In 2007, and again in 2010, the Dean’s office requested information from COLA departments regarding their mentoring practices. We provide here a synopsis of the information received from the departments in 2010, and conclude with some comments based on our observations and research that may help frame future conversations on mentoring in COLA.
One department reported instances of post-‐tenure mentorship, and another reported a plan to mentor entering lecturers. A handful of departments indicated the socialization of junior faculty into the department as a goal of mentorship. One department noted the role of successful mentorship in enhancing the reputation of the department.
Two departments noted adamant preference for informal mentorship, raising concerns about the complications that formal mentorship may introduce into the life of the department.
One chair noted the difficulties that arise in assessment of success when mentoring turns into a friendship. One chair noted that failure in promotion sometimes occurs in spite of good mentoring.
In some instances the starting point is recruitment, in others the first year. The narratives suggest that in some cases the third-‐year review is perceived as the endpoint of mentoring. The third year review is perceived as the primary milestone during the probationary period, and, as such, the first obvious milestone in the mentoring process. The department that indicated mentoring of senior faculty viewed the post-‐tenure review as a milestone in the mentoring process.
In general, mentoring is viewed as part of the chair’s duty and that of senior faculty. There is little reference to incentives for mentors. There is some indication of difficulties in assigning mentors when a department is small or when mentorship occurs across academic units. One chair indicated a decline in her ability to mentor successfully because of the increased administrative burden that comes with chairing a department.
There was one clear reference to the need of junior faculty to seek ownership of the mentoring process and assure its success. Otherwise the narratives seem to suggest that the onus is on the department. We found one note to the effect that junior faculty are themselves involved in reviews of other faculty as part of a learning process which enriches their own experience and facilitates their socialization into department. We found one note to the effect that new hires in the department were good enough to flourish on their own merit and could have probably done it without the mentoring provided.
One department indicated an ongoing discussion on the tension between helpful mentoring and assessment. One department noted that mentoring is a relationship that is hard to institutionalize. Mentees often get mentors that do not fit with their style of work or intellectual needs. Mentors are not always abreast of changing criteria for tenure, and mentees do not feel that they are in a position to speak out on these kinds of issues.
Notes: (1) The documents were written by chairs, which may explain the focus on the chair’s role in mentoring.
Paper produced by the Liberal Arts Gender Council Subcommittee on Mentorship. Members: Ann Cvetkovich, Professor, English Randy Lewis, Associate Professor, American Studies Karen Grumberg, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern Studies Lauren Apter, Institutional Research Analyst, College of Liberal Arts
For additional information contact Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, Executive Assistant, Office of Research & Graduate Studies.