Lessons Learned – So. Ct. St. Univ. New Faculty Mentoring

by Dr. Ellen R. Beatty, Ms. Moni Dickerson, Ms. Winnie Shyam


Background – SCSU and the New Faculty Mentoring Program

We have found that mentoring can be an important and effective method of fostering new faculty success. We also learned that benefits are not just attained for the mentee, they can be captured for the mentors and the institution as well.

Although numerous research studies show the positive outcomes and challenges of mentoring, (editor – cited in original presentation) we have decided that there is no universally accepted definition of effective mentoring.

SCSU is a comprehensive university with a traditional emphasis on teaching. Many new faculty also wish to do research and publication and, as they begin their work, they experience conflicting demands for these three activities. Since there is no one paradigm for mentoring, we feel individuals may need support in any or all of the following areas of faculty roles:

  • Effective teaching
  • Creative activities
  • Productive service to the Department, University and profession
  • Professional activities other than teaching, such as research and publication

Disadvantages of Mentoring Reported by Some Participants:

  • It takes too much time
  • Some newcomers neither want nor feel they need mentoring
  • Mentor pairing may afford opportunities for exploration or dependencies.

Our Program Has Found:

  • New faculty are unlikely to spontaneously find adequate mentoring.
  • Hew faculty can not flourish in isolation. They need social support and intellectual stimulation before
    they feel comfortable and efficient in their new roles.
  • Pairs that do not meet regularly are unlikely to accomplish very much.
  • With our mentoring program, only a handful of new faculty established any significant relationship with their mentors, but… those that did, fared better than those who did not.
  • New faculty who were originally active mentees become very effective mentors later on.

Therefore, we caution other mentoring programs, however well intentioned:

  • Do not rely on spontaneous “natural” mentoring
  • Do not leave the content of mentoring interactions up to the pair to decide.

Regarding Matching, we have found that:

  • Breaking the traditional bounds of matching only with the more senior mentors from the same department
  • Even more junior faculty can work just as well as mentors
  • Even pairings across departments can work well, and some may work better than those within departments.

Senior faculty made a contribution when they…

  1. Liked both teaching and students
  2. Appreciated job security
  3. Appreciated geographical location
  4. Envisioned a better future for their campus.

Senior faculty were viewed as negative when they communicated…

  • Burnout as professionals
  • Over concern with campus politics
  • Paranoia about administrators
  • Over emphasis about poor levels of resources on campus
  • Excessive complaints about poor quality students

Therefore, we ascertain that good practice includes:

  1. Display a positive attitude
  2. Listen actively
  3. Demonstrate genuine interest in the experiences of new faculty
  4. Help new faculty develop a network of collegial contacts.

The chief factor impacting effective mentoring was TIME availability.

This was a recurring complaint, and seemed to explain why pairs did not meet more often.

Number of meetings of mentoring pairs in a year were:

  • 0-1 times- 23%
  • 2-4 times – 36% < <
  • 5-8 times – 23%
  • 9-12 times – 5%
  • More than 12 times – 5%
  • No response – 9%

We have determined we need to do the following six steps to improve our program:

  1. Increase funding for the mentoring program.
  2. Provide training and a guidebook/manual for mentors
  3. Provide more formal recognition of faculty mentors beyong our traditional annual luncheon.
  4. Increase attendance at mentoring events through better publicity.
  5. Create a web site to allow increased exchange between mentors and mentees
  6. Consider making the mentoring program mandatory for all new faculty.