DURHAM, N.C. – As one of Duke’s Re-Imagining Doctoral Education (RiDE) Fellows this summer, Chainey Boroski was tasked with promoting student-focused mentoring. After extensive research and discussions with the RiDE team, she focused her energy on a project designed to benefit all doctoral students and faculty: a new Mentoring Guidelines Development Guide.

“PhD students and their mentors are a group of passionate, driven individuals, who want to bring all their best to the work they do and the relationships they form. We want to help ensure they have the tools they need to make that happen,” said Boroski, a second-year doctoral student in Environment.

The guide is a set of documents designed to aid program administrators and their faculty in writing clear and effective mentoring guidelines; in turn, helping students and their mentors further strengthen their working partnerships.

Chainey Boroski
Chainey Boroski

“These mentoring guidelines would generate both a common standard of mentoring practices within a program and a resource library for effective communication skills, self-advocacy and personal growth, problem solving, and the day-to-day realities of a long-term working relationship,” Boroski said.

“When we know how to communicate our perspectives and expectations, how to seek out what we need, and identify opportunities to grow, we’re better equipped to form an effective and harmonious pair,” she said.

The guide includes a step-by-step set of recommendations for crafting mentoring guidelines, with detailed background on how to address five key considerations: communication between students and their advisors; mutual and personal responsibilities; the building of academic community; personal reflection and growth; and problem solving.

A completed set of mentoring guidelines is within the guide, designed to show how the recommendations could manifest as a final document.

“We know that developing mentoring guidelines from scratch is a massive undertaking for a department, and that the care and time it takes to collaborate effectively with faculty and students is significant,” Boroski said. “We’re sure that program leadership wants to see this through, so it was important to us to provide as many resources as we could to make it feasible.”

To ensure the guide represents a range of both student and faculty perspectives, Boroski reviewed several existing mentoring guidelines developed by the natural sciences departments of the Graduate School, as well as Nicholas School faculty on the RiDE team.

She further drew from her discussions with peers and her experience as a member of the Nicholas School PhD Advocacy Committee and the Black and Latinx Club, to identify places where students are in greatest need of support and guidance.

“For understanding the faculty point of view, the guidelines written by the natural sciences departments were foundational texts, and the wisdom of the RiDE team was invaluable. I was committed to writing from a stance that supported both the students and the faculty, so that the guide can serve as many people as it affects,” she said.

Nicolette Cagle, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Nicholas School; Justin Wright, director of graduate studies for the University Program in Ecology; and Danielle Wiggins, assistant director of PhD programs at the Nicholas School, were also consulted on the project.

Wright and Wiggins served as Boroski’s RiDE Fellowship advisors.

“Every person I’ve had the privilege to work with throughout this process is reflected in the guide,” Chainey said. “I can’t wait to see what comes of it all.”