Frequently Asked Questions

What is the NSF ADVANCE program?
The National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program aims to increase the participation of women in the scientific and engineering workforce through the increased representation and advancement of women in academic scientific and engineering careers. To meet this goal, the NSF ADVANCE Program provides
opportunities for both individuals and organizations, including Fellows Awards, Institutional Transformation Awards and Leadership Awards. Through ADVANCE awards, NSF seeks to support new approaches to improving the climate for women in U.S. academic institutions and to facilitate women's advancement to the highest ranks of academic leadership.
(Please see the NSF ADVANCE web site at for more information).
What other institutions have received funding from NSF ADVANCE?

In total there are 44 Institutional Transformation awardees. The first cohort of grantees (2001) included 9 institutions:

  • Hunter College
  • University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Puerto Rico
  • University of California-Irvine
  • University of Washington
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

The second cohort (2003) included 10 institutions:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • University of Montana
  • Columbia University
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Texas-El Paso
  • Kansas State University
  • Utah State University
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

The third cohort (2005) included 9 institutions:

  • Brown University
  • California State Polytechnic University
  • Cornell University
  • Iowa State University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Illinois-Chicago
  • University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • William Marsh Rice University

The fourth cohort (2008) included 9 institutions:

  • Michigan State University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rutgers University
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Washington State University
  • Wright State University

The most recent, fifth cohort (2010) includes 7 institutions:

  • West Virginia University
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Lehigh University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Maine
  • Syracuse University
  • Jackson State University

One or more faculty members in each college has been selected to serve as the Faculty Excellence Advocate (FEA), to review and advance policies and best practices in academic human resources, including faculty search and hiring, the annual review process, the RP&T process, mentoring, and leadership development. 

The FEAs meet regularly as a group (FEA Consortium) with the Associate Provost for Academic Human Resources to discuss policies, procedures, best practices and programs that advance the alignment of policies of departments with those of the colleges and the university. The group also considers the consistency, transparency, objectivity and emphasis on quality in the evaluation of faculty.

The University has developed a mentoring policy that states all Colleges should have a mentoring program – that is a policy to establish mentoring activities in the College or in units within the college.  Resources are available to help colleges as they work with their departments regarding best practices and ways to evaluate effectiveness of mentoring programs.

The following briefly addresses common questions and all nine principles outlined in the Michigan State Unviersity Mentoring Policy. For more detailed information, or to submit additional questions that can be added to this list, please contact the ADAPP-ADVANCE office (517-353-8818) or contact us.


Why does Michigan State University have a University-wide Mentor Policy?

Evidence clearly shows that formal mentoring based on best practices makes a positive difference in achieving career success. This policy sends a clear message that Michigan State University is committed to every tenure system faculty member having access to formal mentoring as a tool to advance their academic career.


When is the University Mentor Policy effective?

Every college is required to have a formal mentoring program by 8/15/2011


What constitutes a formal, college-level mentoring "program"?

A formal mentoring program intentionally ensures that every faculty member has access to formal mentoring relationships and resources. It is written, based on best practices, incorporates the principles of the MSU policy, and is explicitly communicated to all faculty. In addition to formal mentoring relationships, the college "program" can include an array of other college led resources such as workshops, speakers, mentor recognition, mentor/mentee social events, and evaluation.


Will every department be required to have a formal policy and/or program?

This is up to the individual college. Colleges may opt to administer formal mentoring relationships at the college-level or require that each department or school develop a program, with college oversight.


What is formal mentoring?

Formal mentoring is when one or more mentors are intentionally assigned to a mentee and assume responsibility for facilitating the professional development of the mentee through activities such as providing information, advice, encouragement, and connections to other mentors, colleagues and professional networks. It is voluntary and can result in a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. No one mentor can fulfill all of a mentor's needs. Mentees have a responsibility to maximize, build on and supplement the mentor/mentee relationship with other mentors and career development activities.


Will every faculty member be required to have a mentor?

The policy explicitly states that a faculty member may choose not to participate in the formal mentoring program. Programs should, therefor, include explicit language specifying that faculty members can opt out with no penalties as well as rejoin the program at a later date upon request. It is recommended that there be a process in place by which faculty members designate in writing their choice to either opt in or out.


Will specific mentoring models be mandated for colleges, units, or individuals?

On the contrary, beyond the nine principles outlined in the policy, the policy intentionally provides flexibility for colleges/units to choose mentor program models that best meet the needs of their faculty, and faculty are encouraged to build on these models for maximum benefit. Many mentoring models now exist in addition to the traditional single mentor/mentee dyad. The intent is that colleges and departments choose models that provide the highest likelihood for individual career development.


What is the best model of mentoring in use?

The traditional model is the mentor/mentee dyad with the mentor being either from within or outside the unit. However, current wisdom suggests that it is much more productive to have multiple mentors. Even if there is one primary formal mentor, mentors and mentees are both encouraged to build on and supplement this relationship with other mentors and career development activities. The models chosen depends on the needs and resources of the individual faculty member, unit and college. The first step is to conduct an assessment of existing needs, resources, and challenges at the unit or mentor/mentee level. The ADAPP-ADVANCE team and the Office of Faculty & Organizational Development can provide guidance and tools on how to go through this process. In addition, each college has a college-appointed Faculty Excellence Advocate (FEA). The FEAs are available as a resource for information related to the ADAPP-ADVANCE goals including mentoring.


How should mentoring programs address faculty members with joint appointments?

For faculty members with joint appointments, there should be one mentoring plan for the faculty member, coordinated among the units, with leadership from the faculty member's lead unit. Each unit should address joint appointments in their respective mentoring policies. For example, the policy may state that unit leaders from participating departments will determine, in consultation with the faculty member, a mentoring plan that best meets the faculty member's needs. The plan may follow the model of one department or the other, be a hybrid, or be highly individualized. It should be written, and include clear expectations for all parties and leadership.


Are colleges expected to provide a mentoring program for all tenure-system faculty members or only for pre-tenure, tenure-system faculty members?

Faculty members need different kinds of mentoring at different stages of their career. Initially, at minimum, colleges are expected to provide a mentoring program for pre-tenure, tenure-system faculty and build upon the program as capacity allows. Ideally, mentoring programs should be available for mid-level and senior faculty members, HP faculty, and fixed-term faculty for whom there is a long-term commitment.


How can colleges and units demonstrate sensitivity to potentially different challenges faced by diverse faculty including women, persons of color, and other facets of identity?

Administrators and mentors first need to have appreciation for the potential, unique challenges faced by diverse faculty and of their own biases, both conscious and unconscious. The University can provide seminars on bias that offer the opporunity to raise awareness. Second, the college/unit should proactively build a culture of appreciation for diversity. For example, ensure that the pool of people being considered for hiring, promotions and key assignmetns is diverse and reflects the diversity in the unit. Careful consideration should be given to the choice of a mentor as it should be someone who understands the potential challenges and can serve in a developmental role. The mentor can help overcome challenges in many ways including being willing to openly discuss them to avoid "protective hesistation"; encouraging assignments that build competence, trust, and confidence; acknowledging achievements, publicly when possible; proactively helping their mentee build a large, heterogeneous professional and mentor network that reflects diversity in demographics, expertise, and roles; observing for signs of unfair criticism, scrutiny, resentment, assignments or other harmful treatment, both explicit and subtle undertones of bias; be willing to challenge it; and help focus discussions on actual performance.


Should mentors also serve on their mentees' review committees?

Ideally, mentors would not serve on their mentee's review committee. However, in cases where this is unavoidable, the mentee should be clearly informed of the mentor's dual role. The extent to which the mentor will be reporting to the committee should be explicitly stated at the first mentor/mentee meeting. This will guide the nature of the mentor's and mentee's roles within their relationship.


How can conflicts of interest be minimized, confidentiality protected, and all faculty members provided an evironment in which they can address concerns without fear of retribution?

It is important that mentor's/mentee's roles are agreed upon and clearly stated at the outset of the relationship. Conflicts of interest and confidentiality should be openly discussed. If possible, it is recommended that a mentee have multiple formal mentors for different roles, with at least one that doesn't serve on the review committee. Many mentoring models now exist in addition to a traditional single mentor/mentee dyad. One mentor may be external to the department, college, even university and would therefore not have a conflict of interest. One may be assigned to help advance teaching skills, another for research skills. Mentees should build upon their formal mentor(s), establish a "mentoring network" and draw upon the different strengths of each.


What incentives are there for senior faculty members to serve as mentors?

Mentoring early career faculty is expected as an important role for all tenure-system faculty members. In recognition of the significant time required to provide good, formal mentoring, the University Mentoring Policy clearly states that, at minimum, mentoring excellence will be considered in the annual review of faculty. In addition, colleges/units are encouraged to provide other incentives for excellence such as mentoring awards, special events, release time, and news write-ups.


Do formal mentors need to be trained?

It is recommended that formal mentors, even experienced ones, go through an initial orientation which can be provided at the unit, college, or university level. The University Office of Faculty and Organizational Development (F&OD) offers seminars related to best mentoring practices. Formal mentors should be encouraged to attend additional workshops to improve mentoring skills and network with other mentors.


How will mentoring programs be evaluated or assessed for effectiveness?

As the policy states, formative evaluation should be incorporated into the design of college and/or unit-level programs to be able to track performance, quality and outcomes. More broadly, colleges should formally assess the mentoring program(s) in five-year cycles, at minimum. Evaluations should map to the college/unit mentoring plan and goals. There will be administration level goals such as establishing a program and measures of academic productivity and then there will be mentor/mentee level goals such as the perceived value of the relatinoship. Specific evaluation strategies and tools should be chosen based on the level of evaluation, set of goals, and mentoring model. ADAPP-ADVANCE team mebers and the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development are available to help colleges/units decide on assessment strategies that are relevant to their program.


Will colleges be held accountable at the University level for their mentoring programs and, if so, how?

Colleges are expected to report on their mentoring programs in their annual report to the Provost. Other ways in which the University can help track the existence and quality of mentoring programs in all colleges are currently under discussion.


How can colleges ensure that mentoring policies, expectations and roles are clearly communicated to all faculty members?


What resources are available to assist colleges and departments in developing formal mentor programs?

What is the ADAPP-ADVANCE Project?

Michigan State University has undertaken a bold new initiative titled Advancing Diversity through the Alignment of Policies and Practices (ADAPP).  ADAPP expands upon the ADVANCE goal since its focus on women in the STEM disciplines is rooted in strategies designed to attract, retain and promote the highest quality faculty possible across all disciplines.

The ADAPP initiative is grounded in six principles: quality, inclusiveness, alignment, objectivity, consistency, and transparency. Our primary goal is to leverage existing programs to create a more coordinated, systemized approach to human resource policies and practices that will ensure diversity and improve the campus environment for all people. Accordingly, ADAPP-ADVANCE seeks to:

  1. Enhance and increase the quality and diversity of faculty recruited and appointed.
  2. Increase the retention of all faculty, including women and faculty members of color.
  3. Increase advancement of women faculty and faculty members of color.
  4. Improve the work environment (climate) for all faculty, but particularly for women and faculty members of color.



Who is involved in the ADAPP-ADVANCE initiative?

Kim Wilcox, MSU’s Provost, is the Principal Investigator on the project. The other Co-Principal investigators include:  Estelle McGroarty (Lead Co-PI); Terry Curry, Mark Roehling, Clare Luz, and Tammy Reid Bush.

The Grant Management Team includes the principal investigators plus Melissa McDaniels (Project Director), Karen Klomparens (Provost’s Representative) and Paulette Granberry Russell (Special Advisor to the President, and Director of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives).

The deans of the Colleges of Engineering, Natural Science, and Social Science (Satish Udpa, Jim Kirkpatrick and Marietta Baba, respectively) are leading the ADAPP initiative in these colleges. 

Initially, only these three colleges were involved in the initiative. However, the resources, new policies, and efforts to align existing policies and practices has been expanded to all Colleges at MSU.  All initiatives are being embedded in the colleges, in addition to a number of  central administration offices, including Faculty and Organizational Development, the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and the Family Resource Center.


What is the ADAPP-ADVANCE team going to do to achieve this goal?

Specifically, ADAPP addresses policies and procedures related to:

  • reappointment, promotion & tenure,
  • annual performance review,
  • faculty search and selection
  • faculty leadership development
  • faculty mentoring.

Research has shown that by developing objective, transparent criteria and practices in these five areas and consistently applying them across individuals and units, potential bias, both intentional and unintentional, is reduced.

In addition, ADAPP has created and developed the role of Faculty Excellence Advocates (FEA), who will assist with successfully implementing best practices. ADAPP has also led the development of a university-wide electronic portfolio system that will serve as a central repository for information on faculty accomplishments and will provide clarity, transparency and accountability to policies, and practices. Faculty benefits from such a system will also include the ability to enter data just once and automatically generate multiple university forms related to review and advancement.


Why is MSU implementing this initiative?

The ADAPP strategies will ultimately promote MSU’s core values of quality and inclusion. These strategies will enhance the opportunity for all faculty to thrive within a rich, intellectually stimulating and supportive community in which expectations are clear, there is equitable access to resources, and achievement is fostered and rewarded.  This will be achieved in part by increasing the number of, and diversity among, women who are hired, retained and advanced. Recognizing and increasing diversity among faculty and women improves the quality of the whole institution.


How will MSU Governance (UCFA and UCFT) be involved with the ADAPP-ADVANCE activities?

The Provost and members of the ADAPP-ADVANCE executive management team are working with governance in implementing new policies and developing approaches and strategies regarding best practices for mentoring, annual review and promotion and tenure.


How will the ADAPP-ADVANCE project impact RP&T decisions at the college level?

Personnel administrators in the college offices will help develop goals and guidelines that are aligned with the college and university goals and help develop evaluation criteria that are aligned with goals.  These administrators will work with the college promotion and tenure committees to apply these criteria during the college review process.


How will the project impact RP&T decisions at the department level?

Departments are being asked to review their policies and practices regarding RP&T and to define goals and expectation for faculty.  Toolkits and other resources provide assistance in helping departments align goals and evaluation criteria with college expectations and FEAs in college offices will work with units to help define their goals and align evaluation criteria.


What is the Faculty Information Tool and its impact on faculty review and advancement?

The Faculty Information Tool is a web-based access to AHR data maintained in the University’s central data base and will include a portal for uploading additional professional accomplishments information.  The system is being designed to display a wide variety of centrally maintained data about faculty members which can be used to generate resume’s/CVs and to assist in evaluation during annual performance review and the reappointment, promotion and tenure process.


Will the implementation of these changes make it more difficult to be reappointed or promoted?

The new processes will not necessarily impact the level of expectations for reappointment or promotion, but will increase the clarity of expectations for faculty to be reappointed or promoted.


What resources will be available to faculty to assist in preparing for the RP&T process?

A toolkit has been developed describing the RP&T process, and is available on-line and in print format.  Programs, including Survive and Thrive provide guidance in preparing for the RP&T process and a number of colleges are providing similar assistance for their junior faculty. 

A listing of workshops and programs related to career faculty planning are being created.


Does ADAPP-ADVANCE or the University provide any guidance in developing leadership skills?

The University offers a number of leadership development programs through the Office of Faculty and Organizational Development.  In addition, a number of colleges are considering or have developed college level faculty development programs and offices.  Best practices and programs are promoted by the Associate Provost for Academic Human Resources and through the Consortium of Faculty Excellence Advocates.

A listing of college-level faculty development offices/programs is being developed.