Dr. David Miller
UF School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education
2014-2015 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.
When I was a graduate student at UCLA, I built a very strong relationship with my advisor and mentor, Dr. Leigh Burstein. This relationship, which continued as colleagues until his untimely passing, had a life-long impact on me. His enthusiasm and focus on research and his mentees led me to pursue a career in academics. Leigh had motivated me to pursue a career that was based on what had become a passion for (a) conducting research, and (b) mentoring promising scholars in conducting that research. My mentor’s commitment to my development prepared me well for the rigors of an academic career. But perhaps more importantly, these experiences provide the base of a mentoring model that I have adopted over the years with respect to my own students’ research and career development.
The core of mentoring is based on a long term commitment to building a mutually beneficial relationship with students. The mentoring relationship evolves over time and becomes deeper through the shared experience of advancing the research and career goals of the mentee. The relationship also benefits the mentor. The mentoring relationship begins with the selection of mentees who would profit most from the relationship. Through the selection process, each party enters into a relationship that begins with a sense of mutual respect and trust. Luckily, our program has an excellent pool of high quality, diverse applicants who reflect the global community. That has allowed me to select a diverse group of mentees who have the requisite knowledge, skills, and interests to benefit from our program and the mentoring that occurs. I am currently mentoring students from Nigeria, India, Argentina, China and a Hispanic student from the US.
Once the students enter the program and have selected their advisors, we begin the process of building a formal and informal relationship that focuses and motivates students toward their research and career goals. Part of this mentoring may include supporting students financially through research opportunities within their chosen discipline. I established Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) to provide applied research opportunities and financial support for the students. CAPES has employed 3-6 graduate research assistants who have been my mentees since its inception. In addition to the financial support, the evaluation and research work of CAPES provides an opportunity for me to work with the students in developing applied technical skills and knowledge. During the course of their study, I work with the students to establish their research and career goals, enhance their technical knowledge and skills, focus the students learning consistent with their goals, and motivate students. The student-mentor relationship develops over time and deepens with increasing shared experiences until ultimately the mentor and mentee become colleagues. The support provided for the students include focusing on scholarly and academic growth as well as respecting the student personally and creating an empathetic relationship that more broadly encourages their development as a professional. The mentoring occurs for my students through formal instruction in classes and independent studies, through informal learning in applied settings (e.g.,CAPES), and through advising students on learning, program and career options. The intent of the mentoring is to benefit the student as a researcher (reflected in part through their vita) and in their careers. However, the relationship should also benefit the mentor by creating collaborators and colleagues after graduation as well as collaborative research during the development of the mentoring relationship.
I have found mentoring and collaborative research with doctoral students to be the most rewarding part of my faculty experience. It is a true joy to see a student’s hard work culminate in a published manuscript and one that impacts their career. Mentoring has also become a robust learning experience for me. I have had the opportunity to research domains that I never before had considered exploring and learning new methodologies. These experiences, driven by student interest, have broadened and increased my research skills as a faculty member.
How effective has my mentoring been? There are several indicators that could be used to measure the strength of the mentoring relationships that I have developed. First, my expectation is that students will complete their dissertations and graduate with a PhD. As a research methodologist, I have been actively involved in mentoring students inside and outside of my discipline with regards to their research and their dissertations. I have been on the committees of 326 students at the University of Florida who have completed PhDs, since my becoming a faculty member in 1987. While most of the 326 students did not have me as their Chair or co-Chair, most looked for my support and wisdom focusing on the research methods to complete their research/dissertation and many continue today as colleagues in academia. I have also mentored more closely the students in my discipline. In the last five years, I have Chaired or co-Chaired 12 students to complete their PhD including five in 2014. In addition to the number of students that I have mentored, a second important indicator of successful mentoring is the collaborative research completed and their jobs after graduation and beyond. In terms of collaborative research, I have 45 co-authored, refereed publications and 68 presentations at national or international conferences with UF students since I began as an Assistant Professor in 1987. In the last five years, I have 12 co-authored refereed publications with UF students and 21 presentations at national or international conferences. There are also 37 co-authored technical reports from program evaluations through CAPES in the last five years. Finally, my mentees have entered into successful careers. For example, the careers of students that I have Chaired or co-Chaired in the last five years include four students with tenure-track academic appointments, three students with non-tenure track university appointments, one directing a national assessment program in the Caribbean, one establishing their own businesses and one working for a large testing company (Pearson). Each is successfully continuing to conduct research in their discipline.