University at Albany

Mentoring Best Practices

A Handbook - Written and edited by Tine Reimers

Executive Summary/Table of Contents

I.   Starting a Mentoring Program—Why do it and what are my options?

II.  Best Practices in Mentoring for Colleges and Departments

III. Guidelines and Resources for Mentors

IV. Guidelines and Resources for Mentees

V. Appendices:

The term “mentoring” has come to mean different things to different people, so we’d like to begin by revisiting some definitions that can help to guide us when we seek to develop mentoring programs and a “culture of mentoring” on our campus:  

  • A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor, a guide and teacher (Homer)

  • A mentor coaches, teaches, advises, supports, guides and helps the mentees achieve their goals…furthers his or her charges’ personal and professional identities…teaches both how to get things done, and what not to do. (Bernice Sandler)

  • Mentoring is a tool that organizations can use to nurture and grow their people…Protégés observe, question, and explore. Mentors demonstrate, explain and model. (

  • Mentoring is a personal as well as a professional relationship (Jo Handelsman, “Entering Mentoring”)

The definitions above hint at the variety of opinions about where the responsibility for mentoring lies, and what the process of mentoring should look like.  Some have objected to the traditional “top down” feel of Homer’s definition, expressing the concern that mentoring can become coercive, damaging a mentee’s independence of thought and action while retaining only the mentor’s power. Bernice Sandler’s definition places increased emphasis on the advocacy role of the mentor to further the mentee’s career goals. The third definition locates the responsibility for mentoring on the entire institution as a way to foster organizational development. Finally, Jo Handelsman’s definition points out the personal dimension of any professional development effort in which both mentors and mentees engage. 

In essence, a mentoring relationship is about a flow of knowledge between people, but not necessarily in only one direction or within a hierarchy.  Peers can also be a valuable source of mentoring for both junior and senior faculty. For the purposes of this document, we will be using ‘mentoring’ to refer to any help with professional development that a person, a program or the institution as a whole offers to faculty at UAlbany.  We locate responsibility for mentoring of colleagues in individual faculty, in departments, in colleges and in the institution as a whole. We will refer to mentors and mentees as partners in a relationship that may include elements of all of the definitions with which we began above, and which works ideally as a two-way engagement rather than a one-way sharing of information. In this handbook we will emphasize the mentoring of junior faculty, keeping in mind, however, that opportunities for mentoring relationships can and should be available for faculty at all ranks.

This handbook will consider various perspectives on mentoring and offer resources for additional exploration in the appendices.

I.   Starting a Mentoring Program—Why do it and what are my options? (click for more)
This chapter will be useful for anyone wishing to design a formal mentoring program from beginning to end. It outlines kinds of programs possible, their advantages and their disadvantages.

II.  Best Practices in Mentoring for Colleges and Departments (click for more)
This chapter presents deans with ideas and resources for how to foster mentoring within a whole college; and department chairs with strategies for developing and nurturing mentoring within departments.

III. Guidelines and Resources for Mentors (click for more)
This chapter suggests mentoring activities to mentors and describes ways to structure effective mentoring relationships.

IV. Guidelines and Resources for Mentees (click for more)
This chapter provides strategies to mentees for getting the most out of their mentoring relationships.

V. Appendices:
Downloadable forms for developing effective mentoring relationships (click for more)
Sources used for this handbook (click for more)
Bibliography for additional reading (click for more)

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