Mentoring Part of the Collective Academic Experience for Cukrowicz
During her years as an undergraduate, graduate and doctoral student, Kelly Cukrowicz had numerous mentors who left a lasting impression on her, steering her in the right direction during her academic pursuits to help her become a well-rounded educator.
Cukrowicz tries to take that same approach with the students she now mentors, helping them grow in their knowledge, independence and confidence. She earns high marks from her students while also gaining satisfaction from watching them become well-rounded and limitless as they earn their degrees.
Cukrowicz, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences, was rewarded for her mentoring approach and efforts with the Nancy J. Bell Graduate Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Award.
“It is difficult to put into words how much this award means to me,” Cukrowicz said. “I love my students. Truthfully, mentoring is hard work. It involves a lot of time reading drafts, thinking about what I can do to best facilitate each of their career paths and being concerned about each of them as people. To be nominated by my students means the world to me.”
The award is presented by the Texas Tech University Graduate School to recognize graduate faculty who have shown exceptional mentoring of graduate students. Award winners are nominated by students and faculty who believe recipients embody the spirit of a great mentor and have assisted graduate students greatly not only by supervising their research, but also by advancing their personal and professional development and, ultimately, helping them realize their career objectives.
“Dr. Cukrowicz's dedication to and deep passion for mentoring graduate students is much appreciated and highly valued,” said Mark Sheridan, dean of the Graduate School. “As a faculty member, there really is no higher calling than preparing those who will follow after us. She has answered that call and made a lasting impact on the students with whom she has worked and on her field.”
Cukrowicz started as a mentor while pursuing a master's degree at Florida State University. Since arriving at Texas Tech in 2006, she has mentored six students who have completed their doctorate degrees and is currently mentoring six other students who are working on their doctorates.
She said one of her biggest rewards in mentoring is the collaborative approach that is fostered between the student and mentor, going from the mentor providing information and advice to the student to an equal exchange of ideas.
“Most students come in with a lot of enthusiasm but need the mentoring and education that is part of our doctoral program to carry out their goals,” Cukrowicz said. “In the final years of a student's education, I find my students become experts on the topic they are pursuing for their dissertation study, and I learn from them. I find that aspect of collaborative mentoring truly rewarding.”
Cukrowicz encourages all of her colleagues to become mentors but cautions it is a time-consuming endeavor that also requires kindness, flexibility and the collaborative approach.
She said good mentors set aside time for their students and must provide timely feedback on the students' writing so they can continue to move forward on whatever they are working on. It also helps to be kind in order to lessen the stressful effects of graduate school, and students need to feel they are supported by someone they can trust, who will treat them with care and kindness.
Flexibility also is key because different students have different needs, and mentors must be able to adapt in order to individualize their expectations for each student. Having a collaborative approach will show the student the mentor's interest in the student's pursuits and will help promote their future careers.
The more in tune the mentor and student are, the better the student's chances for success in earning a degree and furthering their pursuits, whether it be in academia or the industry job market.
“Students who have good mentors are able to learn what they need to do to be competitive for jobs or graduate school when they graduate,” Cukrowicz said. “This includes taking classes that employers might look for, getting practicum or internship experiences or obtaining research experience. Mentors are also able to share their experiences of success and failure that may help students during difficult times.
“In addition, mentors typically know what employers or graduate programs are looking for in applicants and can help students write their essays, resumés or CVs and other materials in a way that will enhance their competitiveness.”