Mentoring New Faculty Members
Thank you for Your Support!
Your assistance in helping a new faculty member to make a smooth transition at Dixie State University will serve that new professor, his or her department, the students being taught, and the entire university. Although most organizations do not adequately prepare new employees for their transition into their organization, we care a great deal about the success of our new faculty and your help can make a significant difference. Your follow-up, attention to detail, and the assistance in helping the person to whom you have been asked to mentor is a key element to that new faculty member’s success. You have been selected as a mentor because of the combination of skills, empathy, and communication effectiveness that you possess. Without your assistance, the task of transitioning here at DSU by the new faculty member would be far more difficult.
Thank you for your willingness to accept the responsibility to mentor a new faculty member at Dixie State University. The role of a mentor is critically important to a new faculty member’s success and your contribution to that success will serve the university and the students being taught, as well as the new professor.
Mentoring is a one-on-one relationship between an experienced faculty member (mentor) who shares their knowledge, skills and experience with a less experienced faculty member (mentee) to support their academic and career progression.
The Benefits of Mentoring
“In the town square of a small mountain village, two travelers became acquainted and began to discuss how they had arrived at their remote location. Each had traveled alone and had followed a similar path from the same city but their experiences were quite different.
For the first traveler, the journey was a long and frustrating ordeal. He found his map of limited use because of detours and uncharted obstacles and it took considerably longer than anticipated to cross the various mountain passes. At times he felt as though he were wandering in circles. He prayed he would never need to make the trip again.
The second traveler’s experience was much different. She described her trip as enjoyable and eagerly anticipated return trips “up the mountain.” Upon further questioning, the second traveler revealed a key distinction. As she had made her final preparations for the journey, she happened upon an individual who frequently traveled to and from the village. This individual took the time to explain some of the important geographical features that would be encountered on the journey. Not only did the experienced individual counsel the traveler on how to prepare and plan for the required changes in route, he pointed out interesting sites to see along the way, places to rest, and what to anticipate upon arrival as well. This information was accurate and useful.”
Newby, T. J. & Corner, J. (1997). Mentoring for increased performance: Foundations and methods. Performance Improvement, 36(2), 11-15.
For the Mentor:
- Cultivating collaborators for current and future projects.
- Sharing competencies across cohorts.
- Satisfaction from assisting new colleagues. Improving managerial skills.
- Learning from peers and mentee’s experiences.
- Sharing successes with the goals and experiences met by your mentee.
- Recognition of your own expertise.
- Increase stimulation in working with bright and creative new faculty.
- Opportunities for reflection and renewal of your own teaching and research career.
- Seeing someone understand something, with or without a great result.
For the Mentee:
- More opportunities to not only develop professionally, but also personally (psycho-social needs).
- Increased clarity on career path.
- Growing knowledge and experience under expert guidance.
- Research experiences guided to a higher level.
- Developing and strengthening more connections at Dixie State and beyond.
- Building a stronger professional skill set.
- Reflecting with others on growing competencies and challenges.
- Understanding of the organization culture and building stronger networking contacts.
- Getting formal training in mentoring will make the learning curve more manageable; fewer mistakes will result.
Roles and Responsibilities
For the Mentor
- You are a guide for your mentee to be successful.
- You model positive behaviors.
- You are a wise counselor and friend.
- You are committed to the success of your mentee and others.
- You look for opportunities to help your mentee and others improve.
- You understand the context of those you serve.
- The “mentor pyramid” identifies key tasks in mentoring.
- The foundation of mentoring is built upon trust.
- Help mentees recognize what they’re suited for among specialties.
- Diagnose the mentee’s skill set and help them develop a plan for utilizing and extending it.
- Instill motivation and enthusiasm about mentee’s projects.
- There is a status difference between mentor and mentee; respect the gap between buddy and gatekeeper.
- Listen and learn. Discover who your mentee is as a person and what his/her goals are.
- Have an honest interest in your mentee’s chosen career path.
- Teach mentees how to learn from their mistakes.
For the Mentee
- Respect the time of the mentor.
- Contact your mentor when needed.
- Be willing to do what it takes.
- Strive to do your best.
- Choose your mentor wisely. Ensure he/she is compatible with you in the areas of your research interest and personality.
- Be honest and share a true self-assessment of who you are and what your goals are.
- Give back. Share how you’ve used your mentor’s advice.
Mentors Should Remember that:
- New faculty members may not have extensive teaching experience and may not be well informed about teaching models.
- New faculty will need to obtain their teaching assignments, textbooks that will be used for their classes, access to Canvas, and information about the expected content of Dixie State University syllabi.
- New faculty may need assistance in learning how to utilize Canvas most effectively and would greatly benefit by being able to walk through creating their class website with their mentor.
- New faculty are likely to be relatively uninformed about the university and its unique features.
- New faculty may not have experience working with students who are from an “open enrollment” background.
Checklist for the Academic Year Mentor Expectations:
- Contact new faculty members on or about July 15th by telephone, introduce yourself, and welcome the new person to DSU.
- Follow-up the phone call with an email identifying key information about the Canvas ID and login username and password, a copy of formerly used syllabi for the courses to be taught by the new faculty member, the books to be used for each class, and the phone number and email address of key people to call for assistance (e.g., Faculty IT, Department Chair, Mentor, Department Administrative Assistant).
- Arrange a Skype or telephone call to walk the new faculty member through setting up his or her classes on Canvas.
- Coordinate with the Department Chair and Administrative Assistant to ensure that the new faculty member can quickly obtain copies of textbook used for each assigned class.
- Maintain periodic contact (at least twice) with the new faculty mentor between July 15th and August 12th to check in and identify new faculty member needs.
- Attend the New Faculty Luncheon with the new faculty member from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm on August 13.
- Invite the new faculty member to observe your class during the first semester and to discuss teaching methodologies and other questions.
- Meet with your mentee at least twice during their first semester.
Tips for Mentors and Mentees
Tips for Mentors:
- Let the mentee (or circumstances) set the agenda of meetings.
- If you keep notes at meetings, give your mentee a photocopy each time.
- If you don’t keep notes on meetings, ask the mentee to do so and email you with a summary including the next task(s) and deadline(s) agreed upon.
- Be honest; when there are setbacks, look for a positive sign.
- Be sensitive to the workday limits of mentees who are parents.
- Let your mentee know that they are welcome to talk with you. The gift of your full attention is often the most important one you can give a less experienced colleague.
- Clarify expectations about the extent to which you can, or will, offer guidance concerning personal as well as professional issues. If you are not comfortable assisting in some areas, suggest another faculty member who may be able to assist. Recognize and evaluate what you can offer, and keep in mind that you cannot be expected to fulfill every function.
- Inform mentees about how frequently you will be able to meet with them. Be explicit if you have a heavy travel schedule, are about to take a sabbatical, or will be assuming an administrative position. Discuss alternative means of communication (e.g., email or telephone) and encourage them to consult others who have proven to be reliable advisors. Try always to keep appointments you do make.
- Provide specific information about as many topics as you can, such as the informal rules of the profession and of navigating the department and institution. Help mentees learn what kinds of institutional support they should seek to further their own career development. Tell them about funds to attend a workshop, for example, or release time for special projects.
- Recognize that sometimes your own experience is relevant and useful to colleagues who are more junior; hearing accounts of how you accomplished something (or failed to), including obstacles you faced, can normalize and contextualize experiences for them. At the same time, it’s good to bear in mind that circumstances change in academia, in the various schools, units, and in departments. So it’s good to underscore the need to mentees to look into specific rules, policies and practices as they currently exist rather than relying on information passed on anecdotally.
- Share the “tacit” rules of being successful in the business of research within the relevant unit with mentees.
- Provide opportunities for mentees. For examples, suggest his/her name to be a discussant at national conference or other such opportunities that will increase his/her visibility.
- Ask your mentee to develop and share a work plan that includes short-term and long-term goals as well as a time frame for reaching those goals.
- Give criticism as well as praise when warranted. Always present criticism in a private and non-threatening context with specific suggestions for improvement in the future. Rather than emphasize past problems or mistakes, focus on future actions that may remedy or redress those problems.
- Tell mentees where they stand – how they are doing, whether they are meeting your expectations, and if they are showing what it takes to move up. Be specific. Don’t just tell a mentee that it’s necessary to publish more in high-quality journals, but suggest which journals those are, and give guidelines about approximately how many papers to shoot for in those journals before tenure.
- Take responsibility to encourage junior faculty to be proactive about asking questions, seeking feedback and making connections with senior colleagues. Take the time to make sure mentees are going so.
- Communicate. Failing to communicate is the biggest pitfall for all relationships. Remember that face-to-face meetings can often clear up misunderstandings better than email. Problems need to be discussed as soon as possible.
- Leave time for unstructured conversations: While agendas are good for orientation purposes, be sure to leave time to discuss issues that have arisen for your mentee, like a problem in the classroom, a question about submitting an article, or a concern about department dynamics. While these are not therapy sessions, be willing to listen to your mentee’s thought, concerns, and feelings – and be certain you hold these conversations in strictest confidence in order to maintain the trust that is important to your mentoring relationship.
- Explore the campus with your mentee: Developing a sense of place is important when we enter a new community, so consider exploring the campus with your mentee. Meet in a coffee shop, have lunch in various places, take a tour of the library or art museum together, or visit various campus offices and introduce your mentee to their staffs.
- Follow your mentee’s early work: Be willing to guide your mentee through early attempts at teaching, scholarship, and service. Sit in on classes and discuss what you see happening. Offer to review articles or grant proposals, acting as a writing coach if appropriate. Ask to be assigned to a committee together or talk about what is happening with assigned committee work. Becoming engaged with your mentee’s early work will ground your mentoring in real tasks as well as show your concern for the individual’s development.
- Don’t be afraid to be a mentor. Many mentors underestimate the amount of knowledge that they have about the academic system or their organization, the contacts they have, and the avenues they can use to help someone else. A faculty member does not have to be at the absolute top of his or her profession or discipline to be a mentor. Teaching assistants can mentor other graduate students, graduate students a mentor undergraduates, and undergraduates can help those beginning the major.
- Remember you don’t have to demonstrate every possible faculty role to be an effective mentor, but let your new faculty colleagues know where you are willing to help and what kind of information or support you can give that you believe will be particularly helpful. Be clear about whether you are willing to advise on personal issues, such as suggestions about how to balance family and career responsibilities.
- Let new faculty know if they are asking for too much or too little of your time.
- Where appropriate, “talk up” your new faculty accomplishments to others in your department and institution, as well as at conferences and other meetings.
- Include new faculty in informal activities whenever possible – lunch, discussions following meetings or lectures, dinners during academic conferences.
- Teach new faculty how to seek other career help whenever possible, such as funds to attend workshops or release time for special projects.
Tips for Mentees
Have a five-year model in mind from the outset: see the steps and the endpoint; actual time may vary.
Your mentors expect you to:
- Be goal-directed.
- Have a need for closure.
- Have imagination and original thought.
- Want self-actualization.
- Have perseverance; take comments and keep going.
- Know what a good idea is.
- Have professional adeptness and steady productivity.
- Respect your mentor and senior colleagues’ experience, but insist on understanding what you are doing.
- Make time to meet regularly with your mentor: You will be very busy the first semester, but it is important to make time to meet regularly with your mentor, even when you feel overwhelmed…or especially when you feel overwhelmed. Look at mentoring as an important long-term investment of your time, not just another hassle in your short-term schedule.
- Ask for help or feedback when you need it: Ask questions when you have them; floundering around or fixing mistakes later will take too much of your valuable time. Don’t worry that you are bothering your mentor, or how asking for help might appear. You are new and need assistance; that is the precise reason we have a mentor program in place!
- Be willing to listen and learn: Part of your professional identity probably involves being self-reliant, but take the time to listen to the advice your mentor provides and look at this as an important learning opportunity. Sure, not all advice is useful or accurate in any situation, but be open to learning from your experienced colleagues.
- Take advantage of the opportunities presented: Again, consider various opportunities – speaker, classroom observations, seminars, etc. – as investments in your long-term professional development. Find time for these opportunities, and consider asking your mentor for guidance on which uses of your time might be most beneficial.
- Be open and honest: Share your true feelings, thoughts, and concerns with your mentor; this honesty is vital to getting you the guidance and assistance you need. Because your mentor understands the need for confidentiality, you should feel safe in sharing these thoughts. Remember, though. that confidentiality should work both ways, so be careful about sharing your mentor’s comments with others.
- Be proactive about your needs: If your mentoring relationship is not productive or does not meet your needs, let your mentor know in a courteous manner. Perhaps your mentor doesn’t have the specific experiences or knowledge you need; there is nothing wrong with asking to locate someone who would be able to mentor you in those specific areas. And in some cases, the personal dynamics between a mentor and mentee just don’t work out. Talk to your department chair about finding you a new mentor. It may be an awkward situation, but handled professionally, asking for a new mentor is better than staying in a situation that is unproductive for everyone.
How Can We Help You?
Because your role is so important in mentoring DSU’s new faculty, the Center for Teaching & Learning and the New Faculty Training and Orientation Committee are deeply interested in your success.
Please contact Dr. Bruce Harris, Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning, at 435-879-4638 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about any part of your mentoring role.
The Benefits of Mentoring by Northwestern University
Best Practices for Mentors by Northwestern University
The Roles and Responsibilities by Northwestern University
Giving and Getting Career Advice: A Guide for Junior and Senior Faculty
New Faculty Mentoring Guide by Ball State University
New Faculty Mentoring Program by Northern Illinois University