The ultimate test of a mentoring program is this: Did you provide the necessary resources and training to help new faculty members reach their potential?
You can have a perfectly organized, well-funded program with expert mentors, but without active and diligent engagement from your new faculty, your mentoring program will not succeed. This article contains tips and suggestions for new faculty members to help them benefit the most from mentoring efforts. Here are a few recommendations:
Don’t wait for your mentor. Do take the initiative to establish a meaningful relationship with him/her.
Don’t overestimate your knowledge and abilities. Do seek your mentor’s advice and assistance.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Do set personal goals and ask your mentor to review them to ensure that you will have no surprises working through the tenure process.
Don’t be resentful when advice is given to you. Do genuinely listen and apply the principles you learn.
Don’t have an “I must work 24/7” mentality. Do invite your mentor to help you find an appropriate balance between work and other important aspects of your life.
It is about you, but . . .
Don’t be overconfident or arrogant with your mentor, or he or she will stop giving you counsel and feedback, causing you to lose an advocate. Do recognize that you are a junior faculty member—be teachable and open to feedback and assistance.
Don’t see your formal mentor as your one and only source of help. Do establish many helpful informal mentoring relationships.
Don’t blindly do everything your mentor tells you. Do ask clarifying questions to better understand the underlying reasons for the direction and counsel so your work will be more purposeful and meaningful.
Don’t rely too heavily on your mentor. Do demonstrate your intelligence and initiative by producing excellent work without too much direction.
Don’t work in isolation from your mentor. Do encourage your mentor to help you be accountable for deadlines and expectations you set for yourself.
Learn how things work
Don’t be shy about asking your mentor questions. Do clarify workflow issues with your mentor (e.g., official travel authorization and funding, library policies, annual funding cycles, the hiring of teaching and research assistants, testing center policies, committee assignments, required meetings, inservice training, faculty support facilities, building maintenance, office supplies, computer support, parking, textbook orders).
Don’t assume that you understand “how things really work” in your department, college, and institution. Do ask questions such as the following:
What are the requirements in our department for teaching, scholarship, and citizenship?
How are each of these areas weighted and evaluated in the tenure process?
How important is peer-reviewed research in our department?
What publication venues are encouraged? Are any publication options discouraged?
How do various forms of publications compare with each other in the tenure process (e.g., books, chapters in edited publications, journal articles, and conference papers/presentations)?
What are the pros/cons of teaching the same courses repeatedly versus teaching a broad range of classes?
What is the required teaching load? What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on course preparation?
What are the expectations for selecting course content and textbooks?
What learning management system (LMS) do we use? Where can I receive training on how to use it?
How is outside professional service viewed (e.g., community outreach, review boards, journal editing, and conference committees)?
What resources are available for helping students with physical, emotional, or mental disabilities?
What campus resources are available for ongoing teacher development?
What resources exist to answer questions about syllabi, exams, grading, office hours, technology use, library resources, interdisciplinary collaboration, writing workshops, and the like?
What should be included in a teaching portfolio? What are some good and bad examples of past dossiers?
What legal issues do we face, and what are the campus policies (e.g., risky student behavior, harassment, cheating and plagiarism, copyright and fair use, privacy, discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act, and intellectual property)?
What should I include or avoid in my vitae?
Don’t repeat past failures. Do find out from your mentor what other new faculty members have done that led to success or struggles in their work.
New faculty should be careful to avoid two extremes—being either too demanding of one’s mentor’s time or paying too little attention to him or her. One of the best ways to establish a meaningful mentoring relationship is for new faculty members to be genuinely responsive to and appreciative of support offered by their mentors.
This is the fifth in a series of seven articles about creating and maintaining an effective mentoring program.Kenneth L. Alford, PhD, is a professor at Brigham Young University. Tyler J. Griffin, PhD, is an associate teaching professor at Brigham Young University. Reach them at Ken_Alford@byu.eduand Tyler_Griffin@byu.edu.Look for Ken Alford's newest offering from Magna Publications, Mentoring Toolkit, a bundle of 20-Minute Mentor presentations available July 19. For more information go to www.magnapubs.com/online/mentor