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Mentor program

Policy document

The mentor program within in the Water Research School started in 2018. The mentor program is optional and offered to PhD students approved to the Water Research School.

Aim

This mentor program focuses on professional and personal development of the PhD students. The individual person’s unique situation, needs and personality is the base for the meetings between the experienced “Mentor” and the less experienced “Adept”. The mentor’s role is to transfer knowledge and experiences and support the Adept’s personal development.

The mentor program for a PhD student is 1+1 year. That means that after one year the adept and mentor evaluate their relation (see below) and decide if they would like to continue for one more year.

Procedures to get a mentor

The mentor program is optional and it is the PhD student’s choice to sign-up for the mentor program. To sign up for the program a form is available at the website of the Water Research School. There will be one application period every year, normally with a dead line in October.

After the dead-line, all cluster representatives in the steering group of the Water Research School get the list of PhD students that have signed up for the mentor program. Each cluster has the responsibility to do a preliminary matching of the cluster’s PhD students and potential mentors. Each cluster decides its own procedure to do this. However, the senior researchers are responsible to contact potential mentors, not the PhD students. During the matching process representatives of the different clusters need to be in contact with each other to avoid that a potential mentor will be contacted by more than one cluster. The final list of adepts and mentors of the research school should be finalized in December each year.

Extent of mentor-adept discussions

During the first year, the mentor and adept should meet 5-6 times. The meetings could be physical or by using distance conference tools. If possible, at least one meeting should be physical. If long travel distances, a physical meeting may be coordinated with other events. Expected meeting time is 1-1.5 h per meeting.

Arrangements

The mentor program is a development program without a formal schedule. However, it is recommended that the mentor and the adept together develop a preliminary plan for meetings for the whole year at the first meeting and discuss possible topics for future discussions. At the first meeting, a contract including principles and ethical considerations are signed, both by the mentor and adept.

At the end of each meeting between the mentor and adept, the date and preliminary topic for next meeting is decided. However, topic may change because of external circumstances.

Topic suggestions

The first meeting should focus on “get to know each other” and clarify the adept’s expectations and aim of being within the mentor program (professional and/or personal). Furthermore, the format and preliminary program of the following meetings should be decided and the contract should be agreed on.

The following meetings could start with a general talk about if anything special has happened since last meeting and a follow-up of the last meeting’s discussions, from the adept point of view.

The topics of the discussions should be based on the needs of the adept. The following list of topics should therefore only be considered as suggestions/inspiration:

·         Employer expectations of PhD and skills needed when working at Water utility/ Municipality/ consultant firm/ university (depending on the background of the mentor)

·         What to think about concerning career planning

·         How to manage time, create and follow time plans

·         How to be a successful leader

·         How to find the balance between work, family and spare time

·         How to manage stress

·         How to manage nervousness

·         How to handle conflicts

·         etc.

Ethical considerations

To create a successful mentor-adept relation it is of importance that both parties invest time and engagement and feel responsibility for the relation. During the meetings, both the mentor and the adept need to be active and contribute to the discussions with questions and responses. Both parties also need to be prepared to go into the depth of the conversations and dare to discuss questions, challenges and share experiences.

For the mentor-adept relation it is presumed that the discussions are confidential and be bound by professional secrecy, which is recommended to be included in the contract. No private/sexual relations between the mentor and adept are accepted within the mentor program.

To consider as a mentor

To be a mentor is an honorary task and the driver for the mentor should be to share experiences and not to advertise oneself. It is important that the mentor is personal mature and is able to handle different topics, both related to the professional and private life. The mentor should follow and support the adept’s development/personal growth and guide the adept in the professional work and in the life situation, in general. As a mentor, you are a conversation partner by listening, reflecting and giving advices but you should not take any practical actions to support the adept. As a mentor you are the listener and ask the wise questions and sometimes you should dare to ask the tricky questions and be provocative. The mentor should also expect to learn something new about him/herself.

To consider as an adept

To be an adept in a mentor program is the adept’s own choice and the driver for the adept to be in a mentor program should be the will to develop professionally and/or in the private situation. In the mentor program it is the needs of the adept that is in focus for the relation and the adept must take responsibility for his/her learning process. To achieve a successful mentor-adept relation it is important that the adept is prepared for the meetings and has considered and reconsidered what to be discussed. As an adept you should not feel stressed that something should be delivered but enjoy the possibility of personal growth.

Contract

A template of the contract for the mentor-adept relation has been developed by the steering group of the Water Research School. However, there is a possibility for the mentor and the adept to develop/extend/change the text in the contract, but should of course be done in agreement. When the contract has been formulated and signed after the first meeting, a copy of the contract should be sent to the coordinator of the Water Research School. Both the mentor and the adept have the right to terminate the contract at any time.

Evaluation of the mentor –adept relation

After one year, the mentor-adept relation is evaluated. A questionnaire is sent out, to both the mentor and the adept. After the questionnaire has been submitted and briefly evaluated by the board of the Water Research school, the mentor-adept constellations that would like to continue get a short feedback from the research school and are then encouraged to plan and carry out meetings for one more year. For the constellations that do not want to continue the mentor-adept relation, the program ends with that. However, it is recommended that mentor and adept arrange a short final meeting to end the mentor-adept relation. If an adept feels really disappointed about the mentor-adept relation, the Water Research School can consider another adept-mentor matching for the coming year.