Our mission is to connect underrepresented and first-generation students with mentors who can empower them with the tools to succeed in their graduate school applications and beyond.
In the summer of 2020, a group of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty from Psychological Sciences and adjacent fields piloted a mentoring program that matched underrepresented, historically marginalized and first-generation students (and former students) who were considering applying to PhD programs (at any time in the future, not just for the current cycle) with a UConn faculty and a graduate student or postdoc mentor in their area of interest. Many of our mentees were from UConn, but almost half came from other institutions—across the US and worldwide.
Mentors provided mentees with advice on topics such as choosing a program, CVs, personal statements, funding graduate school, etc. We also held an online orientation session that included tips about how to get the most out of mentoring meetings as well as general information about applying to PhD programs and provided mentees with a virtual library of sample application materials and other informational resources. Due to the pilot’s success, the program was formalized in summer 2021 and renamed Mentoring Aspiring Graduate students and building an Inclusive Community (MAGIC).
To provide mentees greater access to mentors as well as the ability to select their own mentors, we now make use of an online mentoring platform (UConn’s Husky Mentor Network) that allows mentees to search for mentors for themselves. We have launched a specific program (open only to our community of MAGIC mentors and mentees) within the Husky Mentor Network to make it easy for our mentees and mentors to find and communicate with one another.
We aim to develop a large and diverse network of mentors who can support mentees throughout the process of preparing for, investigating, and applying to doctoral programs. We also aim to create a sense of community among our mentors and mentees, and to provide opportunities for peer-to-peer as well as mentor-mentee networking. In addition to supporting students who are currently preparing graduate school applications, we also support students who are early in the process of considering whether a PhD program may be right for them. Via involvement in this program, we hope that our mentors will develop a deeper awareness of the challenges that our mentees may face as they pursue a doctoral degree.
Our long-term goal is to help create a more inclusive and diverse community of researchers.
While our program currently focuses on Psychological Sciences and adjacent fields, we aspire to serve as a model for any other fields aiming to increase diversity among doctoral students. We are also eager to share our experience with other universities interested in developing similar mentoring programs.
What We Do:
MAGIC is a network of mentors in the fields of Psychology, Cognitive Science, Neurosciences (including Cognitive, Animal and Human) and related areas (e.g., Linguistics, Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences, Educational Psychology) focused on helping underrepresented, historically marginalized and first-generation students (and former students) get into and succeed in PhD programs. Mentors, who are UConn faculty members, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows, provide one-on-one advice and mentorship through video chats on topics like: choosing a grad program, preparing applications, CVs, etc. In addition to having access to a large network of mentors, mentees have access to a range of resources from CV and personal statement examples, fellowship information and more. We provide an annual orientation session about how to sign up for video chats and how to get the most out of them. The orientation session also provides general information about applying to PhD programs in the fields mentioned above.
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About the online mentoring platform that MAGIC uses:
The MAGIC program is using an online mentoring platform at UConn called the Husky Mentor Network. MAGIC is a specific program within this network that is open only to our community of MAGIC mentors and mentees. Mentors and mentees are added to the MAGIC program when they use a unique registration link emailed to them after signing up for the program.
As a mentee in the MAGIC program within the Husky Mentor Network, you have control over:
- When and how often you’d like to meet with a mentor
- Who you meet with. Although the network will recommend mentors based on a matching algorithm, these are merely suggestions based on the information you provide in your profile. You can meet with anyone, and we recommend that you make use of the search function to type-in keywords such as, “cognitive” to find matches based on research interests, etc.
- What you’d like to get advice on (each mentor will have a list of conversation topics you can choose from)
As a mentor in the MAGIC program within Husky Mentor Network, you have control over:
- The number of meetings you have (e.g., you can limit your availability to 2 meetings per month)
- When your meetings occur (you can decline a request if you become unavailable during a time that you had listed as a possibility)
- What topics you want to share advice on (there is a list you can select from, and you can also include this information in the “About Me” field of your profile). Based on the topics that last year’s participants found useful, we ask mentors to consider selecting: Finding a grad program, Grad Interviews, Resumes and CV critique, Application Materials, Financing Grad School, Work life balance, Is Grad School for Me?
MAGIC is a volunteer program organized and operated by UConn staff, graduate students, faculty, and post-doctoral researchers. Although we hope that the advice that our mentors provide will help our mentees become more competitive applicants to any graduate program, participation alone will not influence admission into a UConn graduate program.
Because our mentors come from the UConn community, their advice will likely be most applicable to graduate study within the United States (although some mentors have experience with graduate study in other countries). All advice provided by mentors is informed opinion—different fields (and sub-fields, and labs) may have different expectations. Mentees are welcome to meet with multiple mentors within their sub-field of interest to expand the scope of information and opinions.
Currently, MAGIC is appropriate for prospective students interested in applying to PhD programs in Psychological Sciences, Cognitive Science, Neurosciences (including Cognitive, Animal and Human) or a related area (e.g., Linguistics or Speech and Hearing Sciences). We hope to expand to other fields in the future.
The MAGIC organizing team may occasionally solicit feedback on the program. All information shared in these feedback forms will be confidential within our team and we will only use this feedback to continually improve our program to better serve the community.