What is Mentoring?

The word “mentor” comes to us from Homer’s Odyssey.  Before leaving for the Trojan War, Odysseus asks his friend Mentor to watch over his household and to counsel and protect his son, Telemachus.  Although it is actually the goddess Athena disguised as Mentor who advises the young man, whose father is away for 20 years, it is the mortal whose name has come to stand for a trusted counselor and tutor.

Today, we think of mentors less as teachers than confidants, encouragers, supporters—in a word, friends.  Mentors and protégés (or, more recently, mentees) are partners in an extended project of growth, development, and self-discovery.  To this collaboration mentors bring wisdom and experience to guide protégés as they navigate unfamiliar territory.  Mentees contribute youthful energy, ambition, and new ideas.  The result is a mutually gratifying give and take.

In the best of these partnerships the mentee gains a role model, while the mentor experiences rejuvenation and the deep satisfaction, as well as vicarious thrill, of watching a career take off (Scanlon, P. 2015).

Overview of Faculty Mentoring

Mentoring has long been recognized as an effective method for new faculty to learn the basic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors for teaching and especially for learning about institution-specific norms (Ensher, Thomas and Murphy 2001). 

A mentoring network is based on the premise that no single individual possesses all of the experience and expertise that a new faculty member needs to plan and develop a successful career. New faculty at RIT are encouraged to also develop a constellation of “mentoring partners” who assist each other in nonhierarchical, collaborative partnerships - each contributing according to her/his own knowledge and experience. This mentoring model can be both broader and more flexible than the traditional model, able to provide "just in time" advice and guidance (Sorcinelli and Yun 2007).