Potential Mentors

The mentoring experience is one of the primary reasons for enrolling in a graduate school program.

You are in school to receive guidance and advice within your intended field of specialization. Whether you are interested in environmental policy because you want to work on issues of climate change, or preparing to teach in a university and conducting research on the history of the narrative voice in 20th century literature, you will need to find a mentor. To search out potential faculty members who could serve in this role, you will want to go to the website of each program to which you are applying and find professors whose research interests are similar to your own.

One of the conventions of the Statement of Purpose is to include the names of these professors within your statement to indicate who you will want to work with and the relationship of their work to your interests. This will be vary depending on the discipline and whether you are pursuing a Master’s degree or PhD. However, the way in which you state your interest in their work and their ability to be a potential mentor is similar.

Depending on the degree you are applying for, you may also want to communicate with these professors prior to including their names in your essay. This could be an in-person meeting if you are close to the campus to which you are applying or an interaction through email.  (See the cases Rich Pauloo and Mac Strelioff for examples of email exchanges with potential mentors).  You may also want to look at the sample emails requesting interaction with professors by Ixchel Martinez and Christian Elston.

Below are some excerpts from various Statements of Purpose that demonstrate how students have indicated which professors they believe could be potential mentors and how their work is similar in scope or area of research. You will see that there are very many ways to state this and that some are quite brief and others more lengthy. You will also find that this is another way in which you can demonstrate your knowledge of a certain discipline and that you have done your homework about the department to which you are applying. You can usually find the biography and curriculum vitae of potential mentors on the websites of the programs you are applying to.

“I believe my research would fit well with other work being done in the UCI Public Policy program by Dr. Thurston Domina and Dr. Maria G. Rendon. I am interested in Dr. Domina’s work focusing on student transitions from middle and high school into higher education. Also, Dr. Rendon’s research in the sociology of education and social policy examines issues similar to my own concerns. I believe working with these professors would be helpful and I would benefit greatly from their mentoring.”

“The program’s interdisciplinary approach will provide me with further knowledge and analytical tools. I am interested in working with Dr. Lindsay Perez Huber because her scholarship is directly aligned with my own. Her focus on racial inequity in education and her in-depth knowledge of Critical Race Theory will provide added knowledge and nourish my research projects.”

“UC Irvine is my top choice for graduate school for several reasons, but my primary interest is the research focus of the faculty. Dr. Mona Lynch’s work focusing on how crimes and culpability are defined and sentencing structure are created, align with my research interests. I admire the work she has done with outside organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union in order to put her research into practice. Dr. Keramet Reiter’s work on the impact of prison on the individual also speaks to my research interests. Dr. Reiter’s examination of the impact of supermax prisons on individuals and whether or not the prisons have reduced crime is a great example of putting research to work. Her letters to the US Senate Committees addressing her findings regarding human rights and prisoner’s rights are similar to work I hope will result from my future research.”

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