What is being developed to address the mentoring needs 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?