Student and advisor exchange a hug at the hooding ceremony

Mentoring is an essential component of graduate student success. Here is a starting point for understanding the mentoring resources available on campus that provide supportive and appropriate mentoring for your graduate students. Also be sure to check out our list of on-campus and online resources about mentoring.

What Good Mentors Practice

Faculty members are vital to student success and have a responsibility to their graduate students, as outlined in The Graduate School’s Best Practices and Core Expectations. Over the past few years, The Graduate School has recognized faculty through the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Through this award, we have learned that the best mentors:

  • Clearly communicate their expectations
  • Foster relationships between students and other mentors at Duke and beyond
  • Connect students with service and professional development opportunities
  • Encourage students to be creative and to take chances
  • Have open conversations about the challenges of graduate school and how institutions work
  • Help students develop short and long term career goals
  • Maintain open lines of communication
  • Model professional responsibility
  • Offer honest, constructive feedback  


The Graduate School is dedicated to building and maintaining a student population diverse in background, culture, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and work and life experiences. In some cases, such diversity can create barriers that may make faculty members feel unprepared to handle their students from different cultural backgrounds.

Here are some strategies to help faculty members stay in tune with the needs of students:

  • Be honest about your students’ work, both in and outside the classroom
  • Become knowledgeable about on- and off-campus resources that may help your students
  • Do not assume that differences are barriers for mentoring relationships
  • Experiment with different styles of mentoring to meet the individual needs of students
  • Help students build a team of mentors that may help them address their particular needs 
  • Help students find role models related to their interests and career goals
  • Help students use their research to establish connections with mentors both at Duke and within the larger field
  • Know when to bring others into the mentoring network
  • Recognize that the challenges underrepresented groups have faced historically influence but do not determine student success

Mentoring resources for students from various backgrounds