Mentoring Best Practices


We strongly encourage deans, chairs and other academic leadership to support faculty mentoring programs.  

These initiatives not only help develop and retain our talented faculty, saving the University from time-consuming and costly hiring searches, but also been shown to improve departments’ productivity and success. Review why mentoring matters


Best Practices for Schools & Colleges 

Mentoring is most effective when it’s supported not only by individuals and departments but also by schools and colleges. 

The dean and their administrative staff need to set expectations for mentoring, create a supportive climate for junior faculty and emphasize the value of and reasons for mentoring within their entire school or college. 

How to Foster a Culture of Mentoring as a Dean or Associate Dean
  • Invite all tenure-track faculty to an annual meeting on tenure and promotion. Prepare your junior faculty by discussing the requirements and process. Chairs and directors should also be invited, so they can discuss what they look for in tenure dossiers. 
  • Address individual issues by holding smaller meetings with junior faculty. Make yourself available to discuss specific situations, such as new research, interdisciplinary research and joint appointments.
  • Make mentoring a normal part of annual reports and evaluations. Ask chairs and directors to include a section on mentoring efforts in their annual reports. Discuss those efforts with chairs and directors during their annual evaluations. 
  • Assess and improve departments’ climates to ensure the culture is collegial and inclusive to women and people of color. Be sure you’re fostering teamwork, not internal competition. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Equity and Compliance offer training and other resources. 
  • Hold annual information sessions on effective mentoring. Schedule sessions for new faculty members, for mentors, and for chairs and directors to introduce the main concepts. Then periodically host mentor-only meetings and mentee-only meetings to exchange ideas and resources. 
  • Share resources with chairs, directors and faculty. Include tools for improving their teaching, facilitating mentoring programs and preparing for tenure and promotion. 

Understandably, junior faculty often ask for promotion and tenure checklists to ensure they are prepared when the process begins. However, checklists cannot truly evaluate the professional arc of a fifth-year faculty member’s career and can’t take discipline-specific realities into account. 

By engaging your junior faculty in regular conversations about promotion and tenure, and by offering them mentoring opportunities, they will settle into the productive habits they’ll need to achieve their goals. 


Best Practices for Academic Departments 

Mentoring programs are most successful when the entire academic department — including its leadership and faculty — feel responsible for helping junior faculty members not only attain tenure but also reach their full teaching and research potential. 

Department chairs must lead that charge by setting expectations for senior faculty and ensuring an appropriate range of opportunities exist for junior faculty.  

Setting Expectations

Set expectations for both junior and senior faculty members, while emphasizing the value of mentoring for the entire department. 

Some senior faculty may perceive the initiative as a new way to increase their workload or argue that "coddling” junior faculty is not conducive to excellence in their discipline. While neither is true, be prepared to address nay-sayers and maintain your strong support for mentoring.  

Above all, you should live by example by being an active mentor, both formally and informally.

Offering Various Opportunities

Offer both formal and informal mentoring activities that include guidance on teaching, research and service, as well as other measures of success. Review the Starting a Mentoring Initiative page for specific ideas. 

Some junior faculty members — particularly women and people of color working in less diverse departments, or faculty members doing unusual or new research for their discipline — may find it harder to be fully accepted in their department than others. They’ll especially benefit from informal mentoring that helps them feel a sense of belonging and plan their path to success. 

To make that possible, work with your school or college to create mentoring structures both inside and outside your department.  

You should also pay close attention to how faculty members behave in both informal and formal settings to ensure the department is respectful and inclusive to all junior faculty members and their scholarly interests.

Mentorship should play a role in every stage of a faculty member’s career. Department chairs can support that goal by taking the following steps: 

Hosting Job Candidates

Hosting potential job candidates is an important part of recruiting. Ask questions that put the candidate at ease. And introduce them to positive, successful colleagues, including people they may look to as a research partner or mentor. 

They should meet a mix of junior and senior faculty members who can give them a sense of the climate, values and productivity of your department, and who can contribute to their decision to accept an offer.

Creating Mentoring Plans for New Hires

Start developing a mentoring plan for a new faculty member as soon as they accept the position. Consult with the new faculty member throughout this process to ensure their interests and needs are considered. 

An effective mentoring plan should touch on teaching, graduate student supervision and the development of the faculty member’s research career.  

Ideally, the plan will also include several members of your department over the course of the next six years. Hearing multiple perspectives will help your new faculty member succeed.

Welcoming New Faculty Members to Campus
  • Be sure your department’s students, faculty and staff know what day the new faculty member will arrive. Announce their hiring by touting their achievements and goals, as well as the new opportunities they bring to the department. 

  • Encourage your colleagues to include the new faculty member in events, meals and meetings.  

  • Give the new faculty member all the information and resources they need, including keys to a functional office, a classroom tour and materials such as the Faculty Handbook, Faculty Library Guide and other academic guidelines.

Guiding Junior Faculty Members
  • Provide junior faculty members with information about the different mentoring options available to them. Encourage them to choose multiple mentors, both within and outside the department, and to be proactive in their mentoring relationships. 

  • Offer tenure-track faculty the opportunity to meet with you at least once a year to have their teaching, service and research formally reviewed. Address areas of strength and areas of improvement and make actionable suggestions for progressing toward tenure. 

  • Review junior faculty members’ work assignments to ensure they are not being unduly burdened by an excessive number of new course preparations, large classes or demanding service assignments.  

  • Give junior faculty opportunities to teach senior undergraduate and graduate students in the area(s) of their research so they can balance their career more strategically. 

  • Encourage new faculty to attend workshops on time management, effective communication, teaching, publishing and grant writing. Co-sponsor sessions with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, Learning, and Online Education (CATLOE).

  • Discourage junior faculty from engaging in “negative networking” habits, such as gossiping. Praise positive communication habits. Address any negative or hostile comments or actions made by or toward junior faculty immediately. 

  • Communicate clear expectations to a jointly appointed junior faculty member and the senior faculty evaluating their tenure files. Create a written agreement with the other department’s chair at the time of appointment describing how the candidate will be reviewed annually, for contract renewal and for tenure. Meet with the candidate together to review workloads and expectations annually.

Encouraging Faculty to Become Mentors
  • Develop procedures for choosing formal mentors and then give mentors guidelines for how to communicate your department’s tenure expectations. Ideally, these will be written expectations. 

  • Host regular conversations with junior and senior faculty on effective communication, successful mentoring strategies and how to overcome common challenges. Ensure mentors can meet, share information that does not violate confidentiality expectations, and brainstorm solutions to challenging situations together. 

  • Develop a climate of mentoring in which all members of your department spontaneously and informally mentor colleagues. Encourage regular conversations about the department’s intellectual concerns by hosting colloquia or seminars in which all ranks of faculty participate. 

  • Use formal contract renewals to communicate expectations to both junior and senior faculty. Assign junior faculty a committee of mentors or reviewers who will assess their progress toward tenure. 

  • Encourage interdisciplinary projects and collaborative teaching, which foster cutting-edge discoveries and create opportunities for mutual mentorship. Ensure these endeavors are credited during annual evaluations, in contract renewals and during tenure/promotion.