Building a Culture of Mentoring

Establishing a culture of mentoring requires faculty in each unit to establish a shared sense of norms around mentoring, articulate their shared commitments to these norms, and agree to evaluate the norms periodically and adjust if needed.

Norms for Mentoring Programs

A local mentoring program ensures that mentoring plans, and the mentoring experience overall, achieve desired outcomes. Outcomes should first and foremost include greater clarity around tenure and promotion expectations and authentic, ongoing professional development, among others. Establishing norms for a mentoring program will require that faculty in each college or school:

  • Clearly articulate how a robust mentoring program will benefit both individuals and the group.
  • Establish mentoring plan content, formats and accountability standards and processes (see below.)
  • Identify which model or models of mentoring might be best suited for the needs of the department, school or college overall. Program guidance should define the chosen model and provide a rationale. Types of mentorship models include traditional hierarchical senior-junior pairing, small group, peer and near-peer models, and others.
  • Describe how mentors and mentees will be paired and who has the responsibility for establishing the initial match. Does a tenure-track faculty member choose? Does the choice have to happen at a particular time?
  • Specify the degree to which other developmental opportunities provided by the department, school/college, or University should be incorporated into mentoring plans, for example, writing groups, grants training, workshops with the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, or others.
  • Define the mentors’ qualifications and responsibilities. In a group model of mentoring, will one senior faculty be designated as lead?
  • List expectations, programs and/or strategies for training mentors to continually improve their mentoring abilities and for mentees to navigate the mentoring relationships. Pay particular attention to ensuring that programs respond to the experiences of women and members of marginalized populations.
  • Identify accountability and reward systems for serving as formal mentors. How will you identify both challenging mentoring relationships and reward positive ones?
  • Establish a confidential process to resolve issues between mentors and mentee, poor fit, or other reasons for discontinuing or modifying the relationship.

Norms for Mentoring Plans

In addition to standard suggestions for content, faculty in each department, school, or college should agree upon:

  • Any additional content or sections deemed necessary given existing review procedures.
  • Desired headings, subheadings, length, and, if required, signatures. Consistent formatting enables easy review.
  • Responsible parties: who submits or files the plan, with whom, and when? Note, Beginning in Fall 2021, all new tenure-track faculty must have a completed mentoring plan in place by the end of the first year on the tenure-track.
  • Expected standards or minimums that would help unit leadership determine if an adequate plan has been developed.

Some example criteria for adequate plans include:

  • Does the plan provide a clear roadmap for successfully meeting expectations and requirements?
  • Does the plan adequately address meaningful interim objectives or building blocks to the level of achievement expected for the tenure and/or promotion review?
  • Does the plan account for the social identity and location of the mentee and reinforce equity?
  • Does the plan mitigate factors that disproportionately deter the advancement of women faculty and members of other marginalized groups, especially regarding service?

Monitoring and Adjusting

Approach mentoring programs the same way you approach any strategic priority. Know what you want to achieve before you start, be clear about how you will measure progress or adherence to the goal, and make changes as needed to keep them aligned. To do this, faculty in a department, school or college should:

  • Define the role and responsibilities of a small group of faculty, or a single individual, who will be responsible for the management of the faculty mentorship program.
  • Establish a protocol or method for gathering information and feedback systematically and proactively. This might include periodic check-ins with individual mentors and mentees as well as a review of any program data.
  • Management of the faculty mentorship program should include ensuring current scholarship on mentoring processes influences the norms of mentoring.

For mentees, in the short term, strong mentoring should lead to enhanced knowledge and skills; increased satisfaction with their role; increased sense of belonging; clarity of professional goals and timelines; and increased confidence. In the longer term, mentees should successfully complete their next targeted review and increase external recognition.

For mentors, short-term outcomes might include increased role satisfaction, increased collaboration; and exposure to new ideas. Over a career, this can lead to increased satisfaction. It can also result in organizational recognition and long-term retention.

For a department, school, or college, the outcomes can be ease in recruiting, increased quality in faculty achievement, ease of review, increased retention, and high-profile external recognition.