Event Recap | Faculty Development Session: Supporting Trainees in Your Unit

Faculty Development Session: Supporting Trainees in Your Unit


  • Rachel Adams, PhDProfessor of English and Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Jaime S. Rubin, PhD, Vice Chair for Investigator Development, Department of Medicine, Columbia University Irving Medical Center



    Establishing the Relationship

    • Ask how they are; you are a better mentor when you know someone's story
    • Trainees should feel that we are present, that we have dedicated our time, and are not multitasking during our meeting
    • Realize that no one mentor can serve all of their needs, they probably should have different mentors for different areas of responsibility for research
    • Have a dialogue; learn from mentees as well

    Giving Feedback

    • Read and thoughtfully comment on their work; save your written comments for recommendation letters that you will have to write later 
    • Provide multiple voices for feedback; add group meetings into your mentoring
    • Ask for a copy of their CV and pick out successes, gems, honors, or publications and weave these into letters to make sure the reviewers see them.

    Time Commitment

    • Be clear about how much time you have; establish expectations. Model that you are a fully rounded person with a life outside of work


    • Encourage mentees to take advantage of opportunities to present to their peers; recommend that they go to national conferences; network at Columbia; go to professional events in New York
    • Introduce mentees to your colleagues via email so that the connection comes through a known person 
    • Mentees can take advantage of money that is available to invite scholars to campus; it provides a foundation to build a relationship

    Developing Resilience

    • Columbia is a big school in a big city; it is easy to be overwhelmed
    • Remind mentees not to take it personally if somebody doesn't respond to an email, and to use clear subject headers like, “Columbia Postdoc Looking for X”
    • Make students and those who are more junior feel like they are a priority in terms of your time 
    • Encourage mentees to meet with their peers on a regular basis to talk about their work and have the opportunity to collaborate 
    • It's important to have near peers at closer career stages who can really understand their particular situation


    • Review expectations at the beginning of a project including timeline for publication, which journals to consider, who will be named on the paper

    Creating an Inclusive Environment

    • A first step is hiring diverse representatives of different fields or identities to avoid an unfair service burden on a small number of individuals
    • Use universal design principles, presenting things in multiple ways; this is important for transparency because sometimes it's best to communicate orally and sometimes it's best to communicate in writing
    • Having just one person communicating all the instructions and all the feedback is a very bad idea, so having distributed communication

    Measuring Effectiveness

    • Look at the success of mentees during their training period, as well as their transition to the next career stage, even if this is finding a position outside of academia 
    • Mentoring should be done with the same care and level of excellence that is reserved for teaching or research