The most commonly understood purpose of faculty mentoring is to help advance a faculty member’s career. Such mentoring can include sharing advice on the process of gaining tenure and requirements for tenure within one’s department. It can include reviewing and commenting on works in progress. It may mean recommending professional development workshops or providing individual advice on such topics as proposal writing, teaching, supervising graduate students, and so on. All of these can be seen as direct interventions to help advance a faculty member’s career.
Another purpose for mentoring—which occurs just as frequently, is equally necessary and is more personal in nature—involves providing emotional support and guidance on topics that directly relate to the work environment. Examples of this type of mentoring include offering advice about department politics, listening to and providing guidance regarding interacting with difficult colleagues, or helping a colleague work through issues of balancing obligations of research, teaching, and work/life balance. This type of mentoring is not as straightforward as giving specific recommendations on career advancement, but can, in many ways be even more valuable in helping a colleague acclimate to a new academic environment and new job. For a colleague who has been in the department for some time, such collegial support can make the difference in retaining a faculty member who is experiencing an interpersonal conflict at work or a problematic family situation.
A positive culture of mentoring at the University at Buffalo is necessary to support a diverse and effective workforce. As soon as a faculty candidate accepts a position, the chair/dean should work with his/her colleagues to develop a mentoring plan for the new faculty member. The prospective faculty member should be consulted in developing this plan. The plan should include attention to teaching, graduate supervision, research and service obligations.
The benefits of mentoring for the mentee include contributions to professional development and enhanced organizational commitments and career satisfaction. The benefits of mentoring for the mentor include information and feedback from the protégé, possible collaboration, satisfaction in helping others, and improved career satisfaction.
While the faculty mentoring program is designed to assist in enabling a faculty member’s success throughout their career at UB, the frequency and quality of mentoring is never a guarantee for achieving tenure and promotion.