Onramps Lane 1: Navigating the Institute
Even for experienced educators, navigating the specialized mission of the Institute with its acronyms and systems requires a patient guide. All newly arrived faculty members will be assigned an onboarding mentor to facilitate their smooth transition to the Institute. The mentors have agreed to serve as a neutral source of support for the first year of a faculty member’s tenure.
What is a mentor?
A mentor helps advance a mentee’s professional development by socializing her to the norms of the institution and guiding her to scholarly and teaching productivity.
Being a mentor goes beyond the role of supervisor, with whom the mentee may not feel comfortable admitting vulnerabilities. Being a mentor also goes beyond the role of colleague in that the mentor gives candid feedback and facilitates opportunities for the mentee’s career progression.
For new faculty at the IHP, mentors are asked to serve for at least one year. Meeting frequency depends on each dyad, though they should check-in with each other at least once a semester.
What are the responsibilities of the mentor?
Mentors should help smooth the transition of the new faculty member to the IHP and establish a solid foundation for success in teaching and research. Responsibilities include:
Point mentee to available resources and make connections with colleagues
Establish open communication and offer emotional support where needed
Listen actively and do not feel you have to provide all the answers.
Make the relationship mutually beneficial by learning from mentee or pursuing collaborations
Familiarize yourself with the criteria for promotion and the GPS document
Tailor your mentoring style to the needs and interests of the mentee
What are the responsibilities of the mentee?
A productive mentoring relationship should be a two-way conversation. Mentees are responsible for:
Taking an honest self-assessment to define career goals
Initiating contact and scheduling meetings with the mentor
Arriving at mentoring sessions prepared and with an agenda
Following through on mentor’s suggestions
Developing a mentoring network that includes a range of supporters
Saying, “Thank you” to mentors
How do we get off to a productive start?
Before meeting for the first time, a mentor should read the mentee’s CV, and the mentee should conduct an honest self-assessment. In the initial meeting, the two should identify the areas where the mentee needs the most support. You should also agree on pragmatics such as preferred means of communication, frequency of meeting, and means of accountability. Some mentor/mentee pairs sign a written contract attesting to the terms of the relationship.
What if things don’t go well?
Ideally, the mentoring relationship will provide mutual benefits. Still, conflicts may arise over inconsistent communication, questions of authorship, or lack of chemistry. Where possible, it’s a good idea to preempt these issues early in the relationship with an explicit conversation about expectations.
You can also devote a mentoring conversation midway through the year to checking the temperature of the relationship. If problems persist, the Office of the Provost will hold periodic meetings with all the mentors where the collective experience of the group might suggest a solution. A final option would be to speak with the mentee’s department chair or assistant dean about ways you can work together to make the relationship more productive.
New faculty orientation follows the Guiding Professional Success (GPS) document, helping new arrivals navigate the Institute and learn the expectations for their scholarship, teaching, and service. GPS identifies several milestones that can help structure interactions between mentor and mentee:
- First weeks: Schedule face-to-face meeting to introduce yourselves and discuss getting acclimated to the Institute.
- First semester: Check-in periodically to ensure an equitable balance between teaching, scholarship, and service.
- Mid-year: Debrief about the semester and celebrate successes.
- Second semester: Begin to develop a long-term plan for promotion.
- End of first year: Assess whether the relationship should continue next year and who else might support the mentee’s professional development.