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Mentors | Faculty Mentoring

Faculty Mentoring - Mentors

The mentor/mentee relationship is a unique one. While it has elements of both personal and professional interactions, it is not wholly one or the other. A mentor usually does not have positional power over a mentee, but is in the role because of her/his experience and contacts.

Some of the unique value that a mentor brings to the protégé includes:

  • Helping the mentee clarify and articulate her/his own goals.
  • Introducing the mentee to others who can help her or him achieve these goals.
  • Sharing an outside perspective so the mentee can develop a realistic sense of the image s/he presents.
  • Offering organizational context so the mentee learns the history, relationships or other influencers of decisions in the department, College or university.

Characteristics of Successful Mentors

A successful mentor...

  • Remains accessible to the mentee, and meets on a regular basis.
  • Skillfully provides constructive feedback.
  • Actively engages in research and/or related scholarly activities.
  • Possesses a publication record that meets College standards.
  • Receives consistently satisfactory/acceptable teaching evaluations.
  • Knows the resources available to support faculty development.
  • Understands department and institute policies and procedures regarding faculty tracks, reappointment, promotion and tenure.
  • Actively connects to networks inside and outside the university, and is willing to share those connections with the protégé.
  • Consistently maintains confidentiality.
  • Preserves the mentee's intellectual independence.
  • Does not have supervisory authority over the protégé.
     

Working With Your Mentee

Set Expectations

You should explore a potential mentee's expectations before making a commitment. In this way, you will know that you can provide what the mentee is looking for.

Communicate effectively

Much of the "work" in mentoring comes through communication. It’s important that you understand your mentee's concerns and that s/he truly comprehends the guidance that you are offering. Often, the dialogue can deepen simply by being more specific or action-oriented in your questions.

Questions that receive a shallow response

Questions that receive a deeper response

"How did your quarter go?"

"What did you find out from your teaching evaluations?"

"Have you heard back from any journal editors yet?"

"Which journal editors have you contacted? What did you find out?"

"Did you get funding for your latest grant?"

"What did the grant review panel see as the greatest strengths in your proposal?"

Remember that your mentee does not have your long history at RIT or in teaching, and may not be seeing a situation as you would. For example, s/he may be facing student challenges for the first time that you deal with almost by instinct—so there needs to be a process of listening, understanding and providing feedback and guidance.

Give Feedback

Mentoring is a developmental relationship. One way that this development occurs is by debriefing or giving feedback to your mentee about how s/he handled a situation. This process can help you give effective feedback:

Make sure you understand the situation

"It sounds as if you were ready to really let that student have it..."

State your message clearly and specifically

"What you want to make sure is that you don’t let her challenging tone trigger a negative reaction from you..."

Propose a positive strategy or tactics that the mentee can apply

"What I’ve done in situations like that is acknowledge the student’s viewpoint and then shift the focus away from the student. Try to follow-up with the student privately, as soon as possible."

Check for understanding and buy-in from the mentee 

"How would you respond if she does the same thing again?"

Gain agreement

"Will you try that next time?"

Follow-up

"...and let me know how it goes."

Challenge and Support

In Effective Teaching and Mentorship: Realizing the Transformational Power of Adult Learning Experiences, Daloz (1986) proposes a model to show how a mentee's growth is dependent on a mentor, both challenging and supporting the mentee (Ramani, Gruppen and Kachur, 2006).

If a mentor challenges a mentee, but doesn’t provide support in the form of guidance, direction or even emotional encouragement, the protégé can regress to familiar practices due to frustration or loss of confidence.

Similarly, if a mentor fully supports a mentee without posing significant and relevant challenges, it validates or reinforces what the mentee is currently doing rather than encouraging the development of new knowledge and skills.

By consistently challenging a mentee toward new goals, along with providing or pointing toward a support system to achieve those goals, a mentor keeps the mentee on the path toward growth.

Maintaining Your Balance

One of the drivers of mentoring networks at RIT was to take some of the time pressure off a single mentor. These strategies can also help you avoid being overtaken with your mentoring commitments:

  • Keep track of your mentoring activities each month so you can report on them.
  • Focus on connecting the protégé with others—the more extensive your mentee's network, the less dependent s/he will be on you.
  • Encourage your mentee to build his or her mentoring network.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of doing things—point the protégé in the right direction or connect her or him with resources.
  • Block out time on your calendar for mentoring activity during the entire quarter so mentoring activities don’t "creep" outside of the allotted time.
  • Combine activities by inviting mentee to attend and observe an event that you are already attending.
  • Make sure that your efforts as a mentor are reflected within your Plan of Work.