Mentoring at Columbia University is a privilege.

All Columbia graduate students and postdocs belong here and should expect to be supported throughout their time at the University. Mentoring relationships are key to ensuring that they are able to achieve their goals while learning and conducting research at Columbia. Faculty play an important role in welcoming graduate students and postdocs into Columbia’s academic community and ensuring their success over time.

This initiative, hosted by the Office of the Provost in partnership with the Center for Teaching and Learning, is intended to provide faculty with the support they need to be effective mentors of graduate students and postdocs. Through invited speakers, workshops, learning communities, consultations services, and on-demand resources, we hope to cultivate effective, efficient and inclusive mentoring practices to support the needs of faculty mentors as they work with their graduate students and postdocs mentees.

Featured Events

The Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching and Learning invite Columbia faculty to upcoming Fall events including a virtual keynote and a workshop facilitated by Lisa Fain, CEO of Center for Mentoring Excellence. Learn more about our guest facilitator, the sessions and find registration links below. Join us in Spring 2023 for a virtual performance and conversation with the CRLT Players from the University of Michigan. Read more below.

Keynote: Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring: Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment One Relationship at a Time

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Online 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Most institutions today understand the benefits of having more diverse and inclusive learning environments. Yet, there is work to be done when it comes to mentoring. Delivered and facilitated by Lisa Fain, CEO of Center for Mentoring Excellence, this session will include an interactive, entertaining and practical keynote, from which you will learn how mentoring can help drive inclusion, why talking about difference in your mentoring relationships is essential, and how to create transformative mentoring relationships that have an impact for mentors and mentees. You will walk away with new insights and tips you can apply to improve your mentoring relationships right away. You will also have the opportunity to discuss these concepts with fellow participants and to identify concrete steps that you will take to make them come to life. There will be time for Q&A so please bring your questions.

Workshop: Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring: Inclusive Mentoring Skills

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Online 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Learn how to create effective mentoring relationships by building trust and encourage safe, open and authentic conversations.

Bridging Differences provides a roadmap for keeping relationships on track and for creating safety and comfort around discussing, learning from, and leveraging difference. As a result, new mentors are more confident because they know what to expect and they have the tools and strategies they needed to guide them. Experienced mentors will gain new insights that allow them to recognize what was missing in past mentoring relationships and better understand why they went off course.

This interactive workshop will equip Columbia University faculty with the skills and knowledge to structure their mentoring relationships, create accountability and achieve measurable learning outcomes through mentoring.

Attendees will:

  • Understand the purpose and key concepts of mentoring and how it differs from similar development opportunities.
  • Recognize the four predictable phases in the mentoring cycle and the key components of each phase.
  • Know how to structure mentoring conversations to ensure a strong mentoring start and that participants stay on track.
  • Create self-awareness about identity and capacity to hold discussions about differences to build trust and understanding when conversations may become uncomfortable or unfamiliar.
  • Understand how to explore and craft learning goals, set priorities, and identify milestones.
  • Recognize and overcome potential stumbling blocks in a mentoring relationship.
  • Support, challenge and provide effective feedback to mentees.
  • Engage in reflective practice to grow and develop in the role of mentor.

Save the Date

Join us in Spring 2023 for a virtual performance and conversation with the CRLT Players from the University of Michigan.

Everything is Fine!: Mentoring to Support Graduate Student Mental Health

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Online 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Through a dramatized series of conversations between graduate students and their advisors, Everything is Fine!: Mentoring to Support Graduate Student Mental Health explores the impact of structural and interpersonal issues on graduate student mentoring. To examine challenges related to mental health, depicted scenarios include candid peer-to-peer discussions of personal and academic challenges as well as more formal advisor-mentee meetings. This piece also takes into account the additional challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to graduate student mentoring. Audiences will engage with the performance by thinking through strategies to improve their relationships with their mentees via facilitated discussion. The session is suitable for faculty.

In this session, participants will:

  • Reflect on structural and interpersonal issues that create challenges in advisor-mentee relationships.
  • Explore specific strategies to alleviate the interpersonal challenges relating to mental health.
  • Consider how to apply these strategies to their own mentoring practices. 

Check back soon for more upcoming events, information and registration links. 

Keynote and Workshop Facilitator

Lisa Z. Fain is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, an expert in mentoring and inclusion, a global speaker and an executive coach. She works with organizations of all types and sizes to create more inclusive workplaces through mentoring. Lisa is the co-author of The Mentor’s Guide, Third Edition (2022), and Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring: Lean Forward, Learn, Leverage (2020). Both are co-authored with Center for Mentoring Excellence’s founder, Dr. Lois J. Zachary.

A former employment attorney, Lisa was formerly senior director of the diversity and inclusion function at Outerwall Inc. (former parent company to automated retail giants Redbox and Coinstar). She lives in Seattle, WA.

Follow the Center for Mentoring Excellence on Twitter; follow Lisa Z. Fain on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Book Give-Away

The Center for Teaching and Learning will be giving out print copies of Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring (Fain and Zachary, 2020) to Columbia faculty who join us for virtual and in-person conversations about mentoring of graduate students and postdocs at Columbia.

Lisa Z. Fain and Lois J. Zachary offer a timely practical guide for helping mentors develop the level of cultural competency needed to bridge differences. Firmly rooted in Zachary’s well-known four-part mentoring model, the book uses three fictional scenarios featuring three pairs of diverse mentors and mentees to illustrate how key concepts can play out in real life. It offers an array of accessible tools and strategies designed to help increase your self-awareness and prepare you to embrace and leverage differences in your mentoring relationships. But beyond tips and techniques, Fain and Zachary emphasize that authenticity is the key: the ultimate purpose of this book is to help the mentor and mentee make a genuine connection and learn from each other. That’s when the magic really happens.

Why did you write Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring?

I am passionate about inclusion in the workplace, and I’m really excited about the topic of bridging difference as a way to achieve inclusion. As a coach and former corporate Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) leader, I began to realize that rolling out D&I programs wasn’t sufficient to create an inclusive workplace. The way to really create change is not to roll out a training program or create inclusive policies (those are important—just not sufficient); rather, the game-changer is when people have real work relationships with someone who is different from them in some substantial way. Mentoring is a great vehicle for that, but only if mentor and mentee know how to invite difference into the relationship instead of ignoring the difference. Additionally, I got to write this book with my mother, one of the leading experts on mentoring. We had a chance through this process to work together and learn more about our own differences in the work context. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. What is the most common misconception when it comes to mentoring? The term mentoring is often used promiscuously as a label to cover a host of similar development and learning opportunities. So many people use the term mentor interchangeably with role model, teacher, and coach. But mentoring is a different skill—and creating effective mentoring requires intentionality, structure, and most of all, a focus on learning.

What is the most important message you would like a reader to take away from your book?

The need for understanding differences intensifies as our world becomes more culturally complex. Bridging Differences addresses how to improve mentoring relationships by increasing cultural competency, amplifying authenticity, and bridging differences.

Our Services

The Center for Teaching and Learning is available to provide consultations for individual faculty that would like to discuss their mentoring practices, document their mentoring as teaching; and for departments that would like to discuss their mentoring plans to support the learning and growth of their graduate students and postdocs.