Iowa mentors facilitate the personal, academic, and career development of other individuals. Mentors play a critical role in the success and growth of students, faculty, staff, and others in the campus community. Examples of mentors may include: 

  • Faculty and Staff
  • Graduate Students 
  • Postdoctoral Scholars
  • Undergraduate Students
  • Iowa Alumni

Mentoring relationships can arise out of other interpersonal relationships, but it is also important to delineate the unique aspects of mentoring compared to other relationships students, faculty, or staff may form during their academic or professional experience. A mentor is different from an advisor, supervisor, or professor. Although these individuals may take on the task of mentorship, effective mentoring requires going beyond providing specific professional advice or emotional encouragement (UNL Handbook).

To understand the contributions of a mentor, consider the multifaceted definition of mentors as individuals who:

  1. Are knowledgeable and experienced, or otherwise holds influence, in their field of interest 
  2. Take interest in developing another person’s career, academic trajectory, and/or well-being 
  3. Commit towards advancing the scholarly, career, or personal development of the mentee 
  4. Advance academic and/or professional goals in manner most desired by mentee
  5. Tailor mentoring styles and content to the mentee, including making adjustments to accommodate differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, age, and student experience, among several other self-identifiers (Rackham, Alvarez et al., 2009; Paglis et al., 2006)

Refer to the chart below to see how mentoring differs from advising and coaching, two common relationship structures you may find on campus.

Mentoring Advising Coaching

Focused on growth and development of individuals and can be constructed in various forms

May include broad forms of support such as professional, career, and emotional support

Relationships are personal and reciprocal

Mentors tend to have more experience, influence, or achievement within the educational [or professional] environment 

Bringing awareness to options regarding academic or engagement decisions


Based on established practices, policies, etc. 


Puts responsibility on the individual to create structure and track progress 

Often works to complement to advising

Provides skills development to maximize academic and personal potential 

Understand individual's strengths and challenges and to seek and leverage the right support as needed