Faculty Mentoring - Department Heads
A mentor usually does not have positional power over a mentee, so as Department Head you may not serve, for example, as a confidante to faculty; but you do play an important part in faculty development by:
- Orienting new faculty to RIT
- Matching mentees to mentors
- Guiding new faculty to develop their individual mentoring network
- Managing Plans of Work
- Providing guidance for mentor and mentee
- Informing new faculty of the expectations and formal procedures of the Department, College, and RIT
Orienting New Faculty
While New Faculty Orientation (NFO) programs have become standard in higher education, most universities think of NFO as a singular event and use it to tell new faculty about everything from tenure guidelines and course management systems to parking regulations and health benefits.
Research studies suggest that a comprehensive orientation program is a vital element of new faculty development and is valuable in helping new faculty learn the social and intellectual nuances of the university (Nastanski and Simmons, n.d.).
One growing trend is approaching new faculty orientation as a shared process. This "onboarding" approach focuses on providing new faculty with information, resources, and support throughout the first year and closely links orientation to mentoring. This includes a traditional new faculty orientation, but also incorporates events that range from routine activities such as office setup to professional development.
Matching Mentees to Mentors
A "traditional" mentor in the form of an experienced faculty member can be a central "star" in a new faculty member’s constellation of mentors, especially during the first year. Often Department Heads are responsible to make these connections.
While you should make these matches thoughtfully, don‘t feel that you are setting people up for a career-long relationship. In fact, Armstrong (2002) found that "forced" mentoring relationships can be counterproductive and violate "the true spirit of mentoring." Introduce these pairings as one of several mentoring relationships that new faculty will develop, with a targeted goal of acquainting him/her with "how things work" in the Department and College, you can take some of the pressure off both the mentor and mentee.
When matching mentors to mentees, start by aligning a mentor’s expertise in one area (teaching, research/scholarship, service) with a mentee's area of greatest need. Then consider other areas of compatibility such as content expertise, scholarship or research agenda, and personal interests and circumstances.
Managing Plans of Work
The Plan of Work is an effective vehicle to reinforce your expectations of the new faculty member, define a balanced set of goals, and uncover areas of needed support. See Managing the Plan of Work (PDF).
Mentors vs. Supervisors
While mentors and supervisors (in this case, Department Heads) both guide and help develop new faculty, mentors are focused on individuals, while Department Heads should always be acting toward the larger interests of the Department, College, and University. Also, a mentor’s activities can be "off the record," which is why most mentoring guidelines and processes specify that mentors should not have positional authority over the mentee.
- Provide performance feedback
- Enforce standard policies and practices
- Evaluate performance
- Set expectations and provide resources
- Provide developmental feedback
- Give insight to informal practices and cultural norms
- Give advice
- Help clarify expectations and identify resources
Keep track of the mentoring activities in your Department to make sure they are effective.
New faculty mentees
- Are they expanding their mentoring networks?
- Do they feel integrated into RIT and the Department?
- Are they tapping into available resources?
- Are they increasingly clear on expectations?
- Are their mentoring activities reflected on the Plan of Work?
- Are they meeting with mentees on a regular basis?
- Are they aware of the various resources available to their mentees?
Resources for Department Heads
There is support throughout RIT to help you with your questions about mentoring.
- Your Dean can answer questions about mentoring expectations and current practices in your College.
- Your peers in other Departments or Colleges can discuss their experiences managing mentors and mentees.
- Subject Matter Experts in Faculty Career Development Services and Sponsored Research Services can help new faculty with specific challenges in their respective areas.
The Associate Provost for Faculty Career Development and The Wallace Center is also ready to support faculty mentoring, as well as to listen to your mentoring experiences to further improve the mentoring program at RIT. Contact Lynn.Wild@rit.edu for information.