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.
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.
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.
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: