A mentorship at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math is a form of learning which integrates theory and application through work experience outside of the classroom. A student in the mentorship program will participate in independent research or project development in their field of interest under the direction of a professional who specializes in that field.
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 over 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. 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.
All students interested in a mentorship, should consult with the Mentorship Director who will make decisions about selection for the program and placement with mentors. The Mentorship Director can help the student focus on his or her area of interest prior to completing the application. The Mentorship Director maintains a list of previous mentors by discipline and particular fields of research. If a student is interested in working with a particular mentor, the student should discuss this possibility with the Mentorship Director.
All students who wish to participate in the mentorship program must fill out the online mentorship application. The application asks for specific information about the student’s interests and goals. Once the application has been submitted, the Mentorship Director will review it for approval. Approval depends on meeting three primary criteria:
Demonstration of a clear and specific interest in a particular field of study.
Good academic standing including no more than two grades of 80 or below and no failing grades on the student’s most recent grade report
A class schedule with at least four hours per week of open time
Students must also maintain an exemplary conduct report in order to participate in a mentorship. Students who are not approved for any reason my reapply as necessary. The deadline to apply is generally two weeks after the beginning of the semester in which the mentorship is scheduled to occur.
Once the student’s application has been approved, the Mentorship Coordinator will arrange an interview between the student and the potential mentor to discuss mutual interests and feasible projects. As the student visits with his/her potential mentor, the student must keep in mind the amount of work and time involved in the research project. The mentor and student should consider the student’s schedule and the guidelines of OSSM before committing to work together.
If the student and the potential mentor agree on the mentorship, a work schedule will be established and the proposal will be discussed. If the student and the potential mentor are not compatible, additional interviews with potential mentors will be arranged by the Mentorship Director.
Once a mentorship has been approved, and a mentor selected, it is the responsibility of the student to complete and submit the following to the Mentorship Proposal and Mentorship Consent Form to the Mentorship Director.
Once a mentor has been selected, the student, with input from his/her mentor, is required to write a mentorship proposal. It should contain a description of the project including the hypothesis or justification, goals and methods. It should also state the extent of the commitment including a time line of the project and the amount of time per week it will require. It should also describe how the final project will be presented and any other specific goals or expectations set by the mentor.
After the mentorship has begun, the student must submit periodic progress reports to the Mentorship Director. The report should detail all major developments in the project and any major changes from the project proposal.
The consent form is a formal document which the student must sign. If the student is under 18 years of age, his/her legal guardian must also sign the form. The consent form notes the personal commitment and responsibility of the student toward the mentorship and outlines OSSM’s limited liability in case of accident.
At the completion of the mentorship the student must submit a written report and an oral presentation summarizing the project. The paper will be due to the mentorship director before the last day of classes of spring semester. The paper must be read and approved by the mentor before being submitted.
The oral presentation can be in the form of a poster or a seminar. Students who wish to present their project as a poster will participate in the Graduate Research Education and Technology (GREAT) Symposium at the OU Health Sciences Center. The symposium is usually held at the beginning of the month of April. The abstracts for the symposium are usually due in February.
Seminar presentations will be held on the OSSM campus. Students will be responsible for scheduling their own presentations. All presentations must be completed before the last week of classes of spring semester. Following the oral presentation, the student should be prepared to answer questions from the audience. The mentor is not required to attend the presentation but they are welcome and encouraged to attend. The mentor should approve the presentation before it is given.
Students can receive ¼ unit of credit per semester of participation in the mentorship program. To receive full credit, the student must meet the requirements established in the proposal, and submit a satisfactory written and oral report.
If the student withdraws from their mentorship prior to the end of the semester no grade will be reported. However if the student’s mentorship is not completed or terminated by the end of the semester, the mentorship student’s transcript will indicate a grade of ‘unsatisfactory’.
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