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Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

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Models of Mentoring

One-to-one mentoring

In this, the most traditional model, the more experienced person from within one’s own department is asked to provide support.  The mentee has access to information and experience that is specific to his or her discipline.  Departmental mentors can provide helpful information on localized, departmental practices and policies.  This can be important as demands of grantsmanship, teaching and research can be quite different between disciplines.


There is, however, a risk that this form of mentoring can lead to discipleship building (Cartwright, 2007).  Mentees might find themselves drawn into a departmental faction inadvertently, simply because of an association with their mentor.  It could become difficult to establish or express their own views on departmental issues and developments.  New faculty may resist showing weaknesses to colleagues who may be involved in tenure and promotion decisions.  This disadvantage can be particularly harmful to underrepresented faculty.


Being paired with a senior faculty mentor from outside one’s own department offers the potential for a broader perspective of the college/institution and could generate collaborative, cross-disciplinary research, but may be limited by a lack of familiarity with the mentee’s home department.


The model of being paired with a mentor who identifies with the race, gender, age and/or ethnicity of the mentee (underrepresented or otherwise) also has its advantages and disadvantages.  


The literature indicates that such mentors can provide valuable advice for negotiating the special demands upon mentees from underrepresented groups (Cartwright, 2007).  The very subtle ways in which race and gender can affect scholarly activities are often known best by those who have experienced them.


However, the expectation that two individuals would be well suited to each other based solely on gender or race similarity is not always met.  As well, senior women/faculty of color who may be few in numbers, particularly in the STEM fields, may be overburdened by the demand that they mentor all the early-career faculty who identify similarly.  Expectations of friendship and emotional support in these mentoring relationships can make the mentoring process less productive.


The most necessary ingredient to a fulfilling mentoring relationship in the one-to-one model is for the two individuals to spend time interacting.


Multiple mentors

Current perspectives of mentoring often value group approaches and multiple mentors as viable alternatives.  New faculty members can find an array of mentors useful — colleagues and peers inside and outside the department — to assist with their acculturation to
the university.


The goal is to engage people with different styles, skills, and values in an effort to improve the overall work environment.  This is consistent with a less hierarchical and more reciprocal relationship philosophy that may be more productive for some, especially women and other underrepresented faculty (Chesler & Chesler, 2002).


This model of mentoring eliminates the need to find the perfect mentor and encourages mentees to consider advice from several different perspectives.  It encourages more participation on the part of mentors as they recognize that they are not expected to meet the mentee’s every need.


This model , however, requires carefully planned implementation to ensure follow-through from all parties.  Boyle and Boise (1998) reported a low participation rate of only one-third of new faculty in “naturally occurring” multiple-mentor programs.  Mentoring tended to be irregular and transitory as new colleagues, burdened with duties, put off meetings with mentors.


Group or peer mentoring

Another form of mentoring takes place in a group setting — perhaps a brown-bag lunch — in which new members of a faculty are invited for informal information-sharing and problem-solving.  This might be organized and facilitated by a college dean, department chair, or mentoring committee.


The intent of this model is to allow new faculty to come together to discuss issues, both positive and negative, that are related to their adjustments to the university. The facilitators need not have an agenda; the issues can arise from the members of the group.  The informality of the session provides a setting where frustrations, doubts and concerns can be voiced without fear of creating a negative image before a departmental colleague.


These mentoring model allows new members to become acquainted with those in other departments, and can contribute to their professional and personal integration in the new environment.  Participants gain a sense of feeling less isolated.  The literature states frequently that peer mentoring in such situations is highly effective (Smith et al., 2001).


“Expert “ mentoring

Some institutions maintain an active pool of “expert” mentors who are available to be contacted directly by faculty who are seeking assistance or expertise in a particular area such as teaching, grant management, grant proposal writing, work-life balance, tenure and promotion, conflict management.  The duration of the assistance is generally short term and topic or task specific.

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