1-5 years of employment, however, this is up to the discretion of the Faculty Advisor and should be communicated with the student.
    6. With respect to family responsibilities, faculty should be alert to students who need extra support when having a child, raising a child alone, returning to school after child-rearing, caring for an elderly parent, etc. If a student holds an appointment as a GRA and is unable to fulfill his or her duties, every effort should be made to modify the GRA’s duties for the remainder of the semester. If family responsibilities (as adequately demonstrated by the student through appropriate documentation) prevent the GRA from performing any duties, it is strongly urged that the student continue to receive a stipend from the department, contract or grant (if allowed by the funding source) for the leave period.
  3. Support the student:
    1. Faculty Advisors should provide a work environment that fosters the academic, mental, and physical well-being of the student. Faculty should recognize and seek to understand the various cultures of their students.
    2. Faculty Advisors should build trust and create a comfortable working environment, especially for members of underrepresented groups in the program.
    3. Faculty Advisors should guide and/or supervise the student’s development as a teacher, helping them find suitable employment as instructors on campus or elsewhere, visiting their classes, and providing constructive commentary and advice.
    4. Facilitating interactions with other scholars, on campus and in the wider professional community. Being the student’s advocate in academic and professional communities as appropriate in the professional judgment of the Faculty Advisor.
    5. Helping graduate students develop into successful professionals and colleagues, including encouraging students to participate and disseminate the results of research or creative activities in the appropriate scholarly or public forums.
    6. Encouraging participation in professional meetings of regional groups and societies.
    7. Helping graduate students to develop professional skills in writing reports, papers, and grant proposals, making professional presentations, establishing professional networks, interviewing, and evaluating manuscripts and papers.
    8. Facilitate career development by advising graduate students on appropriate job and career options, as well as providing feedback on the preparation of application materials for appropriate fellowships, scholarships, and other relevant opportunities.
    9. Assisting with applications for research funding, fellowship applications, field placements, and other applications as appropriate for the respective discipline.
    10. Providing career guidance and support, including assistance in preparation of a CV and job applications, writing letters of recommendation in a timely manner, and helping the student prepare for interviews and other recruitment procedures.
    11. Provide guidance, if asked, about the intersection of concerns around physical and mental health, dealing with stress, or disability with the development of the student as a professional. This requires the faculty member to be cognizant of campus resources that address these issues.
    12. The Faculty Advisor is responsible for ensuring a student’s continued GRA support when the student is able to achieve at least a Satisfactory annual evaluation.

12.3 Expectations of Graduate Students

For graduate students, this will be an exciting chapter in your career. It should also be an enjoyable and memorable time of your life. You should strive to achieve your highest potential. Keep in mind that unlike undergraduate education, you are responsible for guiding and seeking out opportunities to expand your skills and knowledge. Balancing multiple responsibilities of coursework, research, writing, presenting, and volunteering will require you to practice efficient time management and maintain close communication with your advisor. It is expected that graduate students should:

  1. Become aware of and meet the deadlines associated with the degree program.
  2. Apply themselves seriously and effectively to their research. Be careful, accurate and honest in measuring and recording data, and be honest and candid in reporting of results.
  3. Cooperate helpfully and openly with others; conducting themselves in a professional, ethical, and pleasant manner.
  4. Make steady progress and complete and write up work in a timely fashion.
  5. Communicate regularly with mentors, especially with their major professor, and regularly ask for feedback on their research and overall progress in the program.
  6. Maintain and seek regular communication with their mentors, especially the major professor.
  7. Recognize that their mentoring needs must respect their mentor’s other responsibilities and time commitments. One faculty member may not be able to satisfy all of a student’s mentoring needs. Seek assistance from multiple individuals/organizations to fulfill the mentoring needs.
  8. Be aware of their own mentoring needs and how needs change through their graduate student career. Graduate students should discuss these changing needs with their mentors. If concerns arise about physical or mental health, dealing with stress, or disability, these may be brought to the attention of the mentor for advice on campus resources. Students should not expect mentors to deal with longstanding health issues or major emotional events that are more properly the province of professional counselors, physicians, and psychotherapists.
  9. Find ways to be involved in department activities, including extension events, mentoring undergraduate students, service to the department as a student liaison / representative, teaching lectures or serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant, and outreach with the public at various events. The extent and manner of involvement will depend on the student’s career goals and should not interfere with progress or deadlines in the student’s research or writing.
  10. Graduate students do not accrue vacation or leave time, so the graduate students should communicate with their Faculty Advisor in advance to determine their policy for a work schedule and time off, and it is the responsibility of the student to gain approval from their Faculty Advisor for time off.
  11. All non-sick leave must be approved by the major professor before it takes place. A student should notify the major professor if they will be out for medical reasons, although the privacy of the student is respected and therefore specifics need not be provided.
  12. See to it, in cooperation with the department head and the Chair of the PPGC in the program, that all parties are informed if a change of advisor is contemplated. If specific research plans have been agreed upon with one advisor, see these through if possible before changing to another advisor.

12.4 UNL Faculty/Student Mentoring Guidebook

No single formula for successful mentoring exists, but we do know that frank and mutual exploration of expectations and interests should be the focus of the first meetings. Many people assume that good mentoring "just happens" naturally or is only for those who are "lucky enough" to stumble upon the right individuals to guide their intellectual and professional development. Good mentoring, however, is not a matter of luck. It is a matter of awareness, intention, and a genuine desire to succeed.

  • Mentoring in a Dynamic Learning Community – understanding mentoring and how it is different from advising. Here you can explore the basic definition and qualities of good mentoring, the benefits of mentoring to you and your mentors, the changing graduate student population, and the various roles and responsibilities you and your mentors have. This section also stresses the importance of seeking multiple mentors.
  • Thinking about Your Mentoring Needs offers practical strategies and concrete recommendations for establishing and maintaining effective relationships with your mentors.
  • Getting Started on Your Mentoring Journey helps you lay the groundwork for building great relationships with your mentors. Its focus is on helping you clarify the mutual interests you share with your mentors, as well as your expectations of each other.
  • Common Themes Among Graduate Students explores some common concerns about the graduate experience shared by a large number of students and offers advice about how mentoring can help you address and resolve them.
  • Mentoring Needs in a Diverse Community expands your understanding of the personal, demographic, professional, and historical factors that may influence your goals and challenges, both during and beyond the graduate experience.
  • Mentoring Resources provides sample worksheets to help you and your mentors implement the strategies and recommendations discussed in this guidebook. It also provides a list of further readings to expand your knowledge of mentoring and professional development.

12.5 Conflict Management

The relationship between the mentor and student should at all times be congenial, professional, and respectful. Both parties bear responsibility for a healthy relationship. The list below applies primarily to the relationship of the student to other university personnel. Problems and conflicts are best resolved if they are discussed when they first appear. Both mentor and student are expected to listen carefully to what the other has to say. The university, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR), and department have formal, well-defined avenues to take if conflict cannot be resolved, and a student can always speak informally about problems with any trusted faculty member or ask a faculty member to serve as an advocate.

If a problem is not resolved by mentor-student discussion, the following hierarchy of appeal should be followed:

  1. Meeting of the student’s Supervisory Committee
  2. Seeking direction/action from the Chair of the PPGC
  3. Department head –The department head and Chair of the PPGC may appoint an ad hoc committee to review the situation and recommend solutions. The Faculty Advisor and/or student can also request such a committee.
  4. Dean of CASNR – If there is no resolution, contact the dean of CASNR to request an intervention.

All persons within the department, college, and University are deserving of respect and civil discourse. Unprofessional or hostile behavior or grossly intemperate language toward anyone, including faculty, technical staff, clerical staff or other students will not be tolerated and may be grounds for discipline. In the case of conflict, a student should not denigrate or cast aspersions on the professional reputation of the mentor, the mentor’s lab and personnel, or the department in any manner including verbal, written, electronic, or Internet-based. Hurtful gossip, rumor-mongering, and attacks via social media are not only harmful to the target, they ultimately can cause severe damage to the reputation of the originator. Serious violations may result in dismissal from the program. Students are expected to follow the directions, advice, and counsel of the mentor and the Supervisory Committee on matters relating to university activities, including research expectations, agreed-upon work hours, laboratory practices, established deadlines and field work. All university regulations regarding best lab practices must be followed.