Office of the Provost

Five Approaches to Faculty Mentoring

The table below describes five general approaches to faculty mentoring. Each of the five summaries includes a description of the approach, how it might look in practice, and a brief outline of benefits and issues to consider for that approach.

The five approaches are:

Informal Mentoring
One-to-One Mentoring
Cluster Mentoring
Unit Oversight Mentoring
Network Mentoring

We hope this document will be a helpful tool for deans, associate deans, department chairs, academic program directors, senior faculty, and junior faculty.

Informal Mentoring

Description

Benefits and Issues

Mentoring

Implementation and Practices

Definition:

  • Informal mentoring arising spontaneously, as individuals interact during normal professional activities.

Assumptions:

  • Formalized mentoring may be detrimental as it adds to faculty workloads.
  • Natural interactions allow junior faculty to seek out advice in accord with their individual needs.
  • The department is available as the definitive source of information, opportunities and resources.

 

Relationships:

Mentors are not formally assigned. Instead, mentoring arises as people interact during:

  • Committee meetings
  • Collaborations in research or teaching
  • Casual encounters: lunches, coffees, hallway conversations, and social gatherings.
  • Ad hoc meetings are initiated by senior or junior faculty (“open-door” policy).

Junior faculty are the usual initiators:                                                

  • Junior faculty solicit advice from senior faculty that they select.
  • Junior faculty develop their own interaction networks.
  • Junior faculty interact with one another, for peer support and networking.
  • Junior faculty seek information and advice from Department sources.

 

Benefits:

  • Mentoring relationships are not imposed; instead, they develop naturally.
  • Faculty become self-sufficient and interact without suffering from imposed formal arrangements.
  • Mentoring strategies are flexible and thus are adaptable to each department.

Issues:

  • The onus is largely on junior faculty to seek mentoring.
  • Junior faculty may be reluctant to seek out senior colleagues.
  • Junior faculty may not know their needs, be able to articulate their needs, or understand what resources are available to address their needs.
  • Senior faculty may not view mentoring activity as an important component of their work or the department’s mission.
  • Interactions may not develop naturally.

The unique needs of special faculty groups may be overlooked.

 

One-on-One Mentoring

Description

Benefits and Issues

Mentoring

Implementation and Practices

Definition:

  • In this system, mentoring is formally established as a one-on-one relationship between junior and senior faculty.
  • Terms are variable and may include:
    • Long-term commitments
    • One-year terms
    • Rotating assignments changed at regular intervals
  • The mentoring may incorporate individual or departmental reviews.

Assumptions:

  • The administration is committed to mentoring.
  • A single mentor can best satisfy the needs of junior faculty.
  • Senior faculty have the knowledge needed to serve as mentors.
  • Junior faculty benefit from interactions with someone familiar with their work.
  • Faculty have sufficient time to foster meaningful mentoring relationships.
  • Mentors and mentees can find areas of compatibility.
  • Both junior and senior faculty benefit from mentoring relationships.

Ways of assigning mentors :

  • Formally assigned based on research interests.
  • Junior faculty selects mentor.
  • Senior faculty selects mentee.

Activities:

  • Meetings are regular and periodic.
  • Issues are defined jointly or arise from either the mentee or the mentor.
  • Junior faculty needs, timeframe, and expectations are discussed formally.
  • Research and publications are discussed formally.
  • The mentor oversees progress towards tenure.
  • The mentor aids networking in the research field.
  • The mentor facilitates participation in professional activities, grant writing, and reviewing.
  • The mentor and mentee may collaborate in research and teaching.

 

Benefits:

  • This system can lead to long-term professional relationships and friendships.
  • Junior faculty may gain an ally and advocate.
  • Senior faculty may become reenergized or more invested in the department.

Issues:

  • Dyads may be incompatible.
  • Changing partners can be awkward.
  • One mentor may not satisfy all needs.
  • Time constraints may prevent regular interactions.
  • Senior faculty may lack incentives to invest time in mentoring.
  • Departments may have too few mentors who are knowledgeable and willing to serve.
  • Competitiveness may hinder good mentoring.
  • Interdisciplinary appointments can complicate mentoring arrangements.

 

 

Cluster Mentoring

Description

Benefits and Issues

Mentoring

Implementation and Practices

Definition:

  • In this system, a group of senior faculty is formally assigned to each junior faculty member, to give advice on both personal and professional concerns.
  • Mentees may meet with the entire committee, or with individuals.

 Assumptions:

  • The administration is committed to mentoring.
  • Senior faculty are preferred as mentors.
  • Senior faculty may lack sufficient time to foster meaningful one-on-one interactions.
  • No single individual possesses all the knowledge necessary for mentoring.
  • Junior faculty need to receive multiple perspectives.
  • Both junior and senior faculty benefit from mentoring relationships.
  • Personal concerns can have an impact on professional development and are thus a valid issue for mentoring.

 

Implementation :

  • The composition of the group may reflect the diverse needs of mentees.
  • Committee members may be chosen based on research and teaching interests or other relevant experience.
  • Assignments may be made yearly.
  • Committees and junior faculty may be reviewed periodically.

 Activities:

  • Meetings are regular and periodic.
  • Meetings jointly define junior faculty needs, timeframe, and expectations.
  • Research and publications are discussed.
  • The committee oversees progress towards tenure.
  • Committee members aid networking in the field and facilitate participation in professional activities.
  • The mentors and mentee may collaborate in research and teaching.
  • The committee addresses personal concerns such as balancing work and family obligations.
  • The group serves as the gateway for unit, school/college, and university resources.

Benefits:

  • Junior faculty can access the knowledge and resources of several senior faculty.
  • The aggregate strengths and knowledge of several senior mentors provides a more holistic experience.
  • Having multiple potential mentors makes it easier to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a mentor.
  • If rapport is not established with one mentor, others are readily available.
  • Group dynamics facilitate interactions that may enhance research and teaching of all committee members.

 

Issues:

  • Senior faculty members may not interact well with one another.
  • Conflicting advice may obscure what is important and confuse mentees.
  • Oversight is needed to resolve conflicting advice.

 

 

Unit Oversight Mentoring

Description

Benefits and Issues

Mentoring

Implementation and Practices

Definition:

  • In oversight mentoring, the chair (or unit director), perhaps in consultation with a committee, mentors junior faculty and monitors their progress.
  • Mentoring focuses on tenure and promotion.
  • Existing tenure and promotion criteria provide specific guidelines.

  Assumptions:

  • Administrative leadership symbolizes departmental interest in junior faculty development.
  • Focusing on tenure and promotion is the most appropriate framework for mentoring.
  • The chair is the most appropriate individual to mentor.
  • The chair is the most accurate and relevant source of information for mentoring.
  • Junior faculty benefit from ongoing interactions with the chair.
  • Junior faculty can access campus resources as needed.

Ways of assigning mentors:

  • The mentor is the unit chair.
  • The chair may mentor in conjunction with a standing or ad hoc committee.

Activities:

  • Meetings are regular and periodic.
  • Research and publications are discussed.
  • The chair and mentee jointly define junior faculty needs, timeframe, and expectations.
  • The chair oversees progress towards tenure, grant writing and teaching.
  • The chair aids networking in the field and facilitates participation in professional activities.
  • The chair may provide assistance with personal concerns such as balancing work and family obligations.
  • The chair serves as the gateway for unit, school/college, and university resources.

Benefits:

  • Chairs are actively engaged in junior faculty development.
  • Junior faculty receive feedback and information pertinent to their own unit.
  • The emphasis on tenure and promotion keeps the mentee focused on activities that support professional development.

  Issues:

  • Linking mentoring to tenure and promotion could marginalize unassociated career development activities.
  • Chairs may have a heavy burden if they are wholly responsible for the professional guidance of all junior faculty members.
  • Other issues, such as personal concerns, may be ignored.

 

 

Network Mentoring

Description

Benefits and Issues

Mentoring

Implementation and Practices

Definition:

In network mentoring, the culture supports continuous mentoring, so that people within the unit serve as mutual resources for one another.

  • This system blends administrative leadership, departmental involvement, and junior faculty initiative.
  • This system is not an explicit mentoring program; instead, mentoring arises through ongoing academic work.

  Assumptions:

  • Junior faculty mentoring is a unit responsibility.
  • No one individual possesses all the knowledge needed for mentoring.
  • Senior faculty may have insufficient time to foster meaningful mentoring relationships on their own.
  • Junior faculty are expected to take advantage of resources that are available.
  • Senior faculty and administrators are expected to readily assist junior faculty.

Implementation:

  • A collaborative system arises through normal departmental activities.
  • Junior and senior faculty work together on projects, committee work, and in professional societies.
  • Structures can be flexible:

Particular faculty may be responsible for providing particular types of information.

An “open-door” policy can facilitate junior faculty willingness to seek advice.

Senior faculty can periodically check up on the progress of junior colleagues.

Chairs and directors can oversee junior faculty progress.

  Relationships:

  • Interactions can range from traditional dyads to collaborative partnerships with multiple colleagues.
  • This system also promotes peer support and interactions among junior faculty.
  • This system seeks to build a culture that incorporates mentoring into natural departmental functions.

Benefits:

  • Mentoring becomes viewed as a collective responsibility.
  • This system fosters greater collegiality among all members.
  • Junior faculty become socialized to embrace collegial development and to serve in turn as mentors.
  • Junior faculty receive multiple perspectives on professional issues, rather than relying on a single individual or group for guidance.
  • All faculty make connections across a broader spectrum of professional interests.

  Issues:

  • Junior faculty must be willing to initiate contact.
  • Senior faculty and administrators must be committed to continually participate in mentoring.
  • Senior faculty commitment may be hampered by a lack of incentives.
  • Responsibility for tracking progress of junior faculty may become too diffused.