Mentoring Statement

The department of Classical Studies mentors its graduate students at all stages of their education and beyond. We recognize that mentoring is not a one-on-one relationship between a single mentor and single mentee, but rather a network of people who collectively help each graduate student achieve their goals. Some mentoring relationships are formalized by departmental structures while others are created as a student sets their own agenda for development. In line with Best Practices and Expectations as outlined by the Graduate School, every faculty member in the Department of Classical Studies commits to mentoring every student who matriculates into our program in research, teaching, and professional development. (see also what is a mentor, an informational overview from the Graduate School)

1. Research 

Research mentoring is embedded into every stage of the program. In early years this includes: practice in a variety of subfields and methodologies, theoretical perspectives, core tools and databases; becoming conversant with landmark scholarship and cutting-edge interventions; practice in developing research questions and research plans as well as in disseminating results. For early-career students, this happens in coursework, in the types of wide reading outside of coursework undertaken by every student, in Research Assistantships and Graduate Assistantships, and in preparation for exams including a student’s Open Special and Dissertation Special projects. Primary mentors for pre-exam students are the DGS, Early Career Mentor, TA supervisors, and faculty instructors of classes. 

After exams and in consultation with a student’s dissertation advisor, research mentoring turns towards the dissertation and projects related to a student’s subfield of specialization. Mentoring in research for post-exam students includes: developing a major research question in a subfield and a plan to carry out that large-scale project; balancing research and writing; making a writing schedule and timeline; balancing various commitments alongside research; presenting major research in a variety of settings; etc. Here a student’s dissertation advisor and committee members become primary mentors in addition to the DGS and existing mentoring relationships.

2. Teaching

The department invests in training its graduate students as teachers. Graduate students can expect the following types of experiences to contribute to their pedagogical development. In their second and third year, students have the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant. In their fourth and fifth year, students can expect to be Graduate Student Instructors for their own course, typically a section of Latin 101; experienced instructors may also have the opportunity to teach a course of their own design as a GSI within the department, as a co-instructor for a large-enrolling department course, as a Bass Instructional Fellow or Bass Teaching Assistant (by application), or as a GSC or GSI with the Thompson Writing Program (by application). Discussion of plans for pedagogical development should be part of the beginning of the year discussion between graduate students and their mentors. Primary departmental mentors here include, but are not limited to, faculty supervisors of TAships or Greek apprenticeships, the Introductory Latin Supervisor, the CLST Pedagogy Mentor, faculty co-instructors, and the DGS.

The department also encourages graduate students to be proactive in pursuing the wide variety of pedagogical training opportunities available outside the department. These include the Certificate in College Teaching; individual workshops and workshop series organized by the Graduate School, by the Thompson Writing Program (including ‘Writing in the Disciplines’), and by the Duke Center for Learning Innovation; the Preparing Future Faculty program. Students should discuss their interest in these programs with the DGS and other mentors on a regular basis.

3. Professional Development

The department also commits to helping students develop as professionals. This includes mentoring in: publishing in various genres of professional writing common to the field of Classical Studies; the process of presenting research at conferences; writing applications for competitive grants and fellowships; building professional networks outside of Duke Classical Studies; preparing for the job application process; etc. Discussion of professional development plans should be part of the beginning of the year discussion between graduate students and their mentors and should become part of their “action plan” for the year ahead.

The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the graduate students, leads several multi-part workshops a year on topics such as “publishing a scholarly article,” “writing fellowship and grant applications within Classical Studies,” “presenting at conferences,” etc. Each semester is devoted to a different topic and offers graduate students at all stages intensive practice in and feedback on professionalization topics. The core workshops rotate on a two-year cycle with room for ad hoc innovation based on current disciplinary needs.

The department understands that service roles and opportunities for leadership positions can be essential to the professional development of graduate students both with an eye towards future careers as faculty and also for careers outside the professoriate. Service positions within the department may include: assistant to the events coordinator; graduate representatives to the faculty; graduate student representative on faculty search; peer mentor for first year students (see below); graduate student liaison to our undergraduate Classics Collegium. Service positions outside the department include various elected and appointed positions within the Duke Graduate and Professional Student Government and its various student organizations.

Mentoring Related to Job Placement and Career Paths

When it comes to future careers, we are equally committed to supporting students who plan to pursue an academic career and students who plan to explore careers beyond the professoriate. For the 2021-22 AY, the department has created a new Academic Job Committee made up of the DGS and two other faculty members who help students on the academic job market in a variety of ways including flagging existing workshops at Duke, helping students tailor cover letters and other documents to various audiences, organizing mock interviews, and offering supportive mentoring on various aspects of the academic job market.

For those pursuing careers outside the professoriate, we commit to connecting students with Duke Classical Studies alumni and with professional networks outside of academia. We also encourage graduate students to be proactive in pursuing the wide variety of professional development opportunities available to them at Duke in pursuit of all career paths within and outside the academy including: the individual workshops and workshop series organized by the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Career Center, Dr. Maria Wisdom and the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Thompson Writing Program (including their series on writing award-winning grant and fellowship applications), and the Preparing Future Faculty program.

Formal Mentoring Roles: Responsibilities and Expectations 

The roles of mentors change as students progress through the program. Our network mentoring model supports students at every step of the way (including especially at transition points) while also simultaneously enfranchising them to take greater ownership of their own professional development as they progress through the program. At the same time, it is important that students always know whom to approach, and how, on a full range of issues from work-life balance to writing routines, from publication to pedagogy, from professional networking to preliminary exams. Each of the formalized roles within our department comes with a different expectation of the regularity of meetings; these formal structures are meant, in turn, to engender informal communication channels such that a student is always supported in their needs.

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

The DGS facilitates mentorship throughout the career of every student. On requirements or milestones, a student’s standing with regard to them, access to or interpretation of assessments, the DGS is the mentor to call. The DGS maintains the communication channel between student and instructors, with a view to providing support across classes. In such roles the DGS offers essential direct mentoring to students. The DGS is also the student's ambassador and connector to the wider universe of the department and university, including matters of financial support, interpretation of TGS rules and regulations, the wide range of academic, wellness, social, and cultural supports and opportunities offered to students by the graduate school, college, and university, as well as in-house CLST offerings; and also the coordinator of the department's multiple mentoring activities and roles, all with an eye towards equity and comprehensiveness. The DGS also provides formal, written feedback to students on their progress within the program annually. While individual students and the DGS can create their own meeting schedule as needed, all students should meet with the DGS at least 1x a semester. It is expected that the DGS, in coordination with the Early Career Mentor and/or Dissertation Advisor will help students set their agenda for the coming year in their first meeting of a new academic year.

The Early Career Mentor (ECM)

The ECM provides an essential layer of mentoring for early career graduate students that is not tied to a position of formal, direct authority over the student or program (not DGS, not an instructor, not a pedagogy mentor). This mentor listens to concerns and experiences of any nature, shares their own perspectives of academic life and its challenges, and serves as a trusted listener. The ECM coordinates with the DGS where appropriate so as to be apprised of the mentees’ progress and needs, and to share information, resources, and opportunities particular to their mentee that will help them meet their goals. While individual mentees and mentors can create their own meeting schedule, the ECM and their mentee should meet at least 2-3x a semester in the first year; meeting frequencies in subsequent years can be determined by the mentor/mentee but should not be less than 1x a semester in years 1-3. 

The Dissertation Advisor

The mentorship role of the dissertation advisor/director develops and expands as students progress beyond preliminary exams. Early in the process, it focuses on dissertation research: identifying a project, assembling a committee, and, importantly, developing a timeline. From the beginning, a dissertation director should work with their student to create a writing schedule and a deadline for deliverables that measurably advances a student’s progress each semester; this often includes discussion of time-management, work routines and strategies. As the student progresses, the mentoring relationship grows to include mentoring in the development of professional networks, handling of feedback from multiple parties in productive and collegial ways, the many-faceted processes of disseminating research through conferences and publications, and applying for jobs and/or other post-degree opportunities. While individual mentees and mentors create their own meeting schedule, they should meet at least 3x a semester (once at the start to suggest goals, deliverables, and a schedule for the term, once during the term to take stock of progress in these areas, and once at the end to assess, review, and adjust). 

Dissertation Committee Members

The mentorship role of the dissertation committee overlaps with that of the advisor/director but provides a diversity of perspectives. Committee members help students develop ideas with wider audiences and methodologies in mind (especially through written and verbal feedback on the Prospectus, first chapter defense, dissertation defense, and any other required or requested occasion) and build broad professional networks, by providing feedback (as needed or requested) on teaching, and by helping to connect students to professional and funding opportunities. The committee provides a secondary net beneath both student and advisor/director when it comes to maintaining the agreed work schedule and in offering their own mentoring in time-management, work routines, and strategies for writing. Due to the nature of this position, meeting frequency shall be determined by the mentee as desired and/or needed but no less than once per year.

Mentoring Roles Specific to Teaching

Classical Studies Pedagogy Mentor

Beginning in 2021-22 the department has created a new mentorship position, the Classical Studies Pedagogy Mentor. This position complements the teacher training that students receive from their TAships and the pedagogy training that the department encourages students to pursue through the graduate school. The CLST Pedagogy Mentor will, among other activities, convene regular conversations and/or workshops with departmental GSIs and TAs as well as facilitate timely observation and feedback of student instructors including peer observation opportunities. By the nature of this position, meetings will be frequent and set by the mentor and mentees.

Supervisor for Elementary Latin Instruction

The primary duty of the supervisor is to assist graduate instructors in the development of pedagogical skills and strategies necessary for teaching the three courses in the elementary Latin sequence (101,102, 203) successfully at Duke and beyond.  Some of the topics addressed by the supervisor are : 1) overall course design; 2) the creation of syllabi, lesson plans, tests, examinations and other evaluation instruments; 3) the presentation of grammar and the use of teaching aids; 5) student evaluation and grading; 6) pedagogical persona and classroom management; 7) the discussion and proper contextualization of the social, political, philosophical and historical materials presented in the text and in ancillary sources.  In addition to these more immediate and obvious skills, the supervisor addresses other topics related to pedagogical development, such as: academic standards, collegiality with peers, interface with the administration, and very importantly, the appropriate nurturing and mentoring of undergraduate students both inside and outside the classroom.

The supervisor provides this training and mentoring in a number of specific ways: 

1)  Latin 101 and 102, two teaching orientations take place in August, one in-house and one held jointly with UNC.  Meetings are held, as needed, during the course of the semester to discuss problems and progress.  Frequent email communication supplements this process. Graduate instructors participate in the construction of common exams and learn how to devise evaluation instruments of the appropriate length and content. During the semester the supervisor observes graduate instructors in their classrooms, at least once (sometimes twice, especially for novice teachers) and provides near immediate verbal feedback from the observation.  At the conclusion of the semester, a summarizing observation letter or report is sent to the graduate instructor and DGS.

2) Latin 203:  The supervisor meets with graduate instructors long before the term begins to discuss the specific goals and challenges of teaching this course, which is always composed of students of varying abilities and which is the final Latin course for most students.  Latin 203 is less structured than 101 and 102, in that instructors devise their own syllabi and choose selections from the Wheelock reader that best suit their own interests and strengths.  The supervisor offers guidance in this process by meeting with graduate instructors as they develop their own ideas for the course and plan their syllabi. While the content of the sections may vary, fairness and uniformity are achieved through use of a common testing plan, six translation/short answer quizzes during the term.  The supervisor is involved in helping the graduate instructors devise these quizzes to make certain they have consistent form and content across the sections.  The supervisor visits the class of the graduate instructor once (or twice if needed) and offers guidance and feedback afterwards.  At the conclusion of the semester, a summarizing observation letter or report is sent to the graduate instructor and DGS.

Faculty Supervisor of TAships 

The department of Classical Studies views TAships as a form of teaching apprenticeship. While different courses have different needs, faculty provide their TAs with the opportunity to deliver lectures and/or lead discussions as well as to contribute to the creation and evaluation of assessments. Faculty supervisors provide scaffolded help for these experiences, observe the student teaching, and provide written feedback on areas of strength and areas for improvement. Each faculty supervisor and TA should have a conversation before the start of term outlining mutual expectations (including attendance and meeting frequency) as well as the TA’s opportunities for teaching and feedback during the term. By the nature of this position, meeting frequency will be set by the mentor and mentee. At the conclusion of the semester, a summarizing observation letter or report is sent to the graduate instructor and DGS. 

Greek Mentor

The department often offers a Greek 101 apprenticeship role under the supervision of the faculty instructor; this role is filled by a student in their fourth year or beyond. The Greek Mentor provides their mentee with an analogous set of teaching and development opportunities in the introductory Greek classroom as well as the opportunity for observation and written feedback. The Greek Mentor and Greek apprentice should have a conversation before the start of term outlining mutual expectations (including attendance and meeting frequency) as well as the opportunities for teaching and feedback that the apprentice will have over the course of the term. By the nature of this position, meetings will be frequent and set by the mentor and mentee. At the conclusion of the semester, a summarizing observation letter or report is sent to the graduate instructor and DGS. 

Peer Mentor for First Year Students

Peer mentors serve as the introduction to departmental culture for incoming students and a primary point of contact for questions concerning a variety of practical subjects, such as housing, navigating campus, and preparing for the first semester (including strategies for work/life balance and for making the transition to PhD level work). Peer mentors facilitate a tour of campus upon the new student’s arrival, help new students coordinate logistics of moving to a new city, and should aim to have one check-in per month during the new student’s first year. 

Outside of the department, the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) has a number of graduate student groups oriented towards creating peer resources, peer networks, and peer mentoring including: the Duke Black Graduate and Professional Student Association; Duke University Chinese Students and Scholars Association; Duke F1RSTS: First Generation Graduate Student Network; DukeOUT; GradParents; and others.

Responsibilities of All Faculty Mentors to Students

As individuals who are part of a collective mentoring network, mentors intentionally promote the professional good of each student within our program. Together we create a culture of mentoring. To reach this goal, faculty commit:

  • to be fair, impartial, and professional in all dealings with graduate students
  • to create a culture of transparency in which students understand the whys and the hows of all aspects of their training
  • to offer students discretion and confidentiality (where possible given the requirements of mandatory reporting)
  • to uphold equity and accessibility in the training of all students
  • to create a community of collegiality and mutual respect
  • to provide students with opportunities to learn core research skills, to develop unique research questions, and to receive guidance at every stage in their pursuit of their own research agenda
  • to assist students in their development as teachers, including course development, lecture preparation, classroom communication, examining, and grading
  • to make sure that all assignments (including TA/RA/GAships) offer meaningful professional experiences
  • to evaluate student progress in a timely, regular, and constructive fashion
  • to help students develop their own professional network within and outside of Duke 
  • to help students prepare themselves to pursue a variety of careers with requisite professional skills, with an appropriate range of professional contacts, and with a realistic view of the current state of that market, both within and outside the academy; this includes writing letters of recommendation or providing information to be included in someone else’s letter for any student who has been in their mentoring network if requested.
  • to continue to provide mentorship, advice, and guidance in students’ post-Ph.D. careers where appropriate and desirable. Once you are our student, you are always part of our community.

Responsibilities of Graduate Mentees to Faculty

As mentees within a mentoring network, graduate students are pro-active participants in their professional and academic development. To meet this goal, students commit: 

  • To take a proactive approach to their role as a mentee in all areas of their graduate education, including, for example, attending office hours and reaching out to potential mentors in informal channels. 
  • To identify goals in their development as researchers, teachers, and professionals on a regular basis and pursue mentoring aimed at achieving those goals.
  • To know their progress toward the completion of their degree based on the milestones published in the student handbook and/or mandated by TGS.
  • To communicate with their mentor(s) and the DGS as soon as they are aware of circumstances that might hinder the timely completion of their degree.
  • To be honest with their mentor(s) about areas in which they are struggling, and to develop a plan for overcoming those obstacles with the assistance of their mentor(s).
  • When working on their dissertation, to work with their mentor(s) to set a writing schedule and deliverables and keep their mentor(s) updated on progress in this area
  • To keep track of important deadlines within the department and Duke as well as within the field, so as to be prepared for major milestones and opportunities.
  • To follow through when appropriate opportunities present themselves and keep their mentor(s) informed and consulted about these opportunities
  • To give ample notice when feedback is needed for documents such as abstracts, applications, or articles and to give ample lead time for requested letters of recommendation.

For advice on giving notice when asking for feedback or letters of support and/or for information on timelines for expecting feedback, please see the “how to” guides collected in this box folder.

Departmental Commitment to Anti-Discrimination

Duke Classical Studies recognizes that education can thrive only in an atmosphere of mutual respect in which every student and faculty member–regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural heritage or nationality, religious or political beliefs, socioeconomic, veteran, and ability status--enjoys equal right to inclusion, respect, safety, agency, and voice. As a department, we are united in our commitment to equitable access to the rich and rewarding study of the ancient Mediterranean and its associated languages and cultures, and affirm that this is only possible through our active engagement in anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive practices. We pledge to uphold these principles with our conduct, consistent with Duke’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion and Community Standard.

Where to go for help with issues of mentoring, departmental decisions, harassment, discrimination or other issues arise.

Our department follows the protocols for reporting concerns as outlined by the Graduate School. Students seeking department or school help to address a concern should follow the general process below. If, however, you feel uncomfortable bringing your concerns to the individual at one of the stages, then start with the next step in the process (e.g., if your DGS is the source of your concern, then start with your department chair).

If a student needs to address an issue about mentoring or about harassment and/or discrimination, to file a grievance, or to file for an appeal to a decision which has been made, they should contact the Director of Graduate Studies. Students are welcome first to discuss with the DGS whether the concerns can be kept confidential as well as to discuss options for intervention and possible outcomes and consequences. Depending on the situation and on this meeting, the DGS may discuss these concerns with individual or all parties (e.g., your advisors, mentors), or report the concerns to others (chair, dean, Office for Institutional Equity, etc.). The DGS pledges to work with students to resolve grievances without a student’s fear of retribution.

If concerns cannot be addressed after DGS intervention or in a situation where a student believes that the DGS is not the best initial contact, they are welcome to contact the department chair. Depending on the situation, the chair may also discuss concern with individual or all parties (e.g., your advisors, mentors), or report concerns to others (dean, Office for Institutional Equity, etc.).

If concerns cannot be satisfactorily addressed by the DGS or department chair, students can bring them to the senior associate deans for academic affairs and graduate student affairs in the Graduate School. They will work with the leadership of the school in which your program is housed to address the issue. Depending on the situation, this may entail discussions of the concern with individual or all parties, reporting of the concerns to others (Office for Institutional Equity, etc.), and possible corrective or disciplinary actions.

To help students understand their options, the Graduate School (in collaboration with PhD student Kirsten Overdahl) has developed an interactive guide to provide information for its students about options, resources, and processes for reporting and addressing harassment, discrimination, and related concerns including issues with mentors and advisors that students do not feel can be adequately addressed at a department level. Students should feel free to use these resources at any time.


Note: most of the individuals listed above (DGS, chair, deans, etc.) are mandatory reporters and are therefore required to consult with the Office for Institutional Equity when they learn about potential violations of Duke's Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct. If a student feels they need more confidentiality in a given situation, they are welcome to use this portal to pursue confidential options outside of the reporting stream outlined.