As an audiology student, there are numerous opportunities to learn from or serve as a mentor. We may be assigned a faculty advisor to guide us through our academic career. Perhaps, we choose a research mentor to facilitate the completion of an independent research project or capstone. In some audiology programs, administration or Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Chapters ask their second- or third-year audiology students to serve as “buddies” or “mentors” to incoming first-year AuD students or undergraduates.

We asked a few students from the SAA to describe the value that mentorship has brought to their academic careers and their personal experiences acting as a mentee, mentor, or both! Rachel Appleton is a member at large on the SAA Board of Directors and the chair of the Humanitarian Committee. She is currently completing her externship with the Edward Hines VA Hospital. Stephanie Berry is an undergraduate associate member of the SAA and a member of the SAA Undergraduate Committee. She is a senior at Washington University. Joshua Huppert is the president of the SAA. He is completing his externship at Nemours/A.I. DuPont’s Hospital for Children. Each of these students has a unique perspective on mentorship based on different experiences throughout their academic careers.

Describe your personal experience with mentorship.

Rachel Appleton (RA): I have been lucky to have several wonderful mentors as an undergraduate and graduate student. My mentors have helped me discover my passions within the field and introduced me to new opportunities. Without their support, I would not be where I am today! I have also served as a mentor to younger students, which has been very rewarding.

Stephanie Berry (SB): I have had the opportunity to interact with AuD students in classes and on the SAA Undergraduate Committee. I have been privileged to be able to ask these students any questions about the application process or graduate school experience. It is, in my opinion, the most valid picture of graduate school because it is shared from individuals experiencing that process firsthand. Unofficially, I have been able to act as a mentor and share some of my own experiences with other undergraduate students considering the career path. Recently, I met a student interested in audiology who had a lot of questions about the graduate school application process. I felt confident providing insight into this area because I had the advice of my graduate student mentors in mind.

Joshua Huppert (JH): Presently, I have two mentors. One individual I met while attending a conference and the other I simply reached out to through e-mail with queries I had, after reading a few of his published research articles and viewing online lectures he had previously given. That said, the foundation of my mentorship in both instances blossomed out of similar interests and genuine conversation. I was simply seeking guidance and insight from professionals with experience in a subject area I found particularly intriguing.

How has mentorship impacted the trajectory of your career?

RA: Thanks to my undergraduate mentor, I was introduced to the field of audiology. Other mentors have helped me get more involved in our profession and learn about new opportunities.

SB: The advice and guidance I have received from mentors has impacted the types of graduate schools to which I am applying. It opened my eyes to the varying specialties and skills that can be achieved as an audiologist that I did not realize just reading about them. Mentorship is the norm for a lot of other pre-health majors on my campus, such as medicine or nursing. I feel more secure in the application process knowing that I have audiology students I can ask questions of when there is no one else available on campus with the answers.

JH: It is remarkable to think about how much my two mentors have helped to enhance and add salience to my graduate experience. Not only have they been responsive to my queries, but they’ve found ways to challenge me outside of the academic and clinical arenas, which has impacted my performance as a developing professional in ways my university program could have never provided. I know that they will continue to be individuals I can look to for guidance and wisdom throughout the course of my professional career.

How would you recommend that others get involved in mentorship?

RA: Attend audiology conferences! They are a great opportunity to meet other professionals and mentors. Some conferences even have formal mentorship programs. SAA Chapters can also start their own mentorship programs by pairing incoming first-year students or undergraduates with current second-, third-, or fourth-year students. My own SAA Chapter does this each year and finds it to be very helpful!

SB: My journey to finding mentors was a lot of trial and error, constantly searching for individuals with a connection to audiology. I definitely found these mentors late into my undergraduate career. I recommend that undergraduates seek out graduate students first, because they are most familiar with their experiences. Additionally, it was immensely easier to find mentors when mentorship was readily offered to me. Creating a culture of mentorship where graduate students and audiologists are encouraged to take on mentorship roles could be very effective.

JH:  The most valuable thing you can do is start conversations with individuals you admire, especially researchers. Networking starts with a simple, “Hello.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, ask questions, and be curious. You will find many professionals to be quite approachable and eager to chat with interested and enthusiastic students. It’s just amazing where a single conversation can lead, but you never know if the conversation is never started.

How to Be a Mentor

Feeling inspired? There are many simple ways that students can act as a mentor in an informal capacity. As you have read, mentorship offers a unique support system for students, a safe place to ask questions, and a space to address concerns that students may not otherwise feel comfortable disclosing to faculty members. If the opportunity arises, consider these four suggestions on how to be a great peer mentor!

If someone reaches out, always reciprocate. There is a reason this person is reaching out to you! Make sure that you answer any questions they have and follow up with them to see if they need any more help.

Offer advice where appropriate. Some people may not feel comfortable reaching out to you for advice—even if they want to. If you simply introduce yourself, offer support or feedback, and let them know that you are available to ask questions, they may be more comfortable looking to you for advice in the future.

Understand the difference between opinion and objectivity; convey the latter. This can be particularly challenging for students if a classmate comes to you for advice about a class you have taken or a clinical preceptor you have had. It is important to present an unbiased response, while remaining honest about your experience. 

Act like a role model. For your experiences to be taken a mentor, you set the standard. Act in a friendly, professional manner. Consider what stage in their career the individual is coming to you from, think about what you wish you knew then, and decide the best way to convey that to them.

Mentorship opportunities, whether formal or informal, can be extremely valuable for both the mentor and mentee, especially within the student population. A mentorship relationship can be long-term or short-term. It may involve regular meetings or impromptu get-togethers. Mentorship has a life of its own; it is what you make it. And it is a beautiful cycle: just as Stephanie gained confidence from her graduate student mentors to feel comfortable guiding fellow undergraduate students with the knowledge she acquired from others, students can take their experiences as a mentee and use them to mentor other students. As Joshua described, sometimes all it takes to develop connections is the willingness to start a conversation and see where it takes you!