07 Dec 2016

Grant Writing 101

Grant Writing 101

How to craft a grant that could boost your career prospects.

When Thomas Eissenberg, PhD, gives the first lecture of his grant-writing course for grad students, he asks his students how many plan to become professional writers. "Nobody raises their hands," says Eissenberg, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. "That's too bad, because as a scientist, you'll be writing for a living."

Grant writing is a necessary part of life for many psychologists. If you plan a career in research, knowing how to find funding is key. But even psychologists who plan to go into practice benefit from grant-writing skills, says John G. Borkowski, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "A student going into an applied mental health career might very well have to apply for grants," he says. Someone working in community mental health, for instance, might seek funding for outreach programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the state mental health agency.

No matter where your interests lie, it's never too early to familiarize yourself with the grant-writing process. "You're going to be doing it," says Eissenberg, "and you need to excel at it."

Special skills

If your university offers a grant-writing course, you should sign up, Eissenberg says. Just as writing a manuscript is completely different from writing a newspaper article or a novel, grant writing, too, is its own beast — and it's a tough skill to teach yourself. "It's not something that can be done in a list of 10 tips," he says.

Your mentor and other experienced faculty are also an invaluable resource. Ask if you can read their grants, or even offer to help your mentor write or edit a section. "Be your own advocate, and ask to see your mentor's grant proposals," says Amber Story, PhD, the deputy director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). "Grant writing is a collaborative process and being part of it early gets you a big leg up," she says.

Luckily, most psychology grad students aren't expected to come up with the funds to cover their entire dissertation research costs. Often, they're covered by departmental funds or grants awarded to their mentors. Once you start planning your own research projects, however, it's a good idea to start thinking about grants.

Talk to your advisor and your university's grant office for information on available funding, both internal and external. (See "Grant Resources" in the box below for more information on locating grant opportunities.)

The U.S. government is the biggest source of research funding for scientists. In fiscal year 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than $21 billion in research grants, plus another $772 million in training grants. The NSF, meanwhile, awarded more than $6.7 billion for research support, equipment and education.

For psychology graduate students, among the most coveted awards are the NIH's Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows, known as the F31. This training grant helps cover the cost of your education — and it looks great on your resume, says Eissenberg. The NSF also offers a Graduate Research Fellowship.

After you've finished your degree, the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships, or F32, are similarly prestigious grants that can help you land a great postdoc position. Ideally, you should apply for this grant during your dissertation year. At NSF, the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate offers SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships along two tracks — broadening participation and interdisciplinary training. Many smaller grants are also available to students and early-career scientists, both through the government and private foundations, including the American Psychological Foundation.

Your best foot forward

So you found a grant to apply for. Now what? First, make sure it's the right fit, Story says. The NSF and NIH have program officers to assist in the proposal process. They can help you make sure your idea is appropriate for a particular grant or funding agency before you write up the entire application.

"Write a few paragraphs about your project, email it to the program officer and ask for a phone call to discuss it," Story advises. "Call early to save yourself the time and grief."

And then make sure your application is watertight. To do that, say experts:

  • Know your audience. Different agencies and programs have different procedures, requirements and funding missions, says Story. Make sure you know the priorities of the agency you're applying to.
  • Take your time. It can be tempting to rush to get a proposal out when you see an opportunity. But if you don't budget enough time for your application, it shows, says Molly Wagster, PhD, the chief of the Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Branch at the NIH's National Institute on Aging. For all NIH grants, applicants may only revise and resubmit their proposal once, she says. If you don't put in a stellar effort in the first place, you're doing yourself a big disservice.
  • Pay attention to detail. Make sure your nouns agree with your verbs. Use spell check. Follow the submission guidelines exactly. "A sloppy proposal does give reviewers pause," Story says. "If you're not conscientious enough to take care with the proposal, how conscientious are you as a researcher?"
  • Be concise and clear. Have a compelling theoretical framework, and make sure your experiments will clearly test the hypothesis you've derived from that framework, Story says. "Those links have to be crystal clear." And don't forget that grant reviewers are mostly volunteer scientists and faculty members with busy full-time jobs, Eissenbeg adds. Make it easy for them to keep reading. "If your application isn't focused, you'll lose your audience very quickly."
  • Cover the bases. Some predoctoral grants require information about the applicant's training plan as well as his or her research plan. Sometimes applicants focus their energy on their research plans but give their training plans short shrift, Wagster says. Include details, such as how and when you'll be interacting with your primary mentor, and clearly describe your training timeline.
  • Rein it in. Being overly ambitious is a common problem, says Eissenberg. "Don't try to do too much. If the review committee senses a project can't be done in the time allotted and with the money requested, they can't possibly give you a good score," he says.
  • Show you care. Too often, applicants don't fully convey their enthusiasm, Eissenberg says. "Communicating passion for your idea counts for a lot."
  • Ask for help. Enlist your mentor or another colleague to read your application and offer critiques. Don't submit an application that hasn't been looked at by another set of eyes, says Borkowski.
  • Don't get discouraged. In fiscal year 2012, fewer than 20 percent of applicants to the NIH were awarded grants. The NSF success rate was less than 25 percent. Rejection is part of the process, even for experienced investigators. Hang in there. "Don't put the application in a drawer and leave it there. Build on it, resubmit it or submit it somewhere else," Borkowski says. "The first no is just the beginning to getting a yes."

A creative process

Submitting a polished application is obviously essential. But there are other steps you can take to make yourself attractive to grant committees. For instance, start publishing as early as possible.

"Publications show your past track record," says Borkowski. "Funding agencies want to give money to someone they can trust."

Also keep in mind current funding trends. Lately, Borkowski says, some funding agencies are particularly keen on research that explores the biological basis of behavior, as well as bench-to-bedside research that connects basic science to real-world problems. Interdisciplinary science is also highly prized by funding agencies, Eissenberg adds.

That said, don't contort your interests to make your research fit the latest funding fashions. Ultimately, your enthusiasm for an idea is what will make you successful both as a researcher and a grant writer. "If you're passionate about an idea, that's what's going to drive you forward," Eissenberg says.

Above all, don't be afraid of writing grant applications. The process isn't just about scoring dollars. It's also a way to hone your ideas.

"Grant writing should be a creative process," says Eissenberg — a chance to figure out how to solve a puzzle that intrigues you. "At least until you get to the budget stage and have reality hit, you have a question you want to answer and all the resources in the world to try to answer it," he adds. "It's an exciting enterprise, and you should want to write a grant."

By Kirsten Weir


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06 Dec 2016

How Did You Get That Job? Q&A with Faculty Recruiter Dr. Patrick Smith

The knowledge, skills, and experience gained through your psychology education and training can successfully transfer to a variety of jobs that you may never have previously considered. As chief of faculty affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Patrick Smith uses his psychology expertise to find the best employees and to keep them happy and engaged. In this webinar, Dr. Smith shares his experience about his career path and how to apply a psychology background to this field of work .

patrick-smith
Dr. Patrick Smith

Speaker: Dr. Patrick Smith is the Chief Faculty Affairs Officer for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. Within these roles, he oversees academic leadership recruitment, contributes to leadership development, provides faculty consultation services, and manages principles of academic life (viz., appointment, promotions, tenure, and faculty development). Dr. Smith was featured in the November issue of the Monitor on Psychology’s popular column How Did You Get That Job?

 

Dr. Garth Fowler
Dr. Garth Fowler

Host: Dr. Garth A. Fowler is an Associate Executive Director for Education, and the Director of the Office for Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training at APA. He leads the Directorate’s efforts to develop resources, guidelines, and policies that promote and enhance disciplinary education and training in psychology at the graduate and postdoctoral level.

 

This webinar series is based on, and borrows its name, How Did You Get That Job?, from the popular column in APA’s monthly member-magazine, The Monitor on Psychology.  You can read Dr. Smith's interview from the November 2016 issue here. The magazine is a benefit of membership with APA.

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24 Oct 2016

Being a Mentee — and a Mentor

Being a Mentee — and a Mentor

Many graduate students are both mentees and mentors. Here's how to navigate the two-way street.

By Rebecca Voelker
Print version: page 32

With just a year of graduate school under his belt, Todd Avellar was helping undergraduates get a head start on plotting their own course toward a doctoral degree. He explained the difference between PhD and PsyD degrees, eased doubts about applying to graduate school, and calmed fears about dealing with faculty.

In other words, Avellar was a mentor. He signed up in 2011 for a one-year stint with the McNair Scholars Program at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), which helps undergrads explore pursuing a doctoral degree in any field they choose. Just a few years earlier, Avellar had been a mentee in the McNair program. "I had a wonderful experience," says the fourth-year doctoral student in counseling psychology at UCSB. "Mentoring is near and dear to my heart."

Avellar is just one of many graduate psychology students who find themselves in mentoring roles, says APAGS Associate Executive Director Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD. Whether it's as a teaching assistant for undergraduate students or showing the ropes to first-year graduate students, many psychology graduate students find the experience rewarding.

Mentors say they gain the satisfaction of knowing they've helped junior students navigate critical experiences — learning the ins and outs of department politics, developing strategies to get an internship, and having a safe place to discuss uncertainties or just to vent. "You feel happy to be able to support them," says Joshua Kellison, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Arizona State University who mentors undergraduate students in his research lab.

Of course, mentoring has its minefields, too, El-Ghoroury notes. Being overly critical can jeopardize relationships but offering generic advice won't help mentees achieve their goals. Here's how to offer support without stepping on toes:

Know your mentee's style

Avellar has more in common with his graduate advisor, Tania Israel, PhD, than their shared interests in counseling psychology. Both are extroverts who appreciate the big-picture issues in mental health. But when his big ideas go beyond the scope of what he realistically can accomplish, Avellar says Israel redirects him to think in concrete terms about research methods and approaches. Conversely, he adds, Israel is adept at encouraging students with a more narrow focus to think in broader terms.

Working with her has taught Avellar a key lesson as he helps guide undergraduate and other graduate students along their academic path. "She really crafts her mentorship toward the individual student," he says. "That's a really important component of mentoring — making sure it works for your mentee."

Expand your notion of what it means to mentor

Mentorship is multifaceted. Kellison has guided undergraduate students in his lab as well as peers at the graduate level. As a teaching assistant, "I've done anything from being a third reader for a master's thesis to helping students craft their letters to apply for grad school," he says.

Kellison kept office hours for undergraduate students and dedicated one lab meeting a month to discuss student concerns, such as the kind of work they could do with a master's degree versus a doctoral degree.

Among his fellow grad students, Kellison has suggested which faculty to consider choosing for their committees and which grants to apply for. "I've applied for every grant I was even remotely qualified for, so they've come to me to ask about that," he says.

Sometimes mentoring can take a non-traditional twist — in the digital age it can be a two-way street, says El-Ghoroury. Faculty who haven't quite jumped on the social media bandwagon might turn the tables and ask a graduate student for advice. "I call it bi-directional mentoring," he notes. "It's an interesting opportunity."

As a mentor in the McNair program, Avellar has helped undergraduate students prepare for the Graduate Record Examinations and craft unique research projects so they can publish the results in the McNair program's research journal. He also helps students with more practical matters, such as writing emails with more substance than the skimpy text messages they're used to writing.

But his guidance isn't strictly academic. Avellar also shows them comfortable places to study and where to find good food that won't break the bank. He helps new graduate students find community venues where they can pursue personal interests — maybe tennis courts or a yoga studio. "It's really important in graduate school to keep that balance," he says.

Keep it in perspective

Matthew FitzGerald, a fifth-year clinical psychology graduate student at Loyola University Maryland, encouraged a fellow graduate student to attend the same site where he had done his clinical practicum. He even suggested a specific supervisor to work with. She took his advice — but didn't have a great experience, he says.

"That really helped shape my sense of mentoring," he says. Mentoring, he now realizes, is about taking perspective, FitzGerald added, so it's important to think about how a piece of advice will affect another person whose perceptions of what's appealing may be completely different than your own.

Listen intently

When an undergraduate student wanted to leave Kellison's lab, it seemed he should retract the student's recommendation letter since it was based on work the student had mapped out — but not completed — for the next semester. But it became a "delicate situation" when Kellison learned through his department chair that the response is considered coercion. "I didn't realize that once it's out there, it's out there," he says. "You can't retract it."

In hindsight, Kellison says he should have listened to the student instead of trying to talk him into staying in the lab. "This was not the work he wanted to do, but I hadn't really heard him."

Own up to your mistakes

FitzGerald often sees first-year graduate students already anxious about the internship match or planning their professional lives for the next 10 years. "That takes away from the richness of the training experience," he says.

To quell that anxiety, FitzGerald advises, "Tell them what you did wrong as well as what you did right." It's often a stress buster for early graduate students to see a fourth- or fifth-year student who has navigated the sometimes choppy waters of academia and lived to tell the tale.

"Sharing your mistakes can help them see their path," he says.


Interested in Mentorship? Read our collection of articles on Mentorship curated specially for APA members and affiliates.

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24 Oct 2016

Mentorships for Life

Mentorships for Life

Your mentor-mentee relationship is an important predictor of your future success. Learn how to keep those relationships strong.

By Dr. Alice G. Walton
Print version: page 26

Finding the right mentor in graduate school is one of the most important — and often trickiest — parts of your grad school experience. There are lots of ways to define "mentor," but typically he or she is more than an academic advisor. Mentors offer moral support, serve as sounding boards and help you prepare for life after grad school, both professionally and personally.

The mentor-mentee relationship shouldn't be thought of as optional, says Laura Gail Lunsford, PhD, a psychology professor who studies mentoring at the University of Arizona. A poor match — or not having a mentor at all — not only can lead to an unpleasant grad school experience, it can also undermine your career prospects, she says. "Our research has found that after financial support, having a good relationship with one's mentor was the best predictor of future success, [such as] the number of publications and presentations down the road."

And, after financial support, the mentor-mentee relationship is also the best predictor of whether you graduate from a doctoral program at all, according to the Council for Graduate Studies.

What does it take to find a good mentor and cultivate that relationship? We asked mentoring researchers, faculty and grad students for their insights.

Start early

Mentors and mentees should pair up late in undergrad or early in grad school, says Lunsford. Developing relationships as an undergraduate can help lay the groundwork for graduate school and set you up for future success, according to her study, published in Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning. Specifically, early mentoring led to more satisfied grad students who made more presentations and faster progress.

"When you develop these connections as an undergraduate, you'll already have a community that's excited to greet you when you show up at the graduate level," says York University psychology grad student Jeremy Trevelyan Burman.

That said, don't panic if you don't have a mentor by the end of your first year of graduate school. "Start talking to successful third- and fourth-year graduate students and find out who their mentors are," says Lunsford. "Ask to be introduced to them and you will ultimately find a good match."

Grab the reins

Don't hang back and wait to be chosen by a faculty member, says W. Brad Johnson, PhD, a psychology professor who studies mentoring at the U.S. Naval Academy. "Drop by for discussions and stay after class to chat," he suggests.

Research shows that we tend to like people we see often, so hang around the department, take potential advisors' colloquia and visit them during their office hours, Johnson adds. Becoming knowledgeable about potential mentors' work and showing them that you're interested is the best way to recruit a mentor, he says.

Collect 'em all

It's tempting to envision that perfect mentor who will mold you into a great researcher, professor or clinician. But this is a romanticized notion, says Johnson. In reality, mentors come in many forms, and each can provide a different type of support. Some may assist you better in the professional realm, helping you gain grants, apply for jobs and accomplish other career-related tasks. Other mentors can serve more "psychosocial functions," such as helping you balance your professional and personal lives and offering moral support.

Both types are important, and when it comes to picking mentors, his research has found the more you have, the better. "Patch together a network of people to gain experience from," Johnson says. "The happiest, most successful people have a constellation of mentors." This group can include more advanced grad students, faculty members from other departments or even family members, he says.

Don't force the relationship

You may want your academic advisor to be your mentor also, but things don't always work out that way — and that's OK. "Your research advisor can just be your research advisor," says Jeffrey E. Barnett, PsyD, a researcher who studies the mentor-mentee relationship at Loyola University Maryland. This is where the constellation of mentors comes in: If your advisor is brilliant at pointing out methodological flaws in your work but can't offer you career advice or moral support, find another person in your department or even outside it who can. This way, you can still reap the benefits that your advisor offers without missing out on the guidance a mentor can provide.

Be an eager beaver

Once you've found your grad school mentors, dive into the experience to get everything out of it you can. "When I offer advice, I want students to rise to the occasion," Johnson says. So show your mentors how you put their coaching into practice. If they suggest you use an alternative technique in the lab, tell them how it worked out. Or if your mentors shared a clinical skill, let them know how it worked with your own clients. Taking your mentor's advice and sharing your successes communicate that you really want to be there and are benefiting from the relationship, Johnson says. Mentors want to know that they're helping you, and they'll feel good that you're getting what you came to grad school for.

Learn to accept criticism

Students who are reluctant to take advice or constructive criticism tend not to do as well as students who are more receptive to their mentors' advice. After all, your mentors aren't just there to cheer you on. They are trying to help you prepare for a career and, therefore, must be honest about your weaknesses. "Accept praise and criticism with openness and nondefensiveness," says Johnson. "Mentees who can tolerate and learn from correction are more likely to be mentored." If you find yourself deeply hurt or offended by your mentor's markup of your dissertation proposal, take a step back and remind yourself of the goal. Critiques are meant to evaluate and improve your work — not you as a person, Johnson says.

Scratch your mentor's back

Figuratively, that is. Mentors work hard on your behalf, says Johnson, and it's important to give something back to the relationship. "When possible, offer your mentor assistance with projects that might simultaneously afford you experience and supervision," he says. Offer to set up that new piece of lab equipment, or draft a section of a grant proposal. This way, you'll gain some good experience while also lightening your mentor's workload.

Say thanks

Make sure your mentors know that you value the relationship and the direction they are providing. "This doesn't mean you have to give your mentor a Starbucks gift card or bring breakfast every morning," says Barnett, "but make sure you're gracious and respectful of your mentor's time and efforts." Show up to appointments on time, be honest about your progress and challenges, and make sure to thank your mentors for their help and guidance every now and again.

Know it's worth the effort

Learning how to develop and nurture mentor-mentee relationships isn't easy, but it will pay off long after you've earned your degree, says Leigh Ann Carter, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Loyola. "My relationship with my mentor is something that will continue beyond graduate school," she says. "Mentoring will serve as a bridge linking my graduate training to the early stages of my professional career and beyond." Whether you continue to a career in academe, private practice, government or private industry, you'll need to tap the advice of people who have gone before you. So get out there and begin laying the groundwork for mentorships that will last a lifetime.


Interested in Mentorship? Read our collection of articles on Mentorship curated specially for APA members and affiliates.

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03 Oct 2016

Emerging Career Paths for Psychology Graduate Students

This 30-minute webinar discusses ways in which psychology students like you have broadened their career options by taking the path less traveled.

Learn more about:
• Types of careers that are possible, including government, non-profits, and industry
• How to position yourself for such career opportunities
• Practical tips for self-assessment, job search, professional presentation

…and more!

Presenter Bio:

Nabil El-Ghoroury is currently the Associate Executive Director of the APA of Graduate Students (APAGS). In this role, El-Ghoroury represents over 27,000 graduate and undergraduate student affiliates of APA. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton and his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Moderator Bio:

Garth A. Fowler is an Associate Executive Director for Education, and the Director of the Office for Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training at APA. He leads the Directorate’s efforts to develop resources, guidelines, and policies that promote and enhance disciplinary education and training in psychology at the graduate and postdoctoral level. He has served as a consultant for universities and research institutions on program development and assessment, creating learning outcome for graduate and postdoctoral training, creation of career and professional development resources, submitting federal training grants, and teaching responsible conduct of research.

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03 Aug 2016

The Life-Changing Power of Mentors

The Life-Changing Power of Mentors

Midcareer psychologists talk about the mentors who shaped their careers.

Selecting a mentor can be one of life's most important decisions. "Mentors are crucial whenever people are faced with new phases of their career or life that require the development of new knowledge, skills or attitudes," says mentoring expert Drew Appleby, PhD, professor emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "Mentors help people determine who they want to become, how they must change in order to become these people, and how they can take advantage of their college or work experiences to bring about these changes."

Mentoring takes many different forms, ranging from the formal arrangement between a student and adviser in graduate school to informal relationships people develop throughout their careers. Midcareer mentoring is often informal and starts somewhat spontaneously, Appleby says. "You may meet someone, have a conversation and suddenly realize you'd like to be like this person," he says. "If this person shows a genuine interest in you, that is an ideal way for mentoring to begin."

Psychology practitioner Jean Carter, PhD, of Washington, D.C., says a variety of mentors helped her navigate such important transitions as selecting a graduate school and moving from a shared space to her own office.

"Informal mentoring can be a single meeting, episodic or ongoing," Carter says. "It can be as simple as one time when you talked to someone who gave you an insight that influenced your career. If you are open to those mentoring moments, they are more likely to happen."

The Monitor interviewed five midcareer psychologists for insights on how they found their mentors, how their mentors helped them succeed and how they are paying it forward by mentoring others.

Kavita Murthy, PhD: counseling psychologist in Austin, Texas

How did you meet your mentor?

 

Kavita Murthy, PhD (credit: Eric Coleman)
Kavita Murthy, PhD

I met my mentor Larry Bugen about 13 years ago when my colleague and I were interested in starting a private practice. We were looking for office space when Larry, a well-known couples psychologist, was downsizing his practice. Friends connected us. As I shared office space with Larry, we got to know one another and started to realize how much we thought alike. He was 20 years older than me, so there was that affection of a fatherly figure and I looked up to him, but it never felt like a superior-inferior relationship. It was more like we were equals.

 

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Larry had a lot of confidence in me and believed in me when I wasn't able to believe in myself. One year, for example, I gave a talk at the Texas Psychological Association's annual meeting about couples therapy and trauma, and he sat in on my two-hour workshop. After it was over, he told me it was a good workshop, but I had deferred too much to other people's work during the talk. He encouraged me to believe in my own ideas and theories and spend more time on that.

He also wasn't afraid to share with me the mistakes that he made from time to time. When I was hesitant to take on a couple due to the potential legal issues involved, he would share what he would have done differently when he took on a case that was similar. When I felt too biased toward one person in a couple, he would tell stories of when it happened to him. He also taught me that it's OK to make mistakes, and that I could get through any mistake if I worked to repair it.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

I have taught various counseling classes and practicum courses at the St. Edward's University master's of counseling program in Austin, which gives me an opportunity to supervise people who are working in the field. I always choose to teach in an experiential way and I'm not afraid to show my own vulnerabilities and mistakes. Larry taught me to be real, and that's how I want to be with mentees. During the live demonstrations, I try to give positive and encouraging feedback rather than simply pointing out what they've done wrong.

Now I'm entering a phase of life in which people are starting to seek me out to be their mentor, and that is a new thing for me. Mentoring others inspires confidence and wisdom in my skills as a therapist. I cannot believe I've been on this journey for 20 years. It's time to give back and I am eager to do so.

Jane Halonen, PhD: professor of psychology, University of West Florida

How did you find a mentor?

Jane Halonen, PhD (credit: Silver Image/Michael Spooneybarger)
Jane Halonen, PhD

I met my mentor in the library. When I got my first teaching job, I had zero background and didn't really know what I was doing. Out of desperation, I went to the library and found a book by Bill McKeachie called "McKeachie's Teaching Tips," and every problem I ran into he addressed in that book. I started having personal contact with him when I joined a grant for a book that was looking at critical thinking in psychology. When it was time to do the acknowledgements, I approached him and he said, "Of course." I ended up interviewing him for a later book project, and we bonded in a way that made me feel like the person who was the most knowledgeable about teaching was in my court. He was not only exquisitely smart about teaching, but also a very humble and gentle human being.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Bill has an incredible capacity to help people get excited about learning, and that is something I adopted. He also reinforced the importance of making things better in the classroom and this helped me find a niche of scholarship that was satisfying to me. Before this, research seemed like more of an obligation, but he showed me that collecting data about how students learn is really interesting.

Bill also taught me that even as the professor, I didn't have to be the smartest person in the room. If I didn't know the answer to a question, I could just say, "I don't know." I found that advice so liberating. I use such moments to elicit student opinions and point out the opportunity to think critically.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

When I see people who are excited about teaching, I try to show them helpful resources, such as the APA Div. 2 Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology. For new faculty in my department, I take them to lunch and let them know I'm happy to answer any questions.

Career development is also becoming a higher priority in undergraduate education. So, I teach my students how to be good critical thinkers, but I also recognize that I am getting them ready for the workforce. I take seriously the fact that the majority of my students are not going to graduate school, and I incorporate activities to prepare them for things like job interviews.

Marietta Collins, PhD: associate professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta

How did you find a mentor?

Marietta Collins, PhD (credit: Michael Schwarz)
Marietta Collins, PhD

I was in my third year of graduate school when I applied for a research assistantship with Nadine Kaslow, who worked in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. We shared an interest in providing mental health services for underserved populations, which had not been an emphasis in my clinical psychology program. I hadn't been able to find a mentor, and she was someone I could connect with. She was a very open and available person. She was also interested in helping me figure out where I wanted to go professionally and how to get there.

How did she help you succeed?

Nadine believed in me and encouraged me in a way that nobody else ever had. I was an African-American in a predominantly Caucasian field, and she believed there was a place for me not only as an African-American, but also as a researcher focused on underserved populations. She was one of the first non-African-Americans I felt I could talk openly with about race issues.

Nadine also created opportunities for me professionally. When she was writing an NIH grant about pediatric sickle cell disease, she invited me to be part of the process. Once she received funding, I helped with the study. This experience helped me when I went on to write grants of my own.

When I had my first child, she was also available to talk about the importance of being a mother and how to balance my career as a psychologist with being a parent. She helped me set goals and believe I could successfully navigate both of these roles.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

When I was part of Nadine's research lab as a graduate student, I helped to bring other African-American students to the lab. I had the opportunity to supervise and mentor these students, interns and fellows. Once I was a faculty member, I formed the African-American Training Research Lab, which is a support group for African-American women in psychology. We have co-authored a couple of articles, including one about the importance of mentoring for African-American trainees in psychology. I also hold an annual potluck at my home for incoming minority trainees to give them an opportunity to network with one another and other minority faculty members.

Sue Frantz, PhD: psychology professor, Highline College in Washington

How did you find a mentor?

Sue Frantz, PhD (credit: Brian Smale)
Sue Frantz, PhD

I wasn't actively looking for a mentor when I met someone who turned out to be a mentor for me. I was working at Highline College when I was serving as the director of Project Syllabus for APA's Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology). I had heard of Ruth Ault because she was the director of the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology. I met her for the first time in Florida in 2005 because we were both readers for the AP psychology test. Throughout the week, we had time to socialize and she encouraged me to go to APA's Annual Convention. I thought the convention seemed overwhelming, but she suggested that I focus on division activities.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

When I attended my first convention, Ruth invited me to sit next to her at the division's annual meeting and introduced me to people. She helped me understand what Div. 2 was about, how APA works and who the people were in the organization. This background helped me move into leadership positions, such as a member and later a chair for the Committee for Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges. I also served on APA's Membership Board. Currently I'm vice president for resources for the division and a college representative for APA's Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools. When I was thinking about creating ToPIX (Teaching of Psychology Idea Exchange), a wiki of teaching resources, she provided valuable advice on how to move that idea forward.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

I used to go to conferences with the goal of learning something new for myself. That's still a goal, but not the primary one. Now I want to meet people who are new to the profession to find out what they want to do. I have conversations about the starter opportunities in APA, like being a reviewer for different resources. In January, APA's Early Career Psychology Committee had a social, and I had wonderful conversations with several people. Five years ago, I also started a blog (SueFrantz.com) about technology you can use that is specifically geared for instructors. I started it because I think there are a lot of instructors doing things the hard way, and I wanted to share ideas with them.

Sue Frantz, PhD: psychology professor, Highline College in Washington

How did you find a mentor?

William Buskist, PhD (credit: Tracy McDaniel)
William Buskist, PhD

I was a graduate student at Brigham Young University in a new experimental psychology program when I found my mentor. Initially, I was involved in research on errorless learning, but I discovered I wasn't all that interested in it and switched major professors. I was intrigued by the work of a new professor in the department, Hal Miller, who was fresh from Harvard where he had worked with the matching law. He was interested in applying the matching law to human behavior and I switched to his lab. The more work I did in the area, the more fascinated I became with this line of research. I also enjoyed being around Hal — I liked his work ethic, the way he treated people and his interest in helping his students succeed in whatever they attempted to learn.

How did your mentor help you succeed?

Hal represented the kind of professional I wanted to become. He showed me it is important to take an interest in the individual, and modeled that by being extremely generous with his time. I fell in love with what I was doing as a graduate student, and I would wait for him to show up at his office nearly every morning because I was so eager to share what I was learning or my ideas for a new study. Even though I was probably a pest at the time, he took it in stride and always supported me.

He also encouraged me to take the next steps in my career. For example, we had replicated some research on birds with humans, and he suggested that I send my data to the author of the research we replicated. I eventually met the researcher and we stayed in touch, and that connection led me to my position here at Auburn University.

How are you paying it forward by mentoring others?

About eight years after I started at Auburn, the department chair asked me to help him revamp our introductory psychology course. At the time, the department was using only graduate students to teach the course. These first-time instructors had received no training for teaching and were unsupervised while they taught. He asked if I'd be interested in developing a training program for new graduate instructors. I created two graduate-level courses on teaching and a teaching fellows program. More than 100 graduate students have gone through the program and of those, seven have won national teaching awards.

Overall, I try to involve graduate students in every aspect of my work, and always publish graduate student co-authors. I get so much satisfaction from watching these students succeed, whether it's giving their first lecture, publishing research or landing their first job.

  • Reach out to a professor.
  • Attend APA's Annual Convention and approach someone with like interests.
  • Assist a researcher involved in a study that interests you.
  • Serve on an APA committee, board or project and network with people in the group.
  • Reach out to a practicing psychologist who has expertise in your specialty.
  • Explore APA resources that offer mentoring at www.apa.org/gradpsych/2005/01/mentor-find.aspx.
  • Think about what you need in a mentor and start looking for these qualities in people you meet.
  • Get involved in smaller state or local psychological associations.
  • Approach someone during a field placement while in graduate school.
  • Attend social gatherings offered by psychology departments or APA divisions that give you an opportunity to network.

By Heather Stringer


Interested in Mentorship? Read our collection of articles on Mentorship curated specially for APA members and affiliates.

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