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Preparing Graduate Students To Be Successful As Teaching Mentors And As Future Professionals

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.998.1 - 13.998.19



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Paper Authors


Tershia Pinder-Grover University of Michigan

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Tershia Pinder-Grover ( is the Coordinator of Engineering Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Initiatives at the Center for Research on Learning in Teaching at the University of Michigan. She oversees the Engineering GSI Mentor (EGSM) Program, plans teacher training for new engineering GSIs, develops workshops and seminars, and consults with faculty and GSIs on pedagogy and engineering education research projects. Dr. Tershia Pinder-Grover earned her B.S. degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. While in graduate school, she served as an Engineering GSI Mentor.

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Sarah Root University of Arkansas

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Sarah Root ( is an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas. Her research interest is in applied operations research, particularly large-scale scale optimization of transportation, logistics, and healthcare systems. While she was completing her dissertation at the University of Michigan, she participated for three years in the EGSM program.

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Emine Cagin University of Michigan

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Emine Cagin ( received her bachelor’s of science degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2003, and her master of science degree from the University of Michigan in 2007. Both of her degrees are in electrical engineering. She is currently pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan’s Solid State Electronics Laboratory. Emine is currently serving as a mentor in the EGSM program.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Preparing Graduate Students to be Successful as Teaching Mentors and as Future Professionals

Abstract Graduate student instructors (GSIs) – or teaching assistants – are a critical resource upon which many large research institutions rely. The GSI position also provides a pivotal opportunity for developing the next generation of engineering faculty and industry leaders through training and mentoring. A centrally organized peer mentor program1 is one approach that can positively impact not only the GSIs’ teaching experiences, but the peer mentors’ experiences as well.2 This paper evaluates the Engineering GSI Mentor (EGSM) program at the University of Michigan, which is designed to train and empower selected graduate students to provide teaching-related services to their fellow GSIs. EGSMs’ duties range from consultations on a variety of pedagogical topics to in-classroom services, such as observing a GSI’s teaching and eliciting feedback from a GSI’s students. Furthermore, EGSMs consult on general graduate student issues such as advisor-advisee relationships and time management strategies. EGSMs work in teams to develop and facilitate well-attended workshops of interest to all graduate students. Workshops focus on academic as well as professional themes, and are aimed at helping participants define and accomplish their goals through graduate school.

In this paper, we discuss the training that EGSMs receive as teaching consultants and mentors to their fellow graduate students. In particular, we describe the training curriculum that has been developed to help prepare EGSMs for their roles. Topic areas covered in the curriculum and the format in which the training is delivered are discussed. Our data are obtained from a survey of current and former EGSMs. We conclude by describing how both the formal professional development sessions and the on-the-job training and experiences helped to prepare alumni of the EGSM program for their careers in both industrial and academic settings.

1. Introduction

Graduate students carry out a significant portion of the teaching activities in many engineering colleges within large research institutions. In order to maintain a high quality of teaching, and to provide opportunities for graduate students to grow as teachers, the University of Michigan College of Engineering pays special attention to the training of GSIs. The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) administers a day-long training program for new GSIs. EGSMs help run this training day, and then continue to mentor both new and experienced GSIs throughout the semester.

EGSMs are a group of experienced GSIs who have expressed interest in further involvement with the study of teaching and learning. They are selected through a competitive application and interview process. EGSMs receive training specific to preparing new GSIs for their first teaching assignments prior to the beginning of the semester. Afterwards, on-the-job training runs primarily through bi-weekly topical meetings of the mentors. We discuss the details of the EGSM training in Section 2.2.

Pinder-Grover, T., & Root, S., & Cagin, E. (2008, June), Preparing Graduate Students To Be Successful As Teaching Mentors And As Future Professionals Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3993

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