The Duke Mentor Connect (DMC)

 June 15, 2016

Duke Mentor Connect logo

The Emerging Leaders Institute is a professional development program co-sponsored by The Graduate School and Office of Postdoctoral Services at Duke, designed to prepare graduate students and postdocs to be effective leaders. This training includes a six-week group project to improve the environment at Duke for grad students and postdocs. Our group members conducted interviews with students, postdocs, and faculty at Duke to see what they felt would improve the environment, and these stakeholders repeatedly mentioned mentorship. Because mentorship is important for everyone’s professional development, we wanted to create a resource that addresses students' and postdocs' struggle with getting personalized mentorship. We call it Duke Mentor Connect (DMC).

Our vision is that DMC will become a digital professional development resource and mentorship program aimed at bringing individualized resources to graduate students and postdocs.

Why Duke Mentor Connect?

Currently Duke graduate students and postdocs have access to a variety of professional development resources through The Graduate School, the Career Center, the Office of Postdoctoral Services, and their departments. By nature, beyond one-on-one advising appointments, these resources are often broadly applicable rather than narrowly focused on individual needs, and, in some departments, may lean toward an academic career. According to our interviews, one common struggle is finding mentorship in fields beyond the “traditional” academic path.

We believe DMC meets this gap by creating a resource for graduate students and postdocs. In our vision, DMC would not only accumulate various career development resources relevant to many Duke departments but would also connect Duke students and postdocs to mentors in their fields of interest.

To test out this concept in six weeks, we decided to target Global Health in our pilot effort. Global Health is a small department, allowing us to better reach out to this group of students and postdocs.

How would DMC work?

To access our network of mentors, we ask graduate students and postdocs to take a survey based on what they want to hear about, and we recruit mentors in those fields to talk to these individuals via a Skype chat session. These conversations with our mentors answering questions are recorded and posted on our website so that all can watch our webisodes. The students and postdocs are encouraged to follow up with our mentors for any other questions they may have and to build their network. We also have follow-up surveys for the website and webisodes so that we can get feedback on how to better our site for our audience.

DMC’s program is in its infancy, and we welcome feedback on how to make our team’s vision a reality. Just visit the Contact Us page! Our next steps include incorporating other Duke programs into our mentorship resource. In the future, we believe DMC can be useful for all graduate students and postdocs at Duke.


Nicole Ashpole, M.S.

Ph.D candidate, Biomedical Engineering

Nicole is a Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering. She studies glaucoma, an eye disease that causes irreversible blindness. Other passions include participating in various outreach programs to promote women in STEAM fields such as Women and Bio and now the NIH Women of Color in Research. Find more information on Nicole's personal website and her LinkedIn profile

Sulzhan Bali, M.S., Ph.D.

Recent M.S. graduate, Global Health

Sulzhan is a Robert Bosch Global Governance Futures 2027 Fellow in global health security and received her M.S. in Global Health in May 2016. Prior to Duke University, Sulzhan conducted her Ph.D. studies in molecular biology at the Medical Research Council in the UK and earned a M.Sc. in Molecular & Diagnostic Virology from the University of Manchester. For more information, visit Sulzhan's LinkedIn profile.

Yujung Choi

M.S. Candidate, Global Health 

Yujung is a first-year Master's student at the Duke Global Health Institure where she explores eclectic topics such as access to health care in developming countries, refugee health, global health research design and methodology, and bioethics. For more information, visit Yujung's LinkedIn profile.

Khaled Ghannam, M.S.

Ph.D. Student, Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology

Khaled Ghannam is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, where he studies land-climate interactions by connecting near-surface hydrology, ecology, and boundary-layer meteorology to understand long-term exchange of water and carbon dioxide at this interface. For more information, visit Khaled's LinkedIn profile.