University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Finding a Mentor

If you are on this page, chances are you have enrolled in GRAD 8200 "Practicum for Future Faculty."  Welcome aboard!  As you probably know, part of 8200 is working with a mentor at one of the many colleges and universities in the Twin Cities or elsewhere.

For your mentorship, you will teach three 50-minute classes and do two faculty role activities. Your mentor is required to observe two of your three class sessions and conduct a pre- and post-observation discussion with you on each of these two class sessions.

You are responsible for locating a suitable mentor and arranging the mentorship. It is necessary to have your mentorship in place early in the term, ideally by the first or second week of the semester. This means that you should begin the process of selecting a mentor one to two months before the term begins. The process outlined below explains the steps.

Reminder: If you are looking for a mentor for the spring semester, remember that many professors leave the campus once their winter break begins in mid-December and may not return until mid to late January. Therefore, you will want to have your mentorship secured in late November or early December.

Steps for Finding a Mentor

The process of finding and securing a mentor requires a fair amount of time, which is why we encourage students to initiate it as early as possible (one to two months before class begins). You should plan to have a schedule arranged with your mentor before the beginning of the semester in which you take 8200 "Practicum for Future Faculty."

1. Determine where you want to mentor.

Read about possible Mentoring Institutions.

To gain additional insight into the missions of these institutions and make comparisons, take a look at the Carnegie Classification Lookup and Listings. This site will give you a sense of what is taught (Undergraduate and Graduate Instructional Program classifications), the types of students who attend (Enrollment Profile and Undergraduate Profile), and the institution's setting (Size and Setting).

Consider mentoring on a campus other than the U of M. You are already familiar with large research universities so we encourage you to explore other schools. Here’s what former students have said about their mentor choice:

“Choose your mentor carefully. I was thinking about going with a mentor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area because of convenience . . . but then I remembered a professor I'd met briefly at a teaching conference a year ago. . . . It's been a fabulous match.” - Elizabeth Smith
“After realizing what an amazing experience this is/was, I wish I would have branched out a bit more and taken this opportunity to get experience teaching in a setting that I am not used to . . . and in a setting where I see myself teaching in the future. I chose my mentor from the U mostly due to logistical concerns . . . but really, after taking this course and realizing that I do not want to teach at an R1 institution like the U, I should have sought out a mentor at a small liberal arts college, because that is where I want to work.” Ella Packingham
“If you have never taught at the institution type from which you are seeking employment, it is definitely a worthwhile experience to get actual teaching experience in that environment. Different institutions can be very different in their approach to teaching and what you will have to work with as an instructor.” Spencer Luebben
2. When you have chosen a school or two, check out the faculty and course listings for those schools.

With whom do you want to mentor? Who teaches courses in which you are interested or which you might want to teach yourself one day? Given your current schedule, which classes would you realistically be available to observe and co-teach with your mentor this term? Additional questions to consider (Word).

Reminder: Make sure the professor you want to work with will not be on leave the semester you are planning on mentoring. Check the class schedule, contact the department's administrative assistant, or contact the school's liaison (list of contacts (pdf)). Many schools begin their semesters earlier than the U of M, so plan accordingly.  

3. Start contacting professors.

Tell them what requirements are involved. Direct them to this Web site for answers to additional questions. Include your CV. Use e-mail as it is more timely than regular mail.

Here is a sample letter you can use in contacting potential mentors via e-mail: Sample Letter for Mentors (Word).  This letter is meant simply as a guide, and you are free to write your own letter. The sample letter has a blank where you can fill in the school liaison's name as another source of information for your potential mentor about PFF.

4. If you don't hear back from a professor, wait a week and then send a polite e-mail asking if s/he has had a chance to consider the mentorship.

The closer you get to the semester's start, the less time you should wait. Once the semester begins, wait only 3-4 days. If you don't get a response to your second e-mail, move on to the next professor or contact the school's liaison for assistance.

5. Meet with your mentor.

Once you have determined that a good "fit" exists between you and your mentor (e.g., your approaches and goals coincide), meet with him/her to fill out the Mentoring Interaction Plan and Record (Word).

6. Now you are ready to do your mentorship.

Complete the requirements during the course of 8200.  During the semester, turn in a copy of the Mentor-Mentee Information Sheet (Word) to your instructor. If you and/or your mentor would like some guidance on conducting peer observations (including observation rubrics), see Peer Review of Teaching.

7. At the end of the mentorship, get the final signatures on your Mentoring Interaction Plan and Record (Step #5).

8. The mentor will be reimbursed up to $300 for professional development expenses for participating in the program.

After the first observation, the mentor may request the funds with this form, Professional Development Funds for Mentors (pdf).

Enjoy your mentorship!