Academic Faculty Advising of first year Graduate students
Every first-year student is assigned to a faculty advisor, with whom he or she meets before the beginning of each quarter to discuss classes, Department and University requirements, and general progress. This "academic advisor" also provides advice on how to make contact with research groups. The academic advisor maintains this role until the student has started research in a Research group and found a research advisor, who will chair the student's supervisory committee).
Peer mentoring of first year Graduate students
The department has an evolving peer mentoring program. First-year students are paired with a student mentor. Typically a second-year Graduate student or sometimes a more advanced Graduate student who has volunteered for this. These student mentors aim to help the first-year students make the transition to graduate school by sharing their experiences and provide support and advice. Peer mentoring starts during Orientation Week at the start of the Academic year and involves various scheduled events during the year, such as
one social "tea" each quarter to which all mentors and mentees are invited. In addition, mentors meet individually with their mentors once or twice each quarter during the year.
Faculty mentors for advanced graduate students
Advanced Graduate students are advised and mentored by their Research Adviser and their Faculty Mentor. Students forming their Supervisory Committees must designate one of the members, other than the Chair, as a Faculty Mentor.
The difference between advising and mentoring can be summarized as follows (drawn from graduate school documents): advising "focuses on the activities, requirements, and attainment of satisfactory progress through the steps needed to achieve a graduate degree," whereas mentoring "focuses on the human relationships, commitments, and resources that help graduate students find success and fulfillment in the academic and professional pursuits." Research Advisors certainly play an important mentoring as well as advising role, but the department considers it important, as a minimum, to have another faculty member who explicitly takes on a mentoring role. In addition, all students are encouraged to seek, as needed, further mentoring from others in the department (fellow students, postdoctoral researchers, staff) and the broader UW community.
The Mentor on your Committee should agree to take on some responsibility to look out for your overall professional health during your time here doing research. There are no hard and fast rules about mentoring, but it might involve the faculty member seeking you out proactively on an occasional (but regular) basis to discuss your progress and needs. He or she would also be available as a friendly and supportive sounding board, offering constructive criticism, suggesting contacts as needed, and helping you think about future career options.