What is a Faculty Mentor?

1377714413_osanloo_azadeh_072413.jpegEducation Professor Azadeh Osanloo meets with a student.  Photo: Darren Phillips.








A faculty mentor is an NMSU professor who advises you on your project, gives feedback, and directs you to future opportunities in your field. Any faculty member can be an undergraduate mentor. As you consider who to ask to mentor you, consider these factors:

  • Your mentor should have some experience or knowledge about the subject of your project
  • Your mentor should help you track and monitor your progress
  • Faculty who have seen your academic work (for example, in classes) will be most likely to agree to mentor you.

As we note elsewhere, this is your project or research experience. Your mentor is a resource, but they will also be relying on you to call upon your own expertise, skills, and initiative. In certain circumstances, you may be collaborating with them closely on related research. In others, you may be working independently and reporting back in regular meetings for feedback and guidance.

You are developing your own professional identity in this working relationship, and the self-motivation and resourcefulness you demonstrate will help them see you as a future colleague. From your first meeting with your faculty mentor to the last, arrive prepared to talk about the work you are doing and ask questions you may have. Faculty mentors are a wealth of information and experience, and they are eager to help you achieve your goals.

Finding a Faculty Mentor

NMSU has a lot of faculty--more than 800, in fact. You have a lot of options to choose from. Faculty mentors love working with undergraduate students and go above and beyond to help you succeed, often in their own busy research time. It is important to remember that this is a major commitment for faculty, so approaching them with a topic you have already put a lot of thought into, having done some pre-planning, will make it easier for them to envision your success and agree to take you on.

You may want to consult our page of some NMSU faculty, coming soon, who have taken on student mentees in the past or are actively seeking research assistants. The list is not exhaustive, so don't worry if you don't see anyone in your field. You can ask any faculty member if they would be willing to mentor you on your project.



Professor Ivette Guzman extracts nutrients from Sumac Berries and dried chile in her Plant Sciences lab. Photo: Josh Bachman.






Reaching Out to Faculty

First Contact

Reaching out to a faculty member can be intimidating, but remember that they are people who share your interests and passions and once stood in your shoes. Before your first contact, sketch out some of your short-term and long-term goals: what do you hope to get out of this experience, and how might it be a step toward your future plans? If you are proposing an independent project, do some preliminary research on it in advance and be ready to describe your topic in a few sentences.

You may meet potential faculty mentors as your instructors in courses, at colloquia or other department meetings, through NMSU research programs like AMP, MARC, and PACR, and through campus events like the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium and Research and Creativity After Hours (see the CURCA Events page for more on these). You may learn of opportunities to work with faculty as a member of student groups in your major.  Or you may find a good fit by looking at faculty listings on your department website. However you learn about a potential mentor, introduce yourself and ask how you can get more involved in scholarly activity.  The faculty member's office hours can be a great time to start this conversation. If you haven't seen their office hours posted in the halls, ask in the main office of your department where and when they hold office hours. Drop in! This is what office hours are for. If this is terrifying to you, try emailing first. But nothing beats saying hello in person.

Coming soon will be a page with some dedicated faculty mentors who have worked with undergraduate students as researchers and creators in the past.  Watch this space!

Preparing for a Meeting

Meetings will vary depending on the nature of your project and mentoring agreement, but some advice applies across the board. 

  • Prepare a few talking points for every meeting with your faculty mentor. 
  • Be ready to summarize your work since last you met and make a note of issues that have arisen.  For example, programs with glitches you haven't figure out, equipment that won't work, dead ends in your research, blocks in your writing.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Review your timeline with your mentor and set goals for your upcoming work. 
  • Be clear about when you will next meet or communicate about your progress.

After a Meeting 

Reflect on the conversation and make notes while it is fresh in your mind. As you continue in your work, note issues to bring up in future meetings.