Through faculty mentoring a more senior faculty member shares his or her experience, expertise and advice regarding research, teaching and other professional development issues with less experienced colleagues.
Academics often think of mentoring as guidance for assistant professors seeking tenure, but it also applies to tenured professors working towards their career development goals. A mentor may serve as a guide to the institution and its culture, research advisor, teaching resource, or role model. The goals of mentoring are:
- To help new faculty members acclimate to the formal and informal norms of the department, college, and university;
- To foster effective research skills and publishing strategies;
- To encourage faculty members to refine and expand teaching strategies;
- To foster development of a productive balance between research, teaching, and service;
- To guide faculty members in progression toward promotion and tenure; and
- To foster an atmosphere of collegiality and community.
Why is mentoring beneficial?
When they first arrive, all faculty members, regardless of their rank and past experiences, need to learn the culture, protocols, and procedures of UM-Dearborn. The faster they can acclimate, the sooner they can focus their energies on teaching, research and service. Both new and established faculty members can benefit from advice from colleagues. Collegial critiques of drafts of papers and grant proposals may save valuable review time and increase the chances of early success. Comments on drafts of course proposals are also helpful, and we can all improve our teaching skills. By fostering collegiality, mentoring will not only increase teaching and research productivity, but will also lead to increased faculty satisfaction and improved morale. The potential benefits of faculty mentoring to protégés include:
- Quicker acclimation to the work
- Improved teaching
- Improved research skills and productivity
- Better informed choices regarding service activities
- Increased social contact
The potential benefits to mentors include:
- Satisfaction from contributing to the development of a colleague
- Exposure to new research techniques and topics, and different teaching styles and strategies
- Reinvigoration of teaching and research programs
Establishing the mentoring relationship
It is the responsibility of College Deans and Department Chairs to set the tone for mentoring.
“If the chair or director does not appear to truly value the practice, or merely gives it lip service, it will be clear to all concerned that it is not a valued activity in the unit. By taking career advising seriously, and consistently communicating that it is part of the responsibility of all faculty, chairs and directors can help create a climate in which better career advising takes place.”
UM--Giving and Getting Career Advice: A guide for junior and senior faculty
Various parties play an integral role in a successful faculty mentoring relationship. Following are some suggestions.
1. The dean asks all chairs and directors to include in their annual reports a section on mentoring and on diversity; this is part of the conversation between the dean and chairs and directors in their annual review conversation.
2. The dean’s office will sponsor an annual information session on effective mentoring for new faculty members and for chairs and directors.
1. As soon as a candidate is offered a position and accepts, the chair or director works with colleagues to develop a mentoring plan for the new faculty member. The new faculty member will be consulted in developing this plan. The plan should include attention to teaching, graduate supervision, and research and should be predicated on being helpful rather than authoritarian. Care should be taken not to be unintentionally coercive in the formulation of the mentoring plan and to ensure that it yields reasonably consistent advice for the new appointee. This mentoring plan should include participation by several members of the department/program during the six years of the candidate’s progress towards tenure.
2. Heads of departments and programs should work to develop a “climate of mentoring” in which all members of the department/program spontaneously and informally mentor their new colleagues. Collegial conversations about the intellectual concerns of the department/ program are one of the best modes of informal mentoring. Departments and programs will sponsor departmental/program events, such as colloquia and seminars, that include new faculty as both audience and presenters, make them welcome as members of the community, and serve as modes of informal mentoring.
3. Chairs and directors encourage new faculty to take full advantage of help in preparing for successful teaching and research that is offered by university, such as through the HUB for Teaching and Learning, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), and Consulting for Statistics, Computing and Analytics Research (CSCAR). Colleges and departments can sponsor, or co-sponsor with other units, to assure that faculty are fully aware of extra-departmental program opportunities offered by the university.
Faculty members interested in developing mentoring relationships should be responsive to any offers of assistance and open to taking the initiative in forming mentoring relationships. Mentors may need to be prepared to present a mentee’s case for renewal and promotion in the future.
Get to know your colleagues by talking to them both at informal occasions and formal gatherings. For example, initiate a conversation just before or after a meeting, in the mailroom or at a social gathering. A successful mentee will be cordial, respectful of a mentor's time, and willing to take advantage of opportunities offered by a mentor. To expand access to a variety of perspectives and an array of areas of expertise, consider forming a mentoring “team” or becoming part of a faculty development group. To make the most of a mentoring relationship:
- maintain contact with mentors
- keep mentors apprised of academic progress
- ask for help and raise concerns
- listen to and seriously consider mentors' advice
- exchange ideas and experiences with mentors
Multiple mentors may yield greater effectiveness based on the strengths and limitations of each person involved. While the assignment of a mentor should be a collaborative process, recognizing the utility of multiple mentors, each with a specific, non-overlapping mandate, may be useful. Some of the areas a mentee can seek advice include Policies / Practices / Teaching / Research / Service / Emotional / Special Interests.
The "what, who, and when" of mentoring
The What of Mentoring
Mentor(s) can provide advice on all aspects of academic development of a mentee, teaching, research, service, and topics of interest of the parties. A suggested list can be found here in this “Best Practice Checklist.”
The Who of Mentoring
A mentoring relationship include at least two parties: mentee and mentor. Both mentee’s and mentor’s own experience is relevant and valuable. Mentors should refer mentees to colleagues for further clarification on policies, additional information and advice, potential collaboration, and such.
Beware of differences in personality, opinions, communication styles, and other aspects. With mutual respect, mentor and mentee can develop a good and effective mentoring relationship transcending the differences. If the differences become a negative force, other options could be sought out
The When of Mentoring
It is a commitment of time and energy from both mentor and mentee. To best use the time to have a productive mentoring relationship, following suggestions provide best practices in regard time and timing:
- Mentoring should begin when a new employee accepts the offer with the support from dean and chair.
- Mentor/Mentee communication should start as early as possible.
- Establish a regular meeting schedule, if possible.
- Establish clear, shared expectations for the relationship including time commitment.
- Establish clear communication protocols/expectations
Ideas for mentoring activities
- Exchange, review and discuss each other’s vitae.
- Get to know each other informally, e.g. having coffee , sharing a meal, going to a local museum together.
- Take a tour of campus together.
- Introduce mentee to staff in their department and college.
- Introduce mentee to campus resources such as the Office of Sponsored Research.
- Introduce mentee to colleagues with similar research and/or teaching interests.
- Visit each other’s classroom and discuss teaching techniques and other issues.
- Share your own experiences with journal referees and editors.
- Share and discuss annual review letters.
- Encourage participation in regional and national meetings and professional associations.
- Suggest books and articles to read
Tips for an effective mentoring relationship
In addition to being a successful researcher and teacher, a good mentor is accessible, responsive, open-minded, dedicated to the development of others, self-confident and people-oriented. Mentors need to be good listeners, able to offer honest and constructive criticism, willing to compliment the protégé’s accomplishments and “talk them up” in their department and college. Mentors must be able to do these things in a confidential manner. An effective mentor will: initiate contact with the mentee devote time to the mentoring relationship familiarize the mentee with the campus environment and culture assist the mentee in developing a professional network help the mentee set his or her priorities and establish both short and long term goals follow up on a mentee’s progress listen to mentee’s concerns and questions and offer advice in a confidential manner.
Mentoring relationship is a two-way communication activity. Thus it is important for both mentor and mentee to be able to
- Identify own strengths, weaknesses, and biases
- Assess and build communication and listening skills, including the ability to give full attention when communicating and engaging in good listening skills.
- Clarify mutual expectations for the relationship: what is each person expecting from the mentoring relationship?
- Discuss and set up confidentiality expectations
Some topics may not be a concern for all faculty but worth discussion in certain case, including but not limited to:
- Discuss ways of being assertive in meetings.
- Discuss how to manage a class where a woman faculty member may be challenged more than a male instructor; the same goes for faculty of color.
- Encourage your mentee to be selective when accepting assignments.
- Be conscious of hidden workloads given one’s gender or race/ethnicity (e.g. student advising and committee assignments).
To have an effective mentoring relationship, there are some pitfalls to watch out and avoid, including:
- Recognize that a power differential exists between mentor and mentee.
- Be aware of your own gender and cultural biases.
- Be aware of and guard against boundary violations or the appearance of boundary violations: define limits and stick to them.
External and extra resources
There are many resources on faculty mentoring. The content of this web page mainly come from following sources. You are strongly encouraged to explore further for more details.
Giving and Getting Career Advice: A Guide for Junior and Senior Faculty, University of Michigan
Career Advising (Mentoring), LSA, University of Michigan
Mentoring in CASL, Pamela Aronson, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Faculty Mentoring Toolkit: A Resource for Faculty and Administrators, Michigan State University
One-to-One Faculty Mentoring Program Guide for Participants, Brown University