OSSM’s mentorship program is a hallmark of the academics at OSSM. Through it, students gain valuable experience to take with them to their colleges and professional lives. Data shows that success at the professional level in research is predicated on prior experience.
Mentorships have been a part of the academic program at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics since the first graduating class. Through partnerships with more than 60 academic institutions, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies in the Oklahoma City area, students have had the opportunity to work alongside professionals in many fields including research, medicine, engineering and more.
OSSM’s mentorship program gives students opportunities to work on research projects with professional scientists and technologists, typically outside OSSM. Recently students partnered with the state’s leading research organizations, including The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and the OU Health Science Center (OUHSC) as well as the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory at the University of Oklahoma. Their work included researching targeted therapies for pancreatic and ovarian cancers and observing procedures conducted on the optical nerve.
More than 500 students have been completed projects since 1992.
A typical mentorship at OSSM begins during the fall semester of the student’s senior year. The student requests a mentorship by sending an application to the Mentorship Director, who then finds a mentor in a field that matches the student’s interests. Students spend at least four hours per week during the school year working on projects designed and overseen by their mentor. At the end of the mentorship, every student gives an oral presentation and writes a paper that summarizes his or her project.
Students who want to participate in research over the summer can also participate in the OSSM Investigative Research Scholars Program (IRSP). This program was established in 2003 by an endowment through the OSSM Foundation. It allows students to live in the school’s dormitory for three weeks during the summer between junior and senior year and participate in full time mentored research. IRSP has become an extension of the regular mentorship program and provides students with a head start on their projects before senior year begins.
Why should I do a mentorship?
The purpose of a mentorship is to give you a chance to learn, outside of the classroom, about a topic or field that is interesting to you and to get hands-on experience in that field. The kind of mentorship you do will not determine the career you go into, but it can be very useful in determining what kind of career is most interesting to you and that you are best suited for. Having a mentorship is a good way to get experience in your field of interest and it can be a valuable addition to your college applications in the future. However, you should not do a mentorship just to add something to your résumé. Also, you should not do a mentorship just as an excuse to get off of campus. You should only do a mentorship if you are genuinely interested in a particular field that you can not get exposure to otherwise.
What happens at a mentorship?
This mostly depends on the type of mentorship. Once you start meeting with your mentor, you will write a proposal that describes exactly what the goals of your project are how you plan to accomplish those goals. You might be given a project of your own or you might be in charge of some aspect of a larger project. Whatever project or duties you are given will be your responsibility. Therefore, you should treat your mentorship with the same diligence and respect that you would give to a class or a part time job. Keep in mind that your mentor is volunteering a considerable amount of his or her time and resources in order to give you this experience.
What kind of mentorships are available?
Mentorships are available in almost any area of study. Most projects tend to be in the area of math, science or engineering, but students have done mentorships in a broad array of subjects including business and the humanities. You should talk to the mentorship director to find out if there is a potential mentorship project in your area of interest.
I’m not sure what kind of mentorship I want, can I apply for one anyway?
When you fill out the application, you will describe the kind of mentorship you want. You do not have to know exactly what you want to do in your mentorship, but the more specific you can be, the more likely you will be to get a mentorship that you find interesting and rewarding.
How much should I know about a subject before I do a mentorship in that area?
If you want to do a mentorship in a specific field, you only need to have enough experience to know that you are interested in it. The mentorship is intended as a learning experience and you will be trained by your mentor in the background and techniques that you will need for your project.
How much time is required for a mentorship?
You are required to spend at least four hours per week working on your mentorship. Once you have been paired with a mentor, you will arrange the days and times that you will work with them. You can arrange the times to fit your schedule and that of your mentor’s. However, you should try to arrange your schedule such that you are able to work on your mentorship in contiguous blocks of at least two hours. If you do not have enough time in your class schedule for a mentorship, talk to the Mentorship Director about modifying your class schedule.
What is the minimum number of classes I can take if I have a mentorship?
If you are enrolled in a mentorship, you may take as few as six classes during the semester in which your mentorship is active. You are allowed to enroll in more than six classes if you have a mentorship, but the mentorship cannot conflict with your class schedule.
What is required during the mentorship?
Your mentor will discuss with you exactly what he or she expects from you to complete your project. However, you will also be asked to turn in a project proposal at the beginning of the mentorship. This will be a brief description of the goals of your project and the methods you will be using. The proposal will be due by the end of the six week grading period in which you start your mentorship. Every six weeks after that, you must submit a progress report. The progress report can be very short (a few sentences) and will just summarize what you have done over the preceding six weeks. If you do not turn in a proposal or a progress report, you will have an incomplete for that grading period until it is turned in. The proposal form can be found here and the progress report form can be found here.
What is required at the end of my mentorship?
Two items must be completed in order to receive credit for your mentorship:
A written report. The format and length of the written report will depend on the nature of the project, but it must be read and approved by your mentor before you turn it in. Guidelines for writing the paper can be found here.
An oral presentation. There are two options available for oral presentations:
GREAT symposium – All OSSM students are allowed to present their project as a poster at the Graduate Research Education And Technology (GREAT) symposium, which is held by the OU Health Sciences Center Graduate College at the OUHSC library. Abstracts for the symposium are due in February and the symposium itself is held during the first week of April
On-campus presentation – You may give a 15-30 minute presentation over your project at OSSM. Most students will present at the OSSM Mentorship Symposium. Check with the Mentorship Director for the date and time of the symposium.
The paper and the presentation must both be completed and approved before the last of week of classes of senior year. Otherwise, your mentorship will appear on your transcript as incomplete.
How do I get to my mentorship?
If your mentorship is at OSSM, you will meet with your mentor in his or her office at your scheduled time each week. If your mentorship is on the OUHSC or OMRF campus, you will walk to your lab. In the event of inclement weather or a disability, you can ask one of the OSSM faculty or staff to drive you to and from your lab. If your mentorship is anywhere else that is not within walking distance, you will have to arrange for an OSSM faculty or staff member to drive you to and from your mentorship.
Every time you leave campus you must check out at the residence hall and check back in when you return even if you are being driven by OSSM faculty.
What if I can’t make it to my mentorship?
If you cannot go to your mentorship at the scheduled time for any reason, you must tell your mentor in advance. You must also submit an absence request to the Dean of Students which must be signed by the Mentorship Director. You are expected to go to your mentorship every week unless you are ill or if there is a conflicting school or class activity. You are not allowed to miss your mentorship in order to study or work on class assignments. If your mentor releases you early or tells you not to come in, you must return/remain on campus and use the free time wisely.
Can I quit my mentorship or get a different mentor?
When you start a mentorship, you are agreeing to complete your project with your current mentor. If you don’t complete the requirements of the program, the mentorship will appear on your grade report and transcript as an incomplete at the end of the year. If there is a good reason why you cannot complete your project with your current mentor, contact the mentorship director to discuss your options.
I already know where I want to do my mentorship, can I set it up on my own?
Yes. However, you will still need to contact the mentorship director once your schedule is set up, and you will need to fill out a proposal form. You will also need to fulfill the minimum grade and conduct requirements to be eligible for a mentorship. You will also need to provide the contact information for your mentor to the mentorship director.
What if I don’t meet the grade requirements?
If you have a failing grade in one or more classes or more than two C’s, you cannot do a mentorship. However, you will become eligible when your grades improve above the minimum. Therefore, you can apply for a mentorship even if you do not meet the grade requirement and, if your grades improve, you can start your mentorship project at the beginning of the following six weeks.
Can I work on my project from the OSSM campus?
Many projects, especially those in the humanities or computer science, do not require work in a lab or office. If it is acceptable to your mentor, you can work on your project in the library or computer lab at OSSM. You still need to put your mentorship times on your schedule and you must be in regular contact with your mentor by phone or email. In this case, it is a good idea to contact your mentor at least once or twice a week and to schedule in-person meetings at least once every six weeks to discuss your progress.
Do I get course credit for a mentorship?
Completing a mentorship is currently worth 1/4 of a course credit. This credit cannot be used to replace any existing OSSM graduation requirements. However, if you are in a mentorship you can enroll in six regular courses rather than the usual seven courses if you do not need seven courses in order to meet graduation requirements.
What if I have more questions?
For more information, contact the mentorship director at OSSM: firstname.lastname@example.org