This chapter serves as an Executive Summary, which has been defined as the only part of a book or report that some readers find time to read. While it is possible to compress written material down to a few key points, it does not always yield a good idea of the full contents, especially when the manuscript is peppered with anecdotes and examples. Nevertheless, in a book of this length a detailed summary can help guide busy readers to the portions of most interest, and might entice them to explore other issues on the way. The sections of this chapter mostly correspond to the subsequent chapters, the exception being that the penultimate section corresponds to two chapters.


Dictionary definitions of "mentor" include "experienced and trusted adviser" and "trusted counselor or guide, tutor, coach." Effective mentoring is important to all persons pursuing an advanced degree in engineering, and especially to those beginning academic careers. Mentors can open doors and provide opportunity even through association rather than through direct contact. This is especially true in academia, where an applicant's graduate institution and adviser are often enough to secure serious consideration by a hiring committee. Studies have shown that women may receive less mentoring and have a more difficult time being selected as mentees than males, especially in male-dominated fields such as engineering. For example, this helps explain why fewer than 8.2% of electrical engineering Ph.D.s are awarded to women. Partially in response to the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minority engineering Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the White House established in 1996 the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), a program administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This book is a distillation of the presentations and discussions of a June 2004 workshop on mentoring for academic careers in engineering which was jointly supported by PAESMEM and the Stanford University School of Engineering. This chapter is an overview of the book.

Best practices

There is no single agreed upon set of best practices to serve as guides for mentors, but the presentations and discussions produced a collection of variations on common themes that provide a good start. The focus of this session was on mentoring students, but many of the principals are valuable for faculty as well. Generally the role of a mentor includes directing and advocating, evaluating and rewarding, celebrating successes and guiding through adversity and disappointment. Mentoring is an ongoing process that continues past graduation into subsequent careers. Mentoring benefits from regular feedback from mentees. Important attributes for a mentor to have (and a mentee to look for) include

The better we are at what we do, the better mentors we will be.
It's not enough to talk about integrity, one must live the example. Many students do not take it seriously. Mentors must.
Many students start with little but can become outstanding when properly encouraged and appreciated.
Discourage aggressive competition among students. Encourage cooperative efforts and openness.
Chores and citizenship
Engage students in professional responsibilities: reviewing, proposal writing, presentations, mentoring. This does not mean handing these tasks off and letting them sink or swim. It means, for example, having a student write a review and then writing your own. Let them see how it changes. Give them the opportunity to learn all of the skills they will need later in their career.
Communication skills
Brilliant research is of little use if not understood. Correct English with good style is critically important. Practice writing and speaking skills constantly.
Professional Activity
Send students to conferences to attend and give talks. Rehearse them extensively. Introduce them to colleagues. Get them plugged in. After graduation, recommend them for program committees, technical committees, reviewing chores.
Give credit generously to students. It helps them and makes you look good.
Intolerance of harassment
Although many institutions have programs for diminishing sexual harassment, it still exists. Be sensitive to potentially embarrassing or dangerous situations and do not accept inappropriate behavior from colleagues towards your students. Institutions should have a zero tolerance policy towards any mentors who abuse their position.

Other advice to mentors included

The many stages of mentoring were considered:

Two special issues arise when mentoring women, some of which pertain more generally to other under-represented groups. Since the number of women faculty members in engineering is still relatively small, women tend to be asked to take on a greater service burden than are men faculty. Although this is driven by the admirable goal of providing diverse opinions on key committees, it can adversely affect the progress of junior faculty members in establishing successful research programs. Women faculty need to be especially careful in not becoming too immersed in such matters before tenure. A mentor can be very useful here in helping junior women faculty members navigate these waters.

A second major issue, and perhaps the most critical issue for women faculty members, is the potential conflict between the biological and tenure clocks. The role of the mentor is not clear here, since this is clearly a very personal issue. However, as with much good mentoring, simply providing information about various options and also providing introductions to others who have been through the same decision-making processes can be of help. The subject is treated in some depth in chapter *.

Early and mid-career mentoring

The topic of best practices put the emphasis on the mentors, this topic shifted the emphasis to the mentees. The presentations and discussion were aimed at graduate students, new faculty, and mid-career faculty seeking mentors. Issues included how to find a mentor, what to expect, and how to evaluate progress and maintain momentum. Obviously the qualities sought in a mentor correlate strongly with those mentioned in the previous topic.

Typically the Ph.D. research adviser plays the key mentoring role during a graduate career. It should be kept in mind, however, that not all mentoring can be accomplished by an adviser -- the roles overlap between adviser and mentor, but are different, and at times will conflict

Graduate students should begin the search for an adviser with some self appraisal.

Specific attributes for a graduate student to look for in a research adviser include

Explore all possible avenues to find out about research groups in the areas that interest you, including taking classes (especially project courses) and seminars, browsing through research group Web pages, and chatting with students.

As to what to expect or request from a mentor, a good mentor typically

Junior faculty have markedly different needs as they must learn the local system for teaching, institutional service, and building a research group and finding research funding. In addition, they can benefit from advice on professional service and advancing their career. Some schools have active mentoring programs in place for new faculty, but many leave it to chance or make minimal efforts. In both cases, checking out options and finding senior people with whom you feel comfortable is a good strategy. A good mentor for junior faculty can

The acquisition of tenure can result in special mentoring needs that are often not foreseen by junior faculty. Tenure usually brings increased service requests and requirements, and some find it difficult to maintain research momentum and enthusiasm after the clear goal of tenure is achieved. It is important to give these issues careful thought and senior faculty can often provide insight. This is a good time to evaluate your research, administration, and service goals and perhaps to take a sabbatical or look at new areas or projects.

How to be as bright and capable as
everyone seems to think you are

Dr. Valerie Young was invited by the workshop organizing committee to give a presentation on a subject on which she has lectured and written extensively, the imposter syndrome. The syndrome was described by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who found that many of their female clients seemed unable to internalize their accomplishments. External proof of intelligence and ability in the form of academic excellence, degrees, recognition, promotions and the like was routinely dismissed. Instead, success was attributed to contacts, luck, timing, perseverance, personality or otherwise having "fooled" others into thinking they were smarter and more capable than these women "knew" themselves to be. Rather than offering assurance, each new achievement and subsequent challenge only served to intensify the ever-present fear of being "found out" as imposters. Dr. Young did her doctoral research on the topic and has since delivered a variety of popular workshops and lectures titled "How to feel as bright and capable as everyone seems to think you are," including suggestions on how to recognize and deal with the syndrome. This chapter, written by Dr. Young, describes the symptoms of the syndrome, some underlying causes, and a variety of measures for dealing with it.

Mentoring support: National and local
resources for mentoring

Many institutions and organizations have developed infrastructures to facilitate finding and working with mentors and for training both mentors and mentees to get full advantage of the relationship. This chapter collects a variety of examples of successful programs, some of which are generally available and some of which provide templates for other institutions to consider. Unlike the other chapters, here the topics closely correspond to specific panel members since these are essentially successful case studies. These include:

Websites for these and other related programs are provided in the chapter.

Mentoring for academic leadership

The goals of this panel were to encourage younger faculty to consider leadership career paths and to educate more senior faculty about issues in mentoring for leadership. Academic leadership can be divided into the three primary types of research, educational, and administrative, with some positions combining two or all three types.

Assuming a leadership role can diminish time available for other pursuits, but it can result in major rewards in terms of the impact on one's home group, be it a laboratory, department, school, center, or university. Most faculty are familiar with all of the shortcomings of going into leadership roles. Junior faculty in particular are justifiably concerned about the possible negative impact on their long term career of getting bogged down in administration. It is easy to list many of the potential drawbacks, and responses.

So given all of the shortcomings, why agree to lead? The question is not rhetorical, it has an answer: to have an impact. If you have a commitment to the broader community and if you care passionately about it, leadership gives you a chance to have a significant positive and lasting impact on that community.

Women professors with children

This session was intended to provide some advice, anecdotes, perspectives, and information about combining children with an academic engineering career. The session resulted in two chapters in this book. The first talk of the session concerned the timing of children- should one have babies during one's graduate student years, during a postdoc, as a faculty member pre-tenure, or should one wait until after tenure? A wealth of data relevant to these questions is presented in chapter *. The remainder of the session concerned strategies for balancing work and family once a baby has arrived, issues treated in chapter *. The presentation, discussions, and the chapter collect anecdotes regarding successful balancing of children and career from four women engineering professors.

Obviously children are of concern to both parents and not just women faculty, but equally obviously the workload is different with childbirth and women historically have borne the brunt of childcare. All but one of the panelists in this session were women, but men participated actively in the discussions.

The details of the stories varied widely, but common themes included the necessity for choices and giving up on some things, the benefits of shared responsibilities, the importance of private time for self and spouse, and for developing strategies that work. Specific strategies included setting priorities consistent with family, limiting travel, delegating responsibility, and advance planning and anticipating.

The rewards of an academic life are many: the job is intellectually stimulating, and you work on a problem you love. It's flexible and customizable, and you have the self-determination that comes from having no boss, and from choosing what you work on. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing to the knowledge of the human race, and you are training the next generation of scientists and inventors.

From the point of view of having children, the rewards of being a professor and parent are also numerous. The work week and work day are flexible, so you can go to school performances and sports events and parent-teacher conferences, without having to punch a time clock, and in fact without having to notify anyone that you are leaving, and without having to account for your time to anyone. The children are exposed to all sorts of fascinating intellectual topics from an early age; they learn to appreciate the questions and the approach to answers that a mind devoted to the pursuit of new knowledge produces. Also the children of women who are engineering faculty do not grow up with some of the stereotypical notions of women that other segments of the population may have, e.g., that girls can't do math, and that a woman's place is in the home.


The book closes with a final collection of anecdotes received from workshop participants following the workshop. All relate to what the participants learned and how they put their knowledge into action on their return home.

May 9, 2005