Welcome Back!! Don’t just be a mentor, be an advocate!

Welcome to the start of another academic year and the promise of another great year of mentoring undergraduate research students.  As chair of the Division of Chemistry for the Council for Undergraduate Research (CURChem), Dr. Kim Frederick wants to encourage each and every one of us to take our mentoring up a notch and become full-on advocates for our research students.

Don’t just forward information to students, help them strategize.

Kim Frederick

The difference between an advocate and being a mentor is similar to the difference between being cheerleader versus a spectator at a sporting event.  An advocate is taking an active role in working for the success of your students.  

The following are some suggestions for how to take typical mentoring practices and turn them into advocacy:

  1. Don’t just write great letters of recommendation, give someone a call to let them know that your student is really top notch.  I wouldn’t recommend you do that for every program but usually students’ have one or two programs that are particularly interesting.  Or you can make a call/send an email to a colleague. This helps maintain your professional network as well as benefit your student.
  2. Don’t just forward information to students, help them strategize.  As faculty, we get lots of information about summer internships and travel fellowships.  Help your student by figuring out which of these opportunities is right for them based on their personal and career aspirations.  Don’t know what opportunities are out there? The CUR community is a great resource.
  3. Don’t just acknowledge your students’ accomplishments, celebrate them!  Let your colleagues know when your students receives awards or present/publish results.  Keeping a social media presence can really be helpful here as can being in touch with your Communications office.  
  4. Diversify your understanding.  In my case, I am significantly older than my students and never worked in industry or in a medical field.  As a white, cis, hetero woman, I also have privilege in many areas of my identity that my students do not. In order to be able to truly advocate for my students, I need to understand the unnecessary barriers that are being placed in their paths.  Education of ourselves is an ongoing process and one at the core of what we do.

As a white, cis, hetero woman, I also have privilege in many areas of my identity that my students do not. In order to be able to truly advocate for my students, I need to understand the unnecessary barriers that are being placed in their paths.

Kim Frederick

Advocating for your students will help them advance as scientific professionals and as human beings but will also be beneficial for you as well by helping you to develop a stronger network.

Let’s get out there and advocate! 


Dr. Kim Frederick is Professor and Chair of Chemistry at Skidmore College is Saratoga Springs, NY and the chair for the Division of Chemistry for the Council for Undergraduate Research.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.