A mentor is defined in Webster’s dictionary as a wise and trusted teacher or counselor. Mentors in the academic world are usually senior faculty who take junior faculty under their wings and help them prepare for moving ahead in their careers. Junior members of the faculty are hired because of their performance and promise as scholars and teachers. The College of Public Health has a strong interest in seeing that junior faculty members realize their full potential as tenured members of the faculty. The College wants to do whatever it takes to retain and advance new faculty members, both in their own interest and that of the college community.
Like others, the College of Public Health has its own culture, a system with distinct structural features, role relations, informal system dynamics and environment stresses and strains. Rather than expecting new faculty to discover this culture and navigate it alone as well as working to achieve excellence in research, teaching, and service, we have established a mentoring program. Research suggests that new faculty members who have the help of a mentor perform better both as researchers and as teachers. The College also benefits, as mentoring is the socialization of faculty members learning the rules of academe, involving colleagues who are role models, consultants, advisors and sponsors for their peers. Thus as collegiality is practiced and productivity promoted, the College community is enriched and strengthened.
Traditionally, mentoring has occurred informally between people who work together. However, reliance on informal relationships can limit access to mentoring opportunities. While spontaneous mentoring relationships may always develop, the College of Public Health provides two more formal modes of mentoring to ensure that all faculty members have the opportunity to receive the assistance they need. Every junior (i.e., tenure earning) faculty member will be offered a College Mentor. In addition, he or she will also have the opportunity to be matched with a Department Mentor. All mentoring relationships are on a voluntary basis.
The College Mentor
The College Mentor will serve as a colleague with whom the new faculty member can discuss his/her career in academe and concerns in confidence. There may be times when the junior faculty may be reluctant to discuss problems in teaching or research for fear that what is said will become a part of the departmental evaluative process used for tenure and promotion. Since the College Mentor is from outside the Department, he/she can provide an additional helpful perspective on the College and University.
While the benefits from a mentoring relationship for the mentee have always been apparent, the advantages for the mentor can be considerable as well. By guiding, encouraging, fostering, and supporting junior colleagues, the senior faculty members often experience professional and personal growth and renewal.
The Department Mentor
The Department has the responsibility to provide the junior faculty member with the requirements for tenure and promotion and progress toward meeting those requirements. The person responsible for providing this information to junior faculty is the Department Chair. A mentor appointed in the department may also assure that the junior faculty member receives and understands these requirements and guidelines. The process for appointing departmental mentors should be developed in each department. The mentor may also provide support to the junior faculty member in joining ongoing research of senior faculty members doing research in the same area of interest, in order to assist in the development of the research agenda of the new faculty member.
The Department Mentor will also provide guidance and advice concerning the procedures and priorities of the Department (and discipline if appropriate) in order to help the new faculty member be successful as a scholar, teacher, and colleague. The junior faculty member has the responsibility to stay informed and to consult with the Department Chair if there is a question about this process.
Assignment of College Mentors
Assignment of College Mentors will be organized and administered by the Dean’s Office. Each new junior faculty member will be offered the opportunity to be assigned a College Mentor during the first semester on campus and at subsequent intervals if not originally accepted. Program informational packets will be provided to new faculty, to mentors, and to Department Chairs by the Dean’s Office.
Supplementing the individual mentoring relationships are various activities in which mentees in groups as well as together with mentors socialize, exchange information, meet with administrators, and receive training. All junior faculty as well as their mentors are strongly encourage to participate in these events when the invitations arrive.
(Optional Materials to be provided if desire)
Program packet information
The Role of a Mentor
- Recognize and evaluate what you, as a mentor, can offer a new faculty member, keeping in mind that it is not possible to fulfill every mentoring function.
- Clarify expectations with your mentee about the extent to which you will offer guidance concerning personal as well as professional issues such as advice about how to balance family and career responsibilities and other pressures and crises of professional life.
- Be sure to give praise and criticism when warranted, but present it with specific suggestions for improvement. Suggest strategies for effective teaching and propose effective ways of interacting with students and colleagues.
- Read and critique research proposals and papers and advise on submission of papers for publication and for presentation at professional conferences.
- Help your mentee learn what kinds of available institutional support he/she should seek in order to further her own career development (such as funds to attend conferences or workshops, release time for special projects, or funding for equipment if appropriate). Refer to other mentoring resources when needed.
- Advise on tenure and promotion requirements and processes and advise on time allocation for research, teaching and service.
- Provide advice on University and College polices and participate in as many program functions as possible.
- Tell your mentee if he/she asks for too little or too much time. Make sure contacts are maintained on a regular basis.
- Help the mentee make the transition to the Tampa Bay area; introduce the mentee to the larger academic community and its culture.
Common Questions asked of a Mentor
- What are the college’s formal and informal criteria for promotion and tenure? How can these criteria be clarified if there are questions? How is a tenure file built? Who sits on relevant committees? Who can support a nomination effectively?
- How do people in the mentee’s field find out about, get nominated for and win assistantships, fellowships, grants, awards, and prizes?
- What organizations should the mentee join? Who can help a person get on the program?
- Discuss the leading journals in the mentee’s field. Have any colleagues published there? How should co-authorship be handled? Who can bring a submission to the attention of the editors?
- What is the best way of getting feedback on a paper—to circulate pre-publication drafts widely, or to show drafts to a few colleagues?
- What are the appropriate and accepted ways to raise different kinds of concerns, issues and problems?
The Role of a Mentee
Mentees benefit from honest criticism and informal feedback. They receive advice on how to balance teaching, research and other responsibilities and set professional priorities. They are able to learn from their mentors the informal rules for advancement as well as the political and substantive pitfalls to be avoided and to acquire the skills for showcasing their work. One of the greatest benefits is an understanding of how to build a circle of friend and contacts both within and outside the institution and to develop a perspective on long term career planning.
- Set a specific time to meet with your mentor(s), e.g., bi-weekly or monthly. Be on time and prepared for your meetings.
- Create a tenure and promotion file immediately and ask your mentor to review the material with you. Save letters of thanks, supportive memos, etc and document your contributions as you go, highlight efforts made to improve your teaching, what your expect4ed to happen and what did happen.
- Reach out to your mentor(s) and build a good working relationship with him/her and seek their advice before volunteering for every committee you think interesting.
- Interact with your colleagues; get familiar with their work and inform them of your work; these may be valuable liaisons and support).
- Take the initiative on getting important information and clarify with your department and college mentors.
- Attend national conferences, department functions and university workshop. Seek out information on computing services, professional development workshops, internal and external grant deadlines and other resources.
- Don’t get overwhelmed—others have been new faculty before and survived. You don’t have to be a perfect teacher the first year, nor do you have to publish 10 times (though it can’t hurt). Remember why you are there, listen to the students and your colleagues and discuss your feelings and observations with your mentors.