Need for role models

All graduate students benefit from role models they can admire — professionals whose lives they may want to emulate. Quite often, people identify role models based on shared outlook and connections to similar experiences.

Although the composition of faculty at UNL is becoming more diverse, students from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups, and women in some disciplines, can face greater challenges finding faculty role models who have had experiences similar to their own. Some students convey that they hope to find "someone who looks like me"; "someone who immediately understands my experiences and perspectives"; "someone whose very presence lets me know I, too, can make it in the academy." Even so, while shared background and experiences are important, they do not "guarantee" a good mentoring relationship. What is key are shared interests and interpersonal compatibility. All students also benefit from reaching out to potential mentors who are different from them in race, gender, or other characteristics.

Suggestions for Students
  • Expand your knowledge of people within your department, across UNL, or at other universities, who may help you obtain the kinds of experiences and resources you need.
  • Ask other students with whom you have common experiences or interests to identify faculty in the department they hold as role models, and why.
  • Hold occasional discussions with other students and faculty, either informally or through your graduate student association, on how well your department's educational and work climates welcome all contributions.
  • Know that you can receive very good guidance from mentors who are of a different gender, race, or culture from you. What is important is to focus on what you need in order to learn and make progress.
Suggestions for Faculty
  • If the composition of faculty and graduate students in your department is homogenous, help identify and recruit new members who represent diverse backgrounds.
  • Hold departmental discussions on how to provide educational and work climates that welcome contributions from all members.
  • Become familiar with people across the University or at other universities who can help your protégés.
  • Know that you can provide excellent mentoring to students of different gender, race, or culture from you. What is most important is focusing on what students need in order to learn and accomplish their goals.