Mentoring and Leadership


Mike Harris presenting Nicole Libretto, a former CISTAR Graduate Fellow a mentoring awardCISTAR values outstanding mentors: Those who give of themselves—their time, their experience, and their intellect—to help prepare the next generation of engineering researchers, teachers, and workers.  We thank our mentors and recognize via our Mentor Award Program each year two outstanding faculty and five outstanding graduate fellow mentors.  See some of the past year's winners:

At CISTAR, we value developing inclusive leadership skills.  There are many opportunities and workshops to help with such development.  In addition to international opportunities, we have mentoring opportunities (to be mentored and to mentor, both of which build your inclusive leadership skills), as well as workshops to help build the following skills:  cultural self-awareness, empathy, detection and dismantling of bias, inclusive communication, mentoring inclusively, etc.

We encourage not only learning the skills but then trying them out as it requires practice to get better.  There is also cultural coaching available if someone would like to have more one-on-one critiquing of their mentoring or leadership capabilities, or simply someone to listen and help them problem-solve. 

Mike Harris, CISTAR EWD Co-Director, presents former CISTAR Fellow with the Outstanding Mentor Award in 2019.

Mentor training 

Mentor workshops are focused on building skills around being effective and inclusive when: 

  1. Forging positive mentoring relationships;
  2. Communicating;
  3. Mentoring cross-culturally, and;
  4. Building a mentoring team.

At each workshop, we focus on learning/reminding ourselves of best practices, engaging in discussions and exercises to cement the knowledge and get us to think about then how to apply it to your specific mentor-mentee relationship.  After all, it isn’t only knowledge, but practicing, that allows one to become skilled. 


We adapted the above workshop as COVID caused many university programs to go virtual.  Graduate students, many who had never mentored someone in a research lab – especially not virtually -- needed help to think about how to adapt well-known principles derived from research and practice on how to mentor well to how to mentor well virtually. 

We created a series of “virtual twist” workshops that emphasized what was known about mentoring and challenged graduate students to think about how they could then achieve a similar goal virtually (i.e., if having short coffee breaks to get to know your mentee well leads to positive outcomes, can you try to have short ‘virtual’ coffee breaks?). 

Our ‘virtual twist’ framework – brainstorming ways to continue to include, inspire, teach, and befriend their undergraduate mentees during such a stressful time -- is at the heart of these new trainings and have helped to enable graduate student mentors to do their virtual best!