Effective mentoring of graduate students by faculty members is one of the most important keys to a successful graduate program because of the one-on-one nature of most graduate programs.
Mentoring extends beyond advising because of the personal nature of the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. While a good advisor assists students in learning about their discipline and the skills needed to conduct research or practice their profession, a mentor develops a relationship with her or his mentee on several levels. A mentor is a trusted guide. A mentor can offer support in difficult times. A mentor socializes her or his mentee, to quote the Council of Graduate Schools, "to the values, norms, practices and attitudes of a discipline and university; [mentorship] transforms a student into a colleague." A good mentor must be a good listener (key to good communication), be a good problem-solver, and be a good observer (able to spot "problems").
A mentor is:
An advisor, who has career interests similar to the student and shares their knowledge with the student informally or in the classroom.
A supporter, who gives the necessary level of emotional and moral encouragement, as for example, prior to the final oral examination.
A sponsor, who provides sources of information about research, grant, internship, employment, or other opportunities.
A tutor, who gives specific, timely, and constructive feedback on performance.
A model, who is a professional with integrity, thereby serving as a good role model.
Being a mentor can be a personally fulfilling experience, one in which the mentor benefits at least as much as the mentee. The rewards continue long after one's student becomes one's colleague, oftentimes for a lifetime.