Exploring Mentoring Relationships: Building, Communicating, and Impacting Doctoral Students

It turns out that many graduate students have mentors, but much is still unknown about how these relationships are formed, what types of communication occur between graduate students and their mentors, and how these relationships impact graduate students. I also started thinking about doctoral students that are in blended (similar to my program at work) or online programs (increasing in popularity). Would mentoring relationships look the same or different from a distance? This is still largely unknown too.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this research is to explore mentoring relationships between doctoral students and their mentors. This research will examine how mentoring relationships are established, the communication that occurs between a doctoral student and their mentor, and the impacts on their personal and professional development. The research will also explore the implications of developing and maintaining mentoring relationships from a distance.

The goal of this research is to understand how graduate students experience mentoring DURING and AFTER the completion of their terminal graduate degree programs in both face-to-face and distributed environments. We really want to know how doctoral scholars establish, communicate, and sustain a mentoring relationship that contributes to their personal and professional development. Also, we are curious to learn about the nature and dynamics of this relationship and to understand if any of these mentoring experiences occur from a distance or involve mentoring with a professional/scholar beyond their own institution of study.

Learn more at:


Exploring Mentoring Programs and Experiences in Professional Learning Organizations

A number of our professional organizations offer mentoring opportunities and structured mentoring programs as a form of learning and development. For this research, we are interested in learning more about these experiences, and more specifically how mentoring programs impact the mentors, mentees/protégés, and coordinators who participate in this type of professional development.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this research is to explore how mentoring programs contribute to the professional socialization and continued professional development. This research will examine formal mentoring programs and experiences established in professional/learning associations and organizations to understand the mentor and mentee experience and to gain insights from mentoring program coordinators, in regards to how mentoring experiences impact learning and development. This might be a professional association within your field (e.g. ACPA, AHRD, EDUCAUSE, NACADA, NASPA, SHRM, etc.), or even within a specific academic discipline or industry-related affiliation.


We seek to explore mentoring models, frameworks, and program designs through the shared narrative of this multi-case study to learn more. We hope to gain initial insight and recruit participants to understand the lived experiences of mentoring programs through semi-structured interviews, such as:

  • How does mentoring impact professional association contribution?
  • What influence does mentoring have on personal, academic, and career development?
  • How does mentoring contribute to a professional field or industry?

These are just a few of the questions we want to ask after the initial phase of our study. Please help us distribute this online survey to current and former mentoring participants. Although we are seeking experiences from FORMAL mentoring programs, we are still interested in collected responses from both formal and informal mentoring experiences.

Phase 1: Survey [closed]

This survey asks both open- and close-ended questions, and it will take 15-20 minutes to complete. Respondents will be asked about personal perspectives on mentoring based on their own experiences and demographic information:

If you have had more than one formal mentoring role and/or formal mentoring experience – please feel free to submit another survey response. This survey will remain open for several weeks if you decide to complete this survey or if you wish to pass this along to other colleagues who can share their mentoring experience.

Phase 2: Research Interviews [closed]

We want to learn more about mentoring programs and its impact on personal and professional development, to its influence on the field/discipline, and to understand how mentoring support professional associations who create these programs.The interview is expected to take 30-45 minutes and no sensitive questions will be asked during it. Your participation in this study is completely voluntary and optional.

Thanks to the members of the Exploring Mentoring Research Team who are supporting to this study:

  • Mariya Gavrilova Aguilar, University of North Texas
  • Laura Lambeth, Oregon State University
  • Sara Ackerson, Washington State University Vancouver
  • Ed Cabellon, Bridgewater State University

With thanks for support and development also from:

  • Craig McGill, Florida International University
  • Erin Justyna, Texas Tech University
  • Brandan Lowden, Pikes Peak Community College
  • Anjelica Torcivia, Syracuse University

This research is sponsored and approved by the University of North Texas Institutional Research Board (UNT-IRB #15-519). Our research group would be more than happy to follow up with questions, additional support, and/or collaboration.