Mentoring is a way of leading employees and a method of learning and professional development of young and novice domestic and foreign academic and research staff, including postdoctoral staff and doctoral students (hereinafter "young researchers"), through support and assistance provided by experienced colleagues.
If you join the mentoring programme, fill in your application/registration form here: www.upce.cz/en/mentoring
and attend the introductory workshop on 27 October 2022 from 9 a.m. - rectorate building, meeting room on the 4th floor.
As part of the University of Pardubice HR Development Strategy project, a proposal for a mentoring system has been made for doctoral students, novice researchers and academics/young researchers/postdoctoral students, with the aim of providing system support and professional guidance from experienced colleagues, improving the conditions for R&D, the possibility of professional development and long-term career advancement.
It will be possible to join the mentoring system in the academic year 2021/2022.
Are you a novice scientist, doctoral student, postdoctoral student, student? Are you interested in joining the mentoring programme? Then fill out the application for the mentoring programme and send it to Mrs. Iva Svobodová (email@example.com).
You might wonder what it is about mentoring that could possibly be so interesting. The more experienced ones give advice to the less experienced. So?
But you might actually be surprised what kind of situations occured during the first year of our mentoring programme, what realizations the mentors came to during their work, how much the mentees as well as the mentors themselves benefited.
It has turned out that bringing people from different fields of expertise, different faculties and departments together can be very beneficial. The mentors all agree it was enriching. Mind you, these are the MENTORS! Although it was expected that the mentees would benefit from the mentoring, it is becoming obvious that mentoring also has a positive impact on the other one of the mentoring pair.
In some cases peer mentoring worked well too – this had certainly already existed at the faculties before an official mentoring programme was introduced. Still, despite frequent promotional activities, not many people are aware of it, which is a shame. Inspite of having his own mentor, a young doctoral student preferred to follow advice of his older fellow students and colleagues when it came to solving practical matters of his doctoral study. “I just go next door and they help me straight away.“ With the mentor he was discussing the possibilities of work internships abroad, the mentor provided him with contacts to foreign universities and companies in his field.
Peer mentoring, where a little more experienced peers provide advice to younger beginning scientists, is very effective and natural. It is therefore good for it to become more widespread at the university.
One of the observations the first year mentors made was how difficult it was to formulate an accurate and apt answer to some questions of their younger colleagues, for example concerning the matters of science and ethics, without due delay. They had to let the answer mature and come back to it during their next meeting. It turns out this is an issue which the scientific community at the university should pay much more attention.
Thanks to mentoring the mentors had the opportunity to get insight into the way of work and life in other parts of the university and other fields of expertise. The pilot cycle of the mentoring programme was also joined by mentees who had already been using mentoring informally before. They entered the mentoring programme because they wanted to belong to the mentoring community, share experience with other colleagues.
It was also interesting to see how the mentoring pairs were matched and what made the mentees choose their mentors.
In some cases it was just the possibility of getting a different view of a person from another field. For instance, a mentee from the Faculty of Restoration chose a mentor from the Faculty of Chemical Technology. Their specializations were very different, but that is not an obstacle when the aim of the mentoring is sharing experience with team management and publishing scientific articles. The mentoring contact between the Faculty of Restoration and the Faculty of Chemical Technology eventually lead to establishing scientific cooperation. Thanks to more effective sharing of information the FCHt helped with chacacterization of materials, which was something the colleague from the Faculty of Restoration used to have done abroad as she had not had any idea that a workplace at her home institution could do the same for her. These can also be fruits of mentoring.
Another time the choice of the mentor was lead by the need to ask an older colleague how to teach, how to prepare for lessons, how to deal with a group of students etc. This is an issue which perhaps poses a problem for more young postdocs who are starting with lecturing. They do not want to ask for help, however, or maybe are ashamed to.
In another case the mentee chose her mentor because she had been interested in a certain experimental method and wanted to learn how to run tests on a particular machine. Hence, the mentoring started with the mentor teaching the mentee how to operate this machine. In the first phase the mentee learned how to work with the machine using already verified samples. Now she has just undergone an internship in Germany and she is coming back with samples which she will be testing „for real“ at the Faculty of Chemical Technology with her own mentor.
One of the reasons for selecting a mentor can also be his/her origin. We could see such case during the pilot cycle of the mentoring programme as well. The mentee chose a foreign mentor from a different cultural background, which enabled her to see a different way of thinking and broaden her horizons so she would not withdraw into her “department shell“. She found her mentor`s advice especially useful when travelling to a conference abroad.
Once you have children, doctoral study becomes more complicated. The importance of time management and the need to focus significantly increase. Yes, we all know it is a matter of priorities. But a sick child can change your priorities quite quickly. When and how then can you deal with all the work that writing dissertation thesis involves? How do the others do it - the people who have already been in such situation and managed to get through it? It is important to choose the mentor carefully – rather a female mentor in this case. Our mentee from the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy did just that. She found herself a mentor from the Faculty of Chemical Technology – a mother of three, who is currently working on her habilitation thesis and the related tasks. She is perfect proof it can be done. Due to the different specialization of the mentor and mentee not all kinds of advice could be applied, but a lot of tips helped the mentee and she made a big progress in her work.
The same mentor has pointed out an interesting thing. She noticed that doctoral students from different fields worked in different types of environments. In humanities the students are completely free when it comes to scientific work, but they are isolated in their work, having to find their own way. In technical and natural sciences the students work in laboratories, in a community where they share information and support each other, they are involved in projects, but they have to comply more with the research of their supervisor. The mentor also appreciates that mentoring contributes to bringing people in the academic community on different levels from students to professors closer together. She drew attention to the fact that many doctoral students lack a “career development plan“, i.e. a plan of a future academic or even non-academic career.
Following are further examples of interesting situations and experience from the mentoring programme:
Not every doctoral student actually expects to stay at the university. They want to join the industry and find a career in a company or in the public sphere. Some mentees were choosing their mentors with this idea in mind.
Sometimes it happens that a student changes his/her specialization after starting the doctoral study. One mentee asked the mentor for advice in this case and the mentor turned out to be a great help in this matter.
At the Faculty of Health Studies a foreign mentee seemed to be enthusiastic about everything on offer – visiting a specialized workplace in the hospital, attending Czech language courses, article proofreading, but in the end she had not used many of these opportunities or fulfilled many of her duties before she returned home to India. The mentor, however, still saw the possibility of mentoring a person from a different cultural background as a great benefit and he plans to continue mentoring foreigners in the future.
The situation of foreign students is usually quite specific. They tend to need help with organizing things related to their stay in our country. Even with such matters the mentors or peer mentors helped sometimes.
As many mentors have experience from abroad, they made a lot of interesting observations based on that. For example one mentor saw at a university in Switzerland that whenever a new colleague came to a faculty, all academic employees received an email with basic information about the newcomer. They also used a “marketplace“ , a group e-mail discussing matters such as “does anybody have this, does anybody work on that“, etc. This helped everyone to be better informed and opened opportunities for cooperation. Being poorly informed and not having a good enough idea of all the possibilities offered by the university was mentioned by most of the doctoral students during their interviews. This problem exceeds the possibilities of mentoring, however.
One rule to remember when it comes to mentoring is that the mentee is not obliged to follow the mentor`s advice. On the other hand, a piece of advice coming from a doctoral thesis supervisor cannot be so easily dismissed.
On top of the mentoring between the mentor and the mentee, the mentoring programme also offered educational seminars. During the “Project Management“ seminar young scientists learned about the university project department, which can provide them with support when they apply for research funding, it can advise them where they can apply for funding, what is and is not realistic, or how to write more challenging project proposals and win a bigger grant. The attendants went through a two-day training of presentation skills, seminar of how to write articles in English (“Writing for Publication in English for Czech Academics and Researchers“), the university library prepared a seminar “How to Write Scientific Articles, Open Access“, which was followed by a seminar of Professor Roman Bulánek called “The Dangers of Publication Practice – Useful Things to Know“ devoted to ethics in scientific work and publishing scientific work results. The last seminar this year was a seminar called “Learning Research Ethics Promotes Scientific Integrity“. It was lead by Carlos Melo from Charles University in Prague and looked at ethics in scientific work and scientific environment from a more general point of view.
Students and young scientists also had an opportunity to take part in three workshops. Two at the beginning of the mentoring programme pilot year, the last one at the end of the year when the second year was being promoted.
All these group activities were attended by 189 people.
We are very pleased that in the pilot year of the mentoring programme we managed to match mentoring pairs from different backgrounds – people from different faculties, countries, in a few cases also from other universities – and that there was peer mentoring too. Thanks to that we were able to test a whole range of different forms of mentoring. The mentoring programme was realized by 17 couples with the participation of 12 mentors and everything was complemented by group education. The pilot cycle has clearly shown that the goals of the mentoring programme can be achieved – effective sharing of experience and advice, looking at certain problems from different, fresh perspective, thinking outside the box, improving awareness and facilitating open discussion, just as helping students get rid of their fear of asking for help and advice. It has proved mentoring is one of the paths we need to follow.
In the end, most of the mentors came to a conclusion that thanks to mentoring they think about other people differently, they have a good feeling from helping and passing their experience onto younger colleagues, it makes them happy to see when a student or a young colleague manages to succeed in something.
According to the mentors an important presumption for a successful mentoring is mutual trust and respect.
For their experience sharing and their time devoted to younger colleagues and students we are very grateful to all the mentors and we hope they will continue with mentoring in the future.
Mentoring Programme Team of the University of Pardubice
The first twenty mentees, i.e. students who have enrolled into this pilot year of the university mentoring programme, have been matched with their mentors – academics who like to share their rich, not only professional, experience with students of doctoral study programmes or young academics and researchers starting their careers.
In January this year a special educational programme for the mentees was launched.
Patrons of our new mentoring programme are Professors Karel Rýdl and Roman Bulánek. The goal is to support young research workers in their professional development with the help of experienced academics and researchers. Activities of all the participants are voluntary and everyone believes in creating a trustworthy environment for information sharing between an experienced employee – mentor-and a less experienced or starting academic, researcher, or a doctoral student.
The programme also offers group activities. The first one realized was a January seminar „Writing for Publication in English for Czech Academics and Researchers“, which was lead by a lecturer from our Language Centre - Zaan Bester. She gave the mentees useful tips for preparation of international journal publications, so that they can make English professional text comprehensible for a foreign reader as in English writing there are big differences in ways of how texts are structured and phrased. Generally speaking, the biggest difference is that the English writing is focused on the reader, whereas the Czech writing on the topic. And this was exactly what the participants of our first workshop could test in theory as well as in practice.
Another practical training was devoted to mastering “the Art of Confident Presentation“. It is no news that success of a whole project may depend on a good presentation when its audience needs to be persuaded about the project quality. The lecturer Andrea Moličová managed to get all the participants of the seminar set going in a while. With the help of various exercises they were trying to get rid of their stage fright and learned how to grab their listener`s attention. All participants gave their presentation twice. While for the first time the presenters were being evaluated by the others, for the second time they attempted to improve their presentation based on the previously provided feedback.
The ongoing spring seminar „Project Management“ is supposed to teach the participants about project management in the university environment and about writing project applications, inform them about possible grant programmes for realization of research projects, and last but not least, prepare them for management of their own projects.
Our new mentoring programme is part of the HR Strategy for Development of the University of Pardubice Action Plan. If you wish to read about the programme and its educational activities more, follow our HR web.
Ing. Adéla Myšková
What is mentoring, its methods and goals, procedures, roles and mentor-mentee relationship, etc.
Mentoring programme at the University of Pardubice, its goals, target groups, the role of Mentor and Mentee, list of courses, etc.
Other Interesting Documents about Mentoring
Podcast "What mentoring gave me"
Hear experiences from the first year of the mentoring program. In the podcast, one mentee and one female mentor will tell you what mentoring brought them and how it went.
You can listen here: