A Professor – Student Mentoring Agreement

By Maya Frieman Hoover, Indiana University, and Barry B. Frieman, Towson University



Challenges of the Professor-Student Mentoring Relationship

University professors in many disciplines are involved as both formal and informal mentors of students. The professor is not only responsible for the individual development of the student in their field of study, but he/she also serves as a “keeper of the gate” for their discipline. In their role of mentor, university professors often have to critique student’s work and performances.

Students often view their mentors or professors as ultimate authorities who have total power over whether the student will be successful in his or her discipline. Students are often unsure how to relate to their professors. A conflict often exists in the student’s mind regarding whether she performs to meet the professor’s criteria or to meet her own well thought out individual standards and style.


Using a Mentoring Agreement to Clarify Solutions to the Challenges

In order for the mentoring relationship to be effective, both professors and their students must have a common understanding of the parameters of their relationship and their respective responsibilities. Expectations can be clarified at the beginning of the relationship by having both parties sign a memo of understanding spelling out in behavioral terms the limits and responsibilities of each. The agreement covers the areas of respect and trust, power, boundaries, and professionalism.

A Possible Mentoring Agreement

As the Professor I will:

  1. treat the student with respect;
  2. criticize only the student’s work and never their person;
  3. trust the student to be a maturing professional;
  4. trust the student to be serious about the discipline;
  5. use my power as the gate keeper of the profession wisely and fairly;
  6. let the student develop his/her own style;
  7. let the student make his/her own decisions and set his/her own priorities;
  8. recognize the autonomy of the student in handling his/her family and social life;
  9. focus on meeting the student’s needs and not my own;
  10. focus on putting the student in the forefront and staying in the background during performances and demonstrations;
  11. place mentoring as a high priority professional responsibility;
  12. model the highest professional ethics.

As the Student I will:

  1. treat the professor with the respect due a more experienced professional;
  2. discuss all concerns about my professional growth with my professor before I talk to other professionals;
  3. trust that my professor is concerned with my development into a competent professional;
  4. trust that my professor has the best interests of our profession as his/her concern;
  5. take responsibility for my own learning and growth;
  6. deal with the consequences of my decisions;
  7. recognize my professor’s responsibility to push for high standards in my professional performances;
  8. only ask my mentor for help with professional matters and not personal ones;
  9. take full responsibility for the consequences of my own life choices;
  10. set my own career goals based on my own values;
  11. respond to my professor’s constructive comments and work to integrate them into my work;
  12. learn and apply my profession’s code of ethics.

_________________________________          ___________________________

Professor signature                                                      Student signature


Benefits of Using a Mentoring Agreement

By using this Mentoring Agreement, student and professor will enter the experience with realistic, healthy expectations. Professors will be able to offer the appropriate support and guidance to help students grow as professionals. Students will prosper by taking responsibility for their professional growth and having made a commitment to learn from constructive feedback.