Current Mentoring Practices

Over the past several years the Office of Faculty Affairs has conducted two studies to assess the status of mentoring practices on campus. In 2007, pre-tenure faculty were surveyed about their mentoring experiences. Click here to see summary and analysis of responses from pre-tenure faculty. The following year a survey solicited feedback from department chairs regarding departmental mentoring practices. A special focus of these research efforts was to investigate the impact of the 2004 changes to the APT policy requiring, among other things, the assignment of mentors to all tenure-track faculty.

This report summarizes, compares, and analyzes the results of these surveys. Further, a mentoring best practices document was compiled from survey responses. Click here for that information.

The Unit Head’s Perspective on Mentoring Practices (n=61, 90% response rate).

Assignment of mentors

Most assignments are made by the chair in consultation with faculty in related areas of research. Assistant professors themselves are involved in the assignment process about half the time. Usually the assignment is based on the scholarly and teaching expertise of the proposed mentor and convergence of research interests of mentor/mentee. In many cases, multiple mentors are designated.

Characterization of effective mentors and mentoring relationships

There were varying views regarding what constituted the key components of successful mentoring. Most frequently mentioned was providing information about and help with launching an academic career, e.g., reviewing grant proposals, discussing tenure standards, and balancing research, teaching, and service. Other major components were establishing a trusting, supportive relationship with the mentee and dedicating sufficient time to the role as mentor. A significant number looked for mentors to be “supportive.”

Communication of mentor’s role and responsibilities

The majority of departments did not have formal expectations of mentors.

Self-description of unit heads as mentors

Almost all unit heads indicated that they were personally involved in mentoring, most commonly via scheduled meetings but also through informal conversations and/ or an “open door” policy. They sought to provide assistance by clarifying expectations, offering advice or resource referrals and/ or having open discussions about faculty members’ questions and concerns.

Evaluation of mentees’ progress & the quality of mentoring they are being provided

Chairs, of course, used formal assessments of junior faculty but many also felt that informal assessments played a critical role. Most unit heads work to maintain informal contact with their faculty in order to obtain updates on their progress and any issues that they encounter.

For some unit heads, evaluating the quality of mentoring being provided is simply equated with mentees’ progress. If the mentee is doing well, the mentor has been an effective mentor. Far more unit heads took a broader view, looking at the full relationship. They reported that occasionally, evaluations led to a change in mentors.

Enhancement of support for junior faculty

Most units lightened junior faculty responsibilities during the faculty member’s first year. Another form of assistance was providing group mentoring. A small number of departments and colleges offered workshops, roundtable discussions, and luncheons with junior faculty.

Assessment of departmental mentoring efforts

Almost every unit head was satisfied with the quality of mentoring provided by his or her unit.  Some specified major reasons for this success. They were: the unit head’s encouragement and monitoring of mentoring relationships, the designation of a mentor with related research interests (even if this required finding a mentor from another department), and the proactive involvement of all departmental senior faculty in mentoring. Each of these items demonstrates a commitment to mentoring by key members of the department.

Recognition of Mentors

Awards for mentoring junior faculty weren’t reported. Many unit heads felt that mentoring was rewarded sufficiently since it was considered by Merit Committees; others saw the role as part of senior faculty’s responsibilities and, therefore needing no recognition.