Fall has arrived in Chapel Hill with warm days, cool nights and new cohorts of students in our 89 master’s and doctoral programs. Nearly 2,400 graduate students matriculated at Carolina this fall and as always they hail from around the state, country and world. The Graduate School’s website provides more information.

This fall, The Graduate School is supporting more than 360 students, with more than $15 million for living stipends, tuition, fees and health insurance so these students can focus on accomplishing their best work.

Gifts from private donors are a very significant source of this support for our graduate students, with 146 students fully supported to do their best by our alumni and friends.

These students include our entering class of 29 new five-year Royster Society Fellows, who join a highly accomplished group of 128 five-year and dissertation completion fellows. These students bring a diversity of talents and experiences to Carolina. They will be future leaders in their disciplines and help to address important problems in the world.

We are also proud to have 82 graduate students funded through nationally competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, as well as many more students awarded dozens of other national awards, including the Fulbright and Mellon, among others.

As our new students begin their journey in graduate school they will learn to navigate their classes, make new friends, begin to discover the depths of their discipline and, importantly, they will choose a mentor for their thesis/dissertation work. This is one of the most important relationships they will form during their graduate career and part of what makes graduate study so special.

Faculty members at Carolina take their roles as mentors very seriously. Exceptional faculty mentors provide a supportive environment by providing information and encouraging their students to establish their own record of scholarly activity. Good mentors achieve a successful record of graduate degree completion among the students they have advised.

Dean Steve Matson presents the Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring to Dr. Marilie Gammon.

Dean Steve Matson presents the Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring to Dr. Marilie Gammon at the 2014 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony.

In fact, studies have shown that exceptional mentoring is critically important to the success of a graduate student. A recent retrospective study of doctoral students in the Kenan-Flagler Business School concluded that mentoring was the single most important predictor of graduate student success. While GRE scores, letters of recommendation and past accomplishments as an undergraduate student are all important indicators for admission to graduate programs – mentoring is the best indicator of success as a graduate student.

The Graduate School honors the importance and commitment to mentoring in two ways. First, The Graduate School presents a Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring at our annual Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at spring commencement. We receive dozens of nominations for this award from current students and supporting letters from past students. Reading these nominations is an affirmation of the dedication of our faculty to exceptional mentoring, while indicating how important this relationship is to the success of our students.

And now we have an exciting new way to honor great graduate student mentoring. We have recently established a new professorship in The Graduate School that recognizes the special bond that forms between a student and his/her mentor. This represents an innovative approach to faculty and graduate student support at UNC-Chapel Hill. The selected recipient receives recognition for his or her accomplishments as a mentor, a stipend and a small research fund. In addition, the recipient selects a current graduate student mentee to receive a fellowship that fully supports their graduate work for three years.

I am truly grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Harold E. Glass of Philadelphia for making possible the Harold J. Glass USAF Faculty Mentor/Graduate Fellow Distinguished Term Professorship. Harold and Holly clearly recognize the importance of the mentor/mentee relationship. I think you will enjoy reading more about this professorship and the faculty and student recipients of this honor. Perhaps this story may bring you back to the relationship you enjoyed with your own mentor and the difference he or she made in your life and career.

As always, I encourage you to please visit our Tar Heel Footprints website and add your footprint or update your information. We are very pleased to recognize our alumni across the country and the world with this visual representation of the impact you are making. We have nearly reached the 3,000-footprint mark so let’s keep adding footprints.