Mentor-Mentee Relationships in Undergraduate Research

written by admin on August 4, 2015 in Doing EL and Student Voices and Undergraduate Research with no comments

by Jessie L. Moore

Faculty mentors play a significant role in making undergraduate research (UR) a high-impact educational practice. Kuh and O’Donnell (2013) contend that the deepest engagement in UR occurs when students participate in all aspects of the research process in close working relationships with faculty teacher-scholars, and the 1997 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) definition of UR reflects this centrality of the faculty mentor to achieving genuine high-impact teaching and learning: “Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate in collaboration with a faculty mentor that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline” (Wenzel, 1997; emphasis added).

The 2014-2016 Center for Engaged Learning research seminar on Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research focuses on this faculty role, including mentoring relationships among undergraduate researchers and their faculty mentors. The Center will showcase this research as participants present and publish their findings.

Students, as the other stakeholders in mentoring partnerships or networks, can lend their perspective to our understanding of mentor-mentee relationships in mentored UR. In April 2015, I interviewed Elon University students who were presenting at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research. They shared how their interactions with their UR faculty mentors differ from their relationships with other faculty (e.g., classroom teachers, academic advisors, etc.):

The undergraduate researchers also offered tips for faculty mentors, based on their experiences working in partnership with their own UR mentors:

In the coming weeks, I’ll share additional videos highlighting student perspectives on UR, including their tips for future students who want to pursue UR and strategies for presenting and publishing UR results.


  • Kuh, G. D., & O’Donnell, K. (May 2013). Ensuring quality and taking high-impact practices to scale. Association of American Colleges and Universities., Washington, DC.
  • Wenzel, T. J. (1997). What is Undergraduate Research? Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 17, 163.


Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.