Plank Center Study Identifies Mentoring Benefits

Dr. Elina Erzikova sits among students in her journalism course.

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama has released a formal white paper highlighting the benefits and best practices entailed in the mentoring process, both at the collegiate level and in the workplace.

As mentorship continues to evolve as a topic of academic research, the study uses extensive research in academic literature and the trade press to suggest, outline and supplement best practices in defining, developing and maintaining mentorship.

Drs. Elina Erzikova, of Central Michigan University, and Diana Martinelli, of West Virginia University, found the key theme focuses on the importance of fostering and encouraging strong mentor-mentee relationships.

The development of these relationships on an interpersonal scale are critical to success, as the relationship itself is the channel through which lessons are learned rather than a step in the process.

Having multiple mentoring relationships, whether in the academic or professional sphere, allow the benefits of mentorship to emerge in full force by drawing from various sources and perspectives, while also fostering a constantly curious and growing mindset that inspires and develops future leaders.

In order to develop these relationships, however, the paper identifies optimal methods for establishing mentorship programs and fostering mentor-mentee engagement through a diverse variety of activities and practices, such as mentorship programs, social events and electronic mentoring (with awareness of potential miscommunication).

In the educational arena, the availability, approachability and respectfulness of faculty are crucial to developing confidence and motivation in students’ development. Education-based mentoring primarily manifests through academic and emotional support, career guidance and role modeling, and requires availability, approachability and clarity from faculty and peers through a variety of channels to support student growth.

Ten best practices were identified for professional mentorship, all of which somewhat mirror the guidelines describing student mentorship. These practices include:

  • Securing visible support from top management and leadership;
  • Practicing and demonstrating professionalism to act as a role model for mentees;
  • Practicing transparency and honesty while serving as a resource for the mentee, and providing mentees with opportunities to hear and witness the mentor’s thoughts and experiences;
  • Instituting productive meetings to build credibility and trust, and understanding the long-term goals—and the ongoing commitment required to meet those goals—is crucial to success; and
  • Allowing mentors and mentees to end unproductive relationships without prejudice to demonstrate the value of mentors and mentees’ time and dignity.

As the paper highlights, many critical elements take part in the development of mentorship relationships. However, three specific elements serve as the main criteria for a successful mentoring relationship: the establishment of goals, the development of trust, and a patient commitment to the mentoring process.

To learn more about this study and its finding, go to

About The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations
The University of Alabama Board of Trustees established The Plank Center in 2005. Named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society through a variety of initiatives (


Jessika White, 205-348-7250,


Rand Nelson, communication specialist, College of Communication and Information Sciences, 205-348-6416,

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.