What they do, and how they do it
To a large extent the comments of junior faculty and unit heads, surveyed in 2007, are consistent with the literature on mentoring and with each other. To see summary and analysis of survey responses from department chairs, click here. Click here to see summary and analysis of survey responses from pre-tenure faculty members. Both groups’ comments are combined below to delineate some best practices and expectations for mentoring:
1. To build and maintain relationships, good mentors should:
- initiate contact,
- facilitate developing mutual expectations about the structure and parameters of the relationship, including the frequency and method of communication, appropriate issues for discussion, and the general areas of development this relationship will address (e.g., scholarship, socialization, personal support),
- set up channels for continued communication such as email, formal meetings or informally “dropping by,”
- be proactive in raising issues or problems that mentees may be unaware of,
- devote time to the relationship,
- follow through on their promised support and commitments,
- foster a supportive relationship built on trust and candor, and
- adapt to changing needs as faculty progress through the pre-tenure years.
2. To provide guidance and clarity regarding the tenure process, effective mentors should:
- be knowledgeable and up-to-date about departmental, college, and university APT processes and promotion expectations,
- communicate tenure expectations appropriate to their mentees,
- help mentees proactively plan how to achieve tenure and assist mentees in their efforts to navigate a successful path to tenure by
- aiding in the development of a timeline plotting progress toward tenure
- helping establish priorities and effectively manage time based on those priorities
- helping with finding solutions to problems as they arise, such as how to maximize productivity
- regularly review CVs,
- provide specific feedback on mentees’ performance and progress towards tenure,
- nominate mentees for awards,
- facilitate mentees’ participation in university and disciplinary seminar series, conference presentations, writing book reviews and similar activities,
- describe the review process and the candidates’ roles in it, and
- assist mentees in preparing for their tenure review.
3. To support scholarship, proficient mentors should:
- learn and remain informed about mentees’ planned research agendas, offering input in light of tenure standards and a six-year time frame,
- provide information and advice on where and how to get published,
- supply guidance on establishing and running laboratories,
- read and comment on draft publications and presentations,
- review and offer comments on grant proposals,
- educate mentees regarding university and external resources, policies, and procedures related to research,
- inform mentees of how to locate funding resources
- notify mentees of proposal writing seminars and similar services
- advise mentees of how to effectively and efficiently get grants through campus and external procedures
- proactively raise issues such as human subjects approval, conflict of interest requirements, and laboratory remodeling,
- guide and aid in the recruitment of students,
- offer to collaborate on scholarship,
- advocate for mentees and their research within departments, and
- introduce mentees to scholars in their field, helping them become known, enabling them to create their own networks, and opening possibilities for collaboration.
4. To provide guidance and support regarding teaching and service, good mentors should:
- provide guidance on advising graduate students,
- offer suggestions concerning the construction of syllabi,
- help address low teaching evaluations,
- refer mentees to campus resources related to teaching and dealing with students, such as the Center for Teaching Excellence, Disabled Student Services, and the Counseling Center,
- advise mentees regarding setting suitable grading standards and then determining grades,
- recommend the types and amount of service to assume,
- aid in determining when and how to turn down excessive service requests, and
- seek to protect mentees from excessive teaching and service loads.
5. To assist with integration into the unit and with professional socialization, effective mentors should:
- help mentees understand a department’s history and culture,
- discuss the interpersonal dynamics within the department,
- guide mentees to understand the behavioral expectations of faculty within their own department,
- teach the degree of visibility within the department that is desired, e.g. would frequently working from home be viewed negatively?
- explain acceptable assertiveness from junior faculty, i.e. how and when and in what areas assertiveness is acceptable
- assist mentees in recognizing and dealing with political situations,
- point them in the direction of departmental resources, such as invaluable staff members, and campus services,
- help mentees learn how to navigate departmental, college, and university policies and procedures.
6. To offer and supply personal support, proficient mentors should:
- show concern for mentees’ personal and professional well-being,
- provide encouragement and offer emotional support,
- help ease mentees’ transition to the university,
- advise newcomers about relocation to this area and settling into a new community,
- share their own personal and professional experiences,
- assist mentees to achieve balance between professional and personal responsibilities, and
- know mentees’ personal situations, such as parenthood or a commuter marriage, and offer guidance on ways to negotiate these aspects of their lives during the pre-tenure period.
7. To best fit the needs of mentees, at times serve as referral agents to other possible mentors who are more familiar with or seem better suited to provide assistance in a given area. When a mentor is particularly busy, a referral may also be in everyone’s best interest.
Click here to see summary and analysis of responses from pre-tenure faculty members.
Click here to see summary and analysis of responses from department chairs.
Click here to return to the mentoring home page.