Author

Sara Cyr

Date of Award

8-2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

John C. Sherblom

Second Committee Member

Claire C. Sullivan

Third Committee Member

Nathan E. Stormer

Abstract

Graduate assistants are in unique positions within the university system as they may teach or conduct research as well as complete their own coursework. As a newcomer, graduate assistants learn about the university's culture and history, the norms and expectations of their peers, and their own job duties. To reduce the uncertainty that surrounds a new environment, a new graduate assistant may enact different information seeking strategies. For example, they may directly ask questions from a supervisor, quietly observe their co-workers, or ask indirect questions about a topic. These strategies can vary from person to person, depending on the type of information requested and the information source. Another aspect that may play a role in a graduate assistant's choice of information seeking strategy is communication apprehension. Individuals with higher levels of communication apprehension feel more uncomfortable or tense and embarassed communicating with others, therefore it seems likely they will also avoid more direct information seeking strategies. Most individuals with communication apprehension avoid certain communication situations, and therefore avoid seeking the information necessary to reduce uncertainty. One way individuals can receive the information they need to reduce their anxiety and also develop support behaviors is to engage in a mentoring relationship. A mentor is willing to share his or her knowledge, as well as provide support, advice, or friendship. This study examines mentoring relationships for new graduate assistants, as well as the role of communication apprehension and information seeking strategies. Questionnaires were distributed to graduate assistants at the University of Maine. The questionnaire contained three items, each relating to mentoring, information seeking, and communication apprehension. The results indicate that engaging in a mentoring relationship is important to graduate assistants. 61 of the 69 respondents indicated they did have a mentor, and more specifically, 73% indicated their mentor was a faculty member or advisor. Overall, communication apprehension does appear to be moderately relatd to information seeking strategies, specifically in those involving one-on-one interactions. Since graduate assistants must learn an overwhelming amount of information in an a short amount of time, information seeking strategies, and more importantly, mentoring relationships, have proven to be effective strategies in reducing anxiety and providing the necessary tools to navigate their way through research projects, teaching, and the future.

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