The University Record, November 20, 2000

Unit reps share tips on successful faculty mentoring

Editor’s Note: This article inadvertently was not published in the Nov. 13 Record. It was to accompany a series of articles on a mentoring workshop held Nov. 6.


By Jane R. Elgass

Faculty administrators from three academic units gave brief descriptions of successful mentoring programs in which they have been involved during the Nov. 6 retreat on “Mentoring, Quality of Faculty Life and Community-Building.”

The presenters were Paul Pintrich, associate dean for research, School of Education, and professor of education and of psychology; Mark Becker, associate dean for academic affairs, and professor of biostatistics, School of Public Health, and faculty associate, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research; and William James Adams, LS&A associate dean of academic affairs and professor of economics.

Pintrich shares joint responsibility with Annemarie S. Palincsar, associate dean for graduate affairs, for the School of Education’s program, which focuses on faculty development, particularly the development of junior faculty, and on building a scholarly community within the School.

Pintrich noted that the School had to take into account its culture. Compared with many other units, it has a small faculty conducting very diverse research, characterized by little overlap with others.

Through both network mentoring and grooming mentoring, the overall program focuses on scholarship and teaching and in helping faculty become comfortable with the norms at the University.

Pintrich focuses on supporting the general program. Palincsar brokers pairings of junior and senior faculty, selecting mentors based on criteria that include working in similar areas of interest, expertise and knowledge in a substantive area, and commitment and motivation to work with junior faculty.

In LS&A, Adams noted, it was not a question of accepting good mentoring as a goal, but rather implementing programs in a very large organization. “You can’t legislate community, but you can create an environment that supports it.”

The central issue for the College, he explained, was to determine what and how much to leave to individual departments and what should be the responsibility of the central leadership.

“The College is interested in community-building and interdisciplinary activities,” he noted, “and we are operating on the assumption that the College leadership should be an active partner with the units in these activities.” One of the biggest challenges, he noted, is that many department chairs rotate every three years, making continuity of programming more difficult.

LS&A’s approach to individual mentoring includes a “buddy” system in which a junior faculty member is paired with two senior faculty members, one from the individual’s department and the other from outside the department. Work is focused on the junior faculty member’s first year, with hopes a strong relationship will continue after that.

Community-building activities include Faculty 2000, four events in new faculty members’ first year that include a focus on professional life and also have a social component.

“These opportunities are important to senior faculty also,” Adams noted. “They are not just ‘give-and-receive,’ but are mutually beneficial.”

The School of Public Health uses a “bar-bell model” designed to build a stronger community and “create connectiveness.” A key goal is to engender “a sense of belonging, a sense of participation in the life of the School,” Becker explained.

At one end of the academic year is an annual all-school fall symposium, involving faculty, students and staff, with a spring faculty retreat at the other end. These have addressed such issues as core curriculum and looking at the School’s future, as well as considering building and facility issues that affect spaces that promote interaction.

Joining the two ends are monthly faculty lunches that have an intellectual and academic component. Faculty members, not announced in advance, discuss their research or another area of current interest.

In addition, the associate dean meets with junior faculty members “to let them know that someone cares about them,” Becker said. This is done at the end of fall term or the start of winter term, with discussions focusing on teaching concerns and what the individual has accomplished.