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Creating an Effective Mentoring Program

Faculty Development Faculty Recruitment and Retention

Creating an Effective Mentoring Program

effective mentoring programs
Recruiting and hiring new faculty is time intensive and expensive. Despite the difficulties, hiring decisions are clearly among the most important that academic administrators ever make. Success of college programs and universities is directly correlated with hiring the right people and then providing them with essential resources to succeed and excel in their work.

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Recruiting and hiring new faculty is time intensive and expensive. Despite the difficulties, hiring decisions are clearly among the most important that academic administrators ever make. Success of college programs and universities is directly correlated with hiring the right people and then providing them with essential resources to succeed and excel in their work. Getting started Teaching at the collegiate level is a wonderful yet complex career. We hire people and expect them to be organized, teach effectively, research thoroughly, write lucidly, publish often, serve as effective committee members, and maybe even serve as successful administrators. How many new hires on your campus arrive fully prepared and competent to fill that job description? Far too often, a college’s lofty expectations are not matched with appropriate training and resources for faculty members, especially during the more formative years. When a faculty member fails to meet expectations or falls short in the rank-advancement process, the time-consuming and costly process of recruitment and hiring starts over. All new faculty hires have potential to become better teachers, researchers, writers, and administrators. Helping them reach their potential is the great challenge of creating and maintaining an effective mentoring program. Since effective mentoring increases the likelihood that faculty members will be successful, designing and implementing a robust mentoring program is an essential part of a campus administrator’s job rather than a distraction. Even if little or no thought is given to a faculty mentoring program, a certain percentage of faculty members will seek out and obtain formative training from informal mentors on their own. Consider the risk of leaving this outcome to chance. More often than not, the disappointing result will simply confirm the aphorism: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The reality is that “Mentoring sometimes has to be formalized, even mandated, or it simply will not occur” (Mullen 2012, 13). College and department leaders can benefit from consciously considering several important questions when creating any organized mentoring program:
  1. Does my institution value mentoring? Lip-service support is easy, but the easiest way to identify whether your institution truly values mentoring is to ask what specific resources will be devoted to supporting your program.
  2. What does mentoring currently look like at my institution? What organized mentoring, if any, is currently being done with your faculty?
  3. How well is the status quo working? Be honest. Analyze the degree to which your younger faculty members are progressing and meeting your department’s expectations. Are there particular aspects of their work that consistently fall short or cause you frustration? What are your pain points with newer faculty?
  4. In a perfect world, what would my mentoring program look like? Are there senior faculty members who could train younger faculty? How can I encourage, institutionalize, and incentivize mentoring interactions?
  5. What kind of ongoing financial and personnel resources would be required to support a mentoring program? The key is ongoing resources. Mentoring is not a one-time project or one-day faculty meeting. Colleges and their faculties are seldom static. Hiring, firing, promotion, departures, retirement, and sometimes death can affect every faculty every year.
  6. How do I implement my envisioned mentoring program? Nail it before you scale it. It is wise to organize a core group that can work out the kinks before adding new elements and complexity to your program.
Consider trying a pilot program Managing a pilot mentoring program will require you to confront several difficult program-based decisions and questions, such as: References Mullen, Carol A. 2012. “Mentoring: An Overview.” In SAGE Handbook of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, edited by Sarah Judith Fletcher and Carol. A. Mullen, 13. London: SAGE Publications. (This is the first in a series of articles about creating and maintaining an effective mentoring program. Part 2 will discuss program design considerations.) Kenneth L. Alford is a professor at Brigham Young University. Tyler J. Griffin is an associate teaching professor at Brigham Young University. Reach them at Ken_Alford@byu.edu and Tyler_Griffin@byu.edu