Office of the Provost

Recommendations to the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
from
The Provost's Advisory Committee on Mentoring and Community Building
December 22, 2004

Introduction

In November 2000, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs sponsored a retreat entitled, “Mentoring, Quality of Faculty Life and Community Building.” Nearly 100 University of Michigan administrators attended the retreat, including deans, associate and assistant deans, and department chairs. In January 2001, the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Mentoring and Community Building was established. The committee was charged with the task of identifying strategies to improve support for faculty, improving awareness and understanding of mentoring, and surveying faculty and administrators regarding their experiences with and their needs for mentoring.

During the 2003-2004 academic year, the Committee administered two surveys on faculty mentoring, one targeted to assistant professors and one targeted to academic administrators. Also, several focus groups were held with small groups of survey respondents, which allowed for more in-depth discussion of issues related to faculty mentoring. The results and findings of the surveys and focus groups are provided in a separate report.

The Committee developed the recommendations below after studying the findings from the surveys and focus groups, but they are also based on the work and discussions of the Committee since its inception.

Recommendations  

1. The Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs should actively promote mentoring by establishing and distributing guidelines for faculty mentoring to the schools, colleges, departments, and academic programs.

The Provost should provide the guidelines below to the deans of the schools and colleges with an expectation that the deans, in turn, will provide them to department chairs and program directors (where applicable).

a. Deans, department chairs, and academic program directors should ensure that junior faculty members who want mentoring receive it.

b. Since each school, college, department, or academic program is unique, each dean, department chair, or program director should (1) identify the key skills and resources that junior faculty need, taking into account the unique mentoring needs that some faculty groups have above typical mentoring needs, and (2) offer appropriate mentoring and support, taking into account the good practices for effective mentoring that the Committee has identified through its work (see below).

c. Schools, colleges, or academic departments/programs should periodically assess the mentoring needs, interests, and experiences of junior faculty.

d. The schools, colleges, and academic departments/programs should take steps to ensure that all junior faculty members know about mentoring opportunities available to them.

e. Because some junior faculty members are reluctant to ask for guidance or help, each school, college, department, or academic program should ensure that some type of outreach to junior faculty members occurs periodically.

f. Deans, department chairs, and academic program directors should include mentoring junior faculty as a criterion in their reviews of senior faculty members (annual merit reviews and promotion reviews).

2. The Provost should ask the deans to describe annually in some manner (e.g., the annual school/college budget document) the state of faculty mentoring in the schools, colleges, or academic departments/programs and what efforts, if any, they or department/program chairs have taken to improve faculty mentoring.

3. The Provost’s Office should include faculty mentoring as a criterion for promoting senior faculty from Associate Professor to Professor.

4. The Provost’s Office should assign responsibility within the Provost’s Office to pay attention to issues related to faculty mentoring.

5. The Provost’s Office should revise its current online mentoring resources to make them more generic and therefore relevant over time:

In some cases, a description of a mentoring effort might be ascribed to a school/college or academic department/program. But to keep the resource from becoming out of date, the Committee perceives this resource primarily as a repository of general ideas that deans, department chairs, academic program directors, and individual faculty members can draw from. See Appendix A of the “Report on the Faculty Mentoring Study.”

The Provost’s Office should also make available on the mentoring website the resource entitled “Five Approaches to Faculty Mentoring,” The tool describes five types of mentoring approaches and a set of benefits and issues for each approach. See Appendix B of the “Report on the Faculty Mentoring Study.”

6. The Provost’s Office should consider offering grants to schools, colleges, and academic departments/programs for structured mentoring efforts and incentives (e.g., funds for programs or initiatives to promote or reward school, college, or department/program faculty mentoring initiatives.

7. The Provost’s Office should sponsor opportunities for academic department chairs and program directors to discuss faculty mentoring and other topics of interest.

For example, this networking opportunity could take the form of several department chair lunches during the academic year.

Good Practices for Effective Mentoring
(Based on Survey and Focus Group Findings)

  • It is best to conceive mentoring as a networking effort rather than to conceive and talk about mentoring as a relationship with one faculty member who will meet all one’s needs.

  • Mentoring should address the specific department- and discipline-related needs of individual junior faculty members, but should not be conceived as “one-size-fits-all”.

  • Faculty will generally need a combination of mentors within and outside the department.

  • A mix of unstructured (informal) and structured (formal) mentoring efforts is most effective. Mentoring efforts can range from formal (e.g., scheduled meetings with the department chair, mentor assignments) to informal (e.g., academic and/or social events that give junior faculty members the chance to meet a variety of senior faculty members in a non-threatening environment—making a social connection is often an important first step to forming a professional connection).

  • An important component of all mentoring efforts is advice about the “nuts and bolts” of academic work, as well as other information that demystifies the process of becoming a successful faculty member.

  • Academic leadership and senior faculty should recognize publicly the importance of faculty mentoring as a tool for academic success.

  • Deans, department chairs, and academic program directors must also try to foster a culture of trust and collaboration in the school, college, or department/program, as these are key elements to effective faculty mentoring.

  • An effective approach to mentoring junior faculty is to focus on the process of helping them become the best academics they can be, instead of focusing solely on the outcome of achieving tenure.

Members of the 2003-2004
Provost’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Mentoring and Community Building
(The lists below cite the positions the contributors held at the time.)

Daniel Washington (Chair), Assistant Dean and Associate Professor, School of Music

Ellen Arruda, Associate Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

James Bean, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Industrial Operations Engineering College of Engineering

Izak Duenyas, Associate Dean and Professor, Ross School of Business

Barbara Therrien, Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Kathryn Tosney, Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Marilyn Woolfolk, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Community Dentistry, School of Dentistry

Glenda Haskell (ex officio), Assistant Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

With thanks to previous members of the Committee and our Research Assistants:

Jeffrey Alexander, Associate Dean and Professor of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health

Valerie Castle, who served as a member of the Committee during her appointment as Associate Provost, which ended on September 1, 2003, when she assumed a position as Chair of the UM Department of Pediatrics

Martha Feldman, Professor, Ford School of Public Policy

Marilyn Lantz, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor, School of Dentistry (who also served as Chair)

Nancy Adair Birk, Doctoral Candidate, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, University of Michigan

Thomas E. Perorazio, Doctoral Candidate, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary