Graduate programs still have a long way to go before they reflect the diversity of society more generally. This is a problem both because it is inherently unjust, and because science is done better when people from diverse backgrounds contribute their ideas and talents. To try to help address this problem, Terry McGlynn and I are once again organizing EEB Mentor Match to pair students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences with mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications.
We are seeking students from underrepresented groups (including but not limited to racial/ethnic minorities, first generation college students, those who have experienced significant financial hardships, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ folks, and military veterans) who are interested in ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, natural resources, marine science, or aligned fields and who are planning on applying to:
- graduate school (masters or PhD programs),
- the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and/or
- the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship.
Last year, we restricted our call to students from minority serving institutions, in part because we were concerned about whether we would have enough mentoring capacity to open the call more broadly. Fortunately, our wonderful EEB community stepped up and we had a lot more mentors than students! So, this year, we’re excited to broaden the call and to invite students from underrepresented groups to sign up for mentoring, regardless of whether they attended a minority serving institution.
We encourage you to keep reading, but here’s the link for students seeking mentors.
We are also seeking mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications! We are looking for graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, faculty, and others with experience with the graduate school application process and/or NSF’s GRFP and/or Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships who are interested in working with students from underrepresented groups.
One change from last year’s mentor application is that this year we have optional questions asking whether the potential mentor is a member of an underrepresented groups. We are asking because, to quote from Michigan’s guide for mentoring graduate students:
Students from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups have a harder time finding faculty role models who might have had experiences similar to their own.… At the same time, never forget that you can provide excellent mentoring to students whose backgrounds are different from your own.
Again, we encourage you to keep reading, but here’s the link for people interested in serving as mentors.
Note that this is focused on students who are interested in ecology & evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology, natural resources, and marine science). Our hope is that, by keeping this more focused, we will be able to do a better job of matching mentors and mentees. (Also, there are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately.) We encourage people in other research areas to develop similar resources for their fields!
For students and their mentors:
- If you are a current student, a member of a group traditionally underrepresented in science, interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, and planning on applying to graduate school and/or for fellowships this year, this is for you! Please fill out this form.
- If you are a faculty member who knows a student who fits the above description, please fill out the form to suggest a student! There is a field where you can indicate that you are filling it out form on behalf of someone else. For all the fields after the first two, imagine it says “Your student” any place it says “you” or “your”. We will contact the student to let them know that someone thinks they would be great for this program, and to see if they are interested in participating.
More for the students:
- Meghan wrote a blog post on applying to graduate programs. The later parts focus on things you can do at the application stage to improve your chances of being invited for an interview.
- If you think you aren’t good enough to apply to graduate programs or for fellowships: read up on imposter syndrome! It’s a real thing and it’s really common. A lot of people use the “fake it until you make it” approach. (Even people who seem really confident to you might be feeling like an imposter, too. Your professors who seem super confident? Lots of them feel like imposters, too.)
- The National Science Foundation recently changed the rules for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It used to be that students could apply as undergraduates, as first year graduate students, and as second year graduate students. Now, they can apply as undergraduates and then either in their first or second year of graduate school. In other words: it’s more important now to apply as an undergraduate, as you only get one chance after that! The reason they made this change is because they want to increase the diversity of fellowship recipients, and they’re hoping that you will apply! An important thing to know is that you do not need to know where you will go to graduate school to submit a fellowship application. They are mainly looking to see how you think and what research ideas you have – you are not committing to a particular lab or project when you apply.
For people who are interested in serving as mentors:
- We are looking for people who have experience with applying to graduate schools and/or with experience applying for fellowships (this includes you, current graduate students!)
- You do not need to have experience serving on a graduate admissions committee or a fellowship review committee, but if you have this experience, please indicate it in your application!
- An important thing for mentors to keep in mind as they work with mentees is that National Science Foundation funds basic scientific research. This means that NSF is not interested in a project that has, say, curing cancer as its primary aim. (Broader impacts that relate to potential human impacts are great. But the central idea proposed has to be basic research.)
- Please keep in mind that imposter syndrome is real and that your mentee may be really unsure about whether they are “good enough” to go to graduate school or to be considered for a prestigious fellowship. Make sure you give your mentee plenty of encouragement, and make sure all criticism is worded constructively.
- If you’re interested in being a mentor, this is the form you should fill out!
- The deadline for applying for the NSF GRFP is October 22, 2018 (for those in the Life Sciences).
- The deadline for applying for the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is December 13, 2018.
- Grad school application deadlines tend to be in December and January.
- Because of that timeline, we strongly encourage mentees and mentors to sign up by September 15th, to leave time for matching (hopefully by October 1st) and to work on applications. If it’s after September 15th and you’re interested, go ahead and sign up and we’ll try to make a match.
- We are not affiliated with the National Science Foundation or Ford Foundation. We just think it would be great if more students from underrepresented groups applied to graduate schools and for fellowships! We’ve complained about this in the past, and we’re putting our money (or, more accurately, time) where our mouths are.
- We hope to get lots of volunteers who are willing to serve as mentors, but this will likely mean that we won’t personally know all the mentors who are involved. Students: if you are not comfortable with the interactions you are having with your mentor, please let us know right away. Our email addresses: Meghan Duffy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Terry McGlynn (email@example.com)
- Keep in mind that the mentors are volunteering their time.
The original idea for EEB Mentor Match came out of conversations during the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute training, and especially from a conversation with Emily Cloyd, Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, and Luis Martinez.