Faculty Affairs

Steinhardt Junior Faculty Mentoring Program - Full Description

This mentoring program is intended to be a useful way of helping new faculty members adjust to their new environment. Whether it is academe itself that is new, or simply the New York University (NYU) campus, assistance from a well-respected, more experienced colleague can be an invaluable supplement to the guidance and assistance that a department chair provides a new faculty member during her or his early years at a new university. The program's success will depend on the new faculty members, their mentors and their department chairs all taking an active role in the acclimation process. The Steinhardt Junior Faculty Mentoring Program pairs new faculty with senior colleagues who have achieved tenure in the same school or at other schools within the University and who may reside in the same or different department than their junior faculty colleague. Each pair works together to help the junior member set priorities, develop a network of advisors, increase visibility in the NYU and professional communities, and understand NYU's institutional culture, and the tenure process.

While mentoring has traditionally occurred informally between more experienced and new faculty colleagues, reliance on informal relationships can limit access to mentoring opportunities. The most important tasks of a good mentoring relationship are to help the new faculty member achieve excellence and to acclimate to NYU and the Steinhardt School. Although the role of mentor is meant to be an informal one, it poses a challenge and requires dedication and time. A good relationship with a supportive, active mentor has been shown to contribute significantly to a new faculty member's career development and satisfaction. The Steinhardt program is intended to be more structured so that members of each pair are expected to commit to regular meetings and formulate goals in different areas of importance for the new faculty member. Even with an overall structure in place, the program affords each pair great flexibility in choosing how to spend their time and energy to enhance the junior members' career. Pairs meet throughout the academic year to work toward goals they develop together. Program participants will also be provided with opportunities to meet periodically as a group as well as in informal social settings for training and informal gatherings focused on career development.

The interests of the departments and programs of the School, the University, and of individual faculty members are best served when the people we hire are constructively mentored and reviewed. Constructive mentoring and reviewing of tenure-track faculty works to help such faculty meet high standards of rigor, depth and innovation in scholarship and to realize their full potential as scholars, teachers, and members of the academic community. When we grant tenure to a faculty member, we acknowledge the high contributions that person is making to our intellectual community; we also acknowledge the institution's wise choice in hiring and enabling mentoring of the new faculty member. Given all that is at stake, both personally for the faculty member and institutionally, in hiring and tenure, the mentoring and reviewing of junior faculty is some of the most important work we do.

Basic Program Principles

  1. It is the responsibility of departments and programs in which new faculty hold tenure-track appointments to mentor those faculty in ways that help them to reach their full potential in teaching and research and to be successful in the tenure process.
  2. Mentoring of new faculty is a responsibility of all tenured faculty members, and a particular responsibility of the chair.
  3. Mentoring is both a formal and an informal activity and it is about the substance of teaching and research in the academy as well as about external measures of success such as in which journals to publish.
  4. The time commitment for the formal mentoring relationship as per the Steinhardt Junior Faculty Mentoring Program would be for the period of one year

Departmental Responsibilities

Best Practices: Department
  1. As soon as a candidate is offered a position and accepts, the department chair and the search committee chair should 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, undergraduate and graduate supervision, and research and should be predicated on being helpful rather than authoritarian. Care should be taken not to be unintentionally coercive in the formulation of the mentoring plan and to ensure that it yields reasonably consistent advice for the new appointee. This mentoring plan should include participation by several members of the department/program during the six years of the candidate's progress towards tenure.
  2. Departments and programs should work to develop a "climate of mentoring" in which all members of the department/program spontaneously and informally mentor their new colleagues. Collegial conversations about the intellectual concerns of the department/program are one of the best modes of informal mentoring. Departments and programs should take care to ensure that there are departmental/program events, such as colloquia and seminars, that include new faculty as both audience and presenters, make them welcome as members of the community, and serve as modes of informal mentoring.
  3. Chairs and directors should support collaborative teaching and research, team teaching, and interdisciplinary teaching efforts on the part of junior faculty, both for the intrinsic value of such work and because collaborative work is itself a form of mentoring. This work should be given full credit. Tenure-track appointments should be given the opportunity to teach in the area(s) of their research at the undergraduate and graduate levels during their first five years.
  4. Chairs and directors should have a friendly conversation in a formal appointment with tenure-track faculty at the end of each fall semester. That conversation should include discussion of the candidate's research and his/her teaching experience for the year. It should offer advice and encouragement to the candidate and should seek to find constructive ways of addressing any emerging problems. In cases of joint appointments, the two individual department chairs and/or directors may wish to meet together with the candidate to ensure that their respective advice to the candidate is consistent. In addition, the chairs and/or directors of their units should review each year their respective requirements of the candidate to ensure that they are not, together, demanding too much. Particular attention should be paid to teaching and service requirements to make sure that candidates are not doing "double duty" in, for example, teaching large introductory lectures or committee and advising assignments. Regardless of whether tenure-track faculty hold single or joint appointments, their chairs and directors should review their work assignments carefully to ensure that they are not being unduly burdened by an excessive number of new course preparations, large classes, or demanding service assignments. In the future, the deans will work more closely with the department chairs in making recommendations for faculty professional development.
  5. Chairs and directors should recognize that some candidates may in some contexts (e.g., women or minorities in departments/programs with very few such people) face special challenges in being fully accepted into the department/program and in receiving the kinds of informal mentoring that both help their careers and make them feel comfortable. In such instances, the chair may wish to work with the School to find mentoring structures outside as well as within the department/program. And s/he will wish to pay particular attention to ensure that departmental/program behavior in both formal and informal settings is fully and respectfully inclusive of such candidates and of the scholarly interests for which they were hired.
  6. Service assignments to tenure-track candidates should serve as mentoring contexts in which the candidate learns about the values and operations of the University (e.g., the curriculum committee).
  7. One is not born a mentor but learns to become a mentor. Faculty mentors in a department/program should meet occasionally, but regularly, to discuss problems and strategies around mentoring and to share their knowledge. Department or program members should conduct themselves, in both formal and informal settings, in ways that mentor by example.
The Responsibility of the Department Chair

As soon as the appointment is made, the chair assigns a mentor. Initially, this may be a senior member of the search committee. The mentee may remain with this original mentor indefinitely or may add another mentor at any time. Mentors may be changed without need to state a reason. At the Associate Professor or Professor rank, assignment of a mentor is less critical but could prove useful and is encouraged. The chair is responsible for advising new faculty on matters pertaining to academic reviews, and advancement. As the mentor may also be asked to provide informal advice, it is also the chair's responsibility to see that mentors have current information on NYU Steinhardt's academic personnel process. These issues will also be addressed through the orientation programs led by both the Office of Faculty Affairs, and a senior tenured faculty member

Mentor/Mentee Matching Criteria

The following criteria will be considered to determine the best possible mentor/mentee matches:

  • Academic interest
  • Specialty
  • Shared personal interest
  • Self-directed pairing

The Mentor

The Responsibility of the Mentor

The mentor should contact the new faculty member in advance of his/her arrival at the University and then meet with the new faculty member on a regular basis over the first year. The mentor should provide informal advice to the new faculty member on aspects of teaching, research and committee work or be able to direct the new faculty member to appropriate other individuals. Often the greatest assistance a mentor can provide is simply the identification of which staff one should approach for which task. Funding opportunities both within and outside the campus are also worth noting. The mentor should treat all dealings and discussions in confidence. There is no evaluation or assessment of the new faculty member on the part of mentor, only supportive guidance and constructive criticism.

Role of the Mentor

The mentor's role is to:

  • Recognize and evaluate what you can offer a mentee, keeping in mind that you should not expect yourself to fulfill every mentoring function.
  • Clarify expectations with your mentee about the extent to which you will offer guidance concerning personal as well as professional issues such as advice about how to balance family and career responsibilities.
  • Be sure to give criticism (as well as praise) when warranted but present it with specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Help your mentee learn what kinds of available institutional support she should seek in order to further her own career development (such as funds to attend conferences or workshops, release time for special projects, or equipment through the capital exercise).
  • Tell your mentee if she asks for too much (or too little) time.
Qualities of a Good Mentor
  • Advocacy - the mentor should be willing to argue in support of the junior faculty member for space, funds, and student support.
  • Accessibility - the mentor is encouraged to make time to be available to the new faculty member. The mentor might keep in contact by dropping by, calling, sending e-mail, or extending a lunch invitation. It is very helpful for the mentor to make time to read/critique proposals and papers and to provide periodic reviews of progress.
  • Networking - the mentor should be able to help the new faculty member establish a professional network.
  • Independence - the new faculty member's intellectual independence from the mentor must be carefully preserved and the mentor must avoid developing a competitive relationship with the new faculty member.
Goals for the Mentor
  • Short-term goals
    • Helping mentee sort out priorities: budgeting time, publications, teaching, obtaining appropriate resources, setting up a lab or experimental work if appropriate, service
    • Helping junior faculty member to get research support
    • Familiarization with the campus and its environment, including the system of shared governance between the Administration and the Academic Senate.
    • Networking-introduction to colleagues, identification of other possible mentors.
    • Developing awareness-help new faculty understand policies and procedures that are relevant to the new faculty member's work.
    • Constructive criticism and encouragement, compliments on achievements.
    • How to say no to certain demands on your time
  • Long-term goals
    • Developing visibility and prominence within the profession
    • Achieving career advancement.
Benefits for the Mentor
  • Satisfaction in assisting in the development of a colleague
  • Ideas for and feedback about the mentor's own teaching/scholarship
  • A network of colleagues who have passed through the program
  • Retention of excellent faculty colleagues
  • Enhancement of department quality
    • explain department's typical or general criteria for promotion and tenure; impart any flexibility that exists in the promotion/tenure schedule; the mentor should be aware that there is no rigid set of requirements for junior faculty, but that there are acceptable ranges of performance in various categories (e.g. scholarship, publications, supervision of undergraduate and graduate students, presentations at conferences, funding, changing the field, teaching, administrative duties, consulting, collaborations with colleagues)
    • mentor should inform other senior faculty of mentee's progress
    • help the mentee develop many options for the future
Questions a Mentor Might Answer
  • What are the department's formal and informal criteria for promotion and tenure? Who can clarify these criteria? How do I build a tenure file? Who sits on relevant committees?
  • Who can support a nomination effectively?
  • How do people in my field find out about, get nominated for and win assistantships, fellowships, grants, awards, and prizes?
  • What organizations should I join? Who can help a person get on the program?
  • What are the leading journals in my field? Have any colleagues published there? How should co-authorship be handled? Who can bring a submission to the attention of the editors?
  • What is the best way of getting feedback on a paper--to circulate pre-publication drafts widely, or to show drafts to a few colleagues?
  • What are appropriate and accepted ways to raise different kinds of concerns, issues and problems?
Tips for Mentors
  • Exchange CV's with your protégé to stimulate discussion about career paths and possibilities.
  • Ask about and encourage accomplishments. Provide constructive criticism and impromptu feedback.
  • Use your knowledge and experience to help junior faculty member identify and build on his/her own strengths.
  • Attend all mentoring events, including the fall training session and periodic workshops.
  • Try to be in contact twice monthly (if possible) about the junior faculty's career and activities. Commit to making one contact per month to show you're thinking about your protégé's career.
  • Discuss annual performance reviews with the junior faculty member: how to prepare, what to expect, how to deal with different outcomes. Preview the document before it is submitted to the personnel committee and chairman.
  • Aid the junior faculty in exploring the institutional, school, and departmental culture, i.e. what is valued? What is rewarded?
  • Check-in with program coordinator with any concerns, or problems. Respond to occasional calls from the coordinator to see how each pair is doing.
  • Share knowledge of important university and professional events that should be attended by the junior faculty member.

The Mentee

The Responsibility of the New Faculty Member

The Faculty Mentoring Program at Steinhardt is designed to help the new faculty members plan their careers with the advice of more experienced colleagues. Because the program is set up for the benefit of the junior faculty, the younger partner in each mentor/mentee pair should take considerable responsibility for making the relationship work. The mentee is expected to contact the mentor to set up the first meeting, at which both parties should reach a clear understanding of what they expect from each other. They should agree on the frequency, duration, and place of meetings, and they should decide whether or not the mentor will have an "open door" policy so as to be available for mentees at any time. Mentees should be encouraged to formulate their career goals clearly, define sharply any problems they perceive and bring specific problems to meetings for discussion. The mentor may wish to ask for some such material in writing. Mentors cannot guarantee the happiness and work environment of mentees at Steinhardt and they cannot make promises as to salary equity, but they can offer support, encouragement and useful information. It is important to establish how issues of confidentiality will be dealt with. If total confidentiality is expected, the mentor might, for instance, find it difficult to approach a Chair on behalf of the mentee when there is a dispute among colleagues. The mentor/mentee pair should agree to a no-fault conclusion of the relationship if either party feels that the intended goal is not being achieved, without either blaming the other.

Mentees can select more than one mentor, perhaps for different purposes, and mentors can counsel more than one mentee. The new faculty member should keep his/her mentor informed of any problems or concerns as they arise. When input is desired, new faculty should leave sufficient time in the grant proposal and paper submission process to allow his/her mentor the opportunity to review and critique drafts.

Benefits to the Mentee
  • honest criticism and informal feedback;
  • advice on how to balance teaching, research and other responsibilities and set professional priorities;
  • knowledge of informal rules for advancement (as well as political and substantive pitfalls to be avoided);
  • skills for showcasing your work;
  • an understanding of how to build a circle of friends and contacts both within and outside our institution; and
  • a perspective on long-term career planning.
Changing Mentors
  • a mentee should consider changing mentors if the mentor is clearly and consistently uninterested in her, if the mentor consistently depresses the mentee by undervaluing her abilities or questioning her motives, if the mentor displays any other signs of undermining the relationship (e.g. racial, sexual, ethnic or other prejudice), or if there is simply incompatibility
  • a mentee should consider adding a mentor if the current mentor consistently cannot answer questions or offer advice.
Tips for Mentees
  • Show initiative in career planning: write a personal statement about your educational philosophy (to be amended as needed); exchange your CV with your mentor for discussion.
  • Find out about, and take advantage of, opportunities for learning about how the university and your field operate. Write down questions as they occur to you, and then begin searching out the answers.
  • Realize that your success is important not just to you, but also to your department and the university. Consider that "going it alone" doesn't work that well for anyone.
  • Make your scheduled meetings with your mentor a priority, and take advantage of e-mail and the telephone to keep in touch informally.
  • Be willing to ask for help.
  • Begin assembling your "advisory board" of supporters and advisors in the university community.
  • Make and maintain contacts with other junior faculty, within your department as well as in other departments and schools.
  • Become familiar with the resources available to support and strengthen your teaching and research.
  • Assemble a library of information about your institution, school, and department: the University faculty handbook; the latest strategic plan for your school and your department.
  • Set a meeting with your chair to discuss departmental expectations for tenure and promotion.

Typical Issues for Discussion Between Mentor and Mentee

  • How does one establish an appropriate balance between teaching, research and committee work? How does one say "no?"
  • What criteria are used for teaching excellence, how is teaching evaluated?
  • How does one obtain feedback concerning teaching? What resources are available for teaching enhancement?
  • How does one identify and recruit good undergraduate and graduate students? How are undergraduate and graduate students supported? What should one expect from undergraduate and graduate students? What is required in the undergraduate and graduate programs?
  • What are the criteria for research excellence, how is research evaluated?
  • How does the merit and promotion process work? Who is involved?
  • What committees should one be on and how much committee work should one expect?
  • What social events occur in the department?
  • What seminars and workshops does the department organize?
  • What is the School system? What responsibilities come with appointment to a particular School?

Important Forms, Appendices, and Resources