Skip to content

GRAD-EXCEL Peer Mentorship Program

The GRAD-EXCEL Program is designed to promote early success in first-year doctoral students, through coaching and engagement with a community of advanced doctoral peer mentors. Each incoming doctoral student will be guided by a GRAD-EXCEL Peer Mentor (matched by research discipline) as they acclimate to UC Merced and their graduate studies during their first academic year. 

GRAD-EXCEL Peer Mentors

GRAD-EXCEL mentors provide a great service to their mentees while developing leadership skills that will enhance their own professional development. Mentors will gain mentoring skills and experience in individual and group settings, increase their knowledge of Graduate Division resources, and interact with various UC Merced faculty, staff and students. 

Graduate peer mentors will serve as mentors for incoming doctoral students participating in the 2023 - 2024 GradEXCELProgram. They will guide incoming doctoral students as they navigate their first-year experience. 

Responsibilities and Expectations

  • Check-in with mentees on a regular basis, at least 1-2 times a month
  • Guide mentees as they acclimate to life at UC Merced and the graduate program culture
  • Share experiences to orient incoming students into their first year of graduate school
  • Report any concerns regarding mentees' progress or well-being in the monthly mentor log
  • Attend and participate in monthly networking sessions in support of your mentees

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Be a continuing doctoral student (preference may be given to students in years three and beyond).
  2. Be currently enrolled in 12 units in your graduate program.
  3. Be in good Academic Standing
  4. Be able to participate in 7 Mentorship Development Training workshops throughout 2023-2024 Academic Year. The Graduate Division is pleased to announce this professional development opportunity for Peer Mentors. The research mentoring seminar will be facilitated by the Graduate Academic Counselor Maria Nishanian.*(8 sessions will be offered through Fall 23 & Spring 24 semesters)

Fellowship Objectives

Grad-EXCEL Mentor Fellows will work with incoming doctoral students in their UC Merced graduate program, the Graduate Division and lead Faculty to enhance mentorship capacity and strengthen their professional development.
Fellowship activities will be designed to meet two objectives:

Objective 1. Support graduate students in the exploration and advancement of their degree,  professional, and career goals and in identifying campus and other resources to achieve those goals.
Objective 2. Mentors will have the opportunity to further develop their mentorship and leadership skills through professional development training workshops. Students who successfully complete 7 workshops will receive a digital mentorship badge.


  • Recipients will receive a fellowship of $1,000. Disbursed in Fall & Spring.

Face-to-Face Mentor/Mentee Meetings

Graduate mentors are encouraged to meet face-to-face with each of their mentees on a regular, bi-weekly basis. Please see below for helpful strategies to help achieve early success in developing your mentor/mentee relationship:

Peer Mentor Monthly Summary Logs

GRAD-EXCEL Peer Mentors will provide written feedback to program staff through the Peer Mentor Log Form. Feedback from mentors will be shared with GRAD-EXCEL program staff and graduate group faculty advisors to the mentors.

GradEXCEL Peer Mentees

As a GradEXCEL Mentee, we ask that you make the following commitments:

  • Believe in yourself! We recognized your potential when you were admitted to UC Merced and we want to help you achieve success.
  • Commit to actively participating for two semesters.
  • Keep open communication. Your mentor will be contacting you throughout both semesters to schedule one-on-one meetings. Be an engaged participant.
  • Speak up when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you are struggling, be honest with yourself and your mentor in order to confront obstacles and get back on a positive track.
  • Have fun! Our GradEXCEL Peer Mentor Program is a great way to expand your relationships and get better acquainted with campus resources.

Benefits of having a Peer Mentor:

There are many benefits to having a person "on your team" as you navigate your first year as a doctoral student at UC Merced. Apart from offering academic advice, a mentor can help you:

  • Connect with resources that will make your transition to graduate education smoother.
  • Meet others with similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences.
  • Get familiar with the UC Merced campus more easily.
  • Overcome challenges and offer encouragement.
  • Identify clubs and activities on campus that will help you hone your leadership skills.
  • Learn to advocate for yourself throughout graduate school.
  • Find opportunities to get involved in the UC Merced campus and surrounding community.

Peer Mentor Program Contact

For more information or questions regarding the GRAD-EXCEL Peer Mentorship Program, please contact contact Academic Counselor, Maria Nishanian via email or the Graduate Resource Center at