Faculty Mentoring

The Mailman School is committed to helping faculty to develop their skills and capabilities. The School’s mentoring program is designed to enhance the career success of junior faculty. We view mentoring as foundational to creating an inclusive and supportive scholarly community in which faculty succeed. 

Overview

Under Dean Fried’s leadership, the School has developed a comprehensive mentoring program for junior faculty. The program is intended to complement and formalize existing departmental efforts. An essential part of this process is the role faculty play as guides for the next generation of scholars.
 
The Mailman School’s mentoring program is designed to enhance faculty performance through the following steps:

  • Goal setting

  • Regular assessment of progress against defined goals, and

  • Effective feedback in the context of a constructive relationship

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentees benefit from having a committed senior advisor, with experience in setting and accomplishing career goals. They also benefit from expanded networks and opportunities for collaboration, access to honest criticism and feedback, advice on responsibilities and priorities, insight into the formal and informal “rules of the road” of academia, and help in developing skills and accessing resources needed to succeed. While mentoring may be formal or informal, formal mentoring programs have been shown to be especially valuable for increasing the career success of faculty members from traditionally underrepresented groups.The primary purpose of the mentoring program is to ensure the career success of junior faculty. There are, however, also benefits to the mentor and the Mailman School. 

Mentor benefits include the satisfaction of helping junior faculty succeed and feel at home in the Mailman School community, the value of extending their networks to include other mentors and mentees, and professional and personal growth and renewal. 

Schools that commit to mentoring benefit from increased productivity, decreased attrition, greater career success and satisfaction, and increased collaboration among faculty, and a more collegial environment.

Role of a Mentor

Mentoring relationships take many forms, and faculty members will likely maintain multiple concurrent relationships. The junior faculty mentoring program is not intended to provide to junior faculty a single mentor who will meet all of their research and career needs. Rather, we aim to ensure that every junior faculty has the benefit of a structured mentoring relationship with at least one senior person in the School. Every relationship will be different, but mentors in this program should, at minimum, provide career guidance and support in understanding the academic world in general, and the world of the Mailman School in particular.Mentors are committed to the success of their mentees. Mentors act as advocate, coach, and career guide, and provide active feedback, encouragement, support, and constructive (yet supportive) criticism and facilitation. We recognize that many faculty members will engage in a number of mentoring relationships over the course of their careers, both in and outside the Mailman School. 

Qualities of Good Mentors

  • Well-established in their careers, and clear models of career attainment

  • Committed to their mentee’s growth and development

  • Knowledgeable about Columbia University and the Mailman School

  • Intellectually generous, and committed to preserving a mentee’s academic independence

  • Ready to provide time and attention to their mentees, and act on their behalf

  • Empathic, conscious of the employment pressures faced by young faculty

  • Willingness to provide honest feedback, recognizing that at times this will include constructive negative feedback

Ways Mentors Can Help Mentees

This list is intended to spark thinking about different ways that a mentor can assist a mentee. No mentor provides assistance in all, or even most, of these areas: nor are all equally important over the course of a career or in a particular mentoring relationship. Mentoring varies with the evolving relationship of mentor and mentee, and their individual needs, expertise, and interests.

Research

  • Help develop career vision and goals, and review mentee’s work, including manuscripts prior to journal submission, and grant proposals. Make targeted requests of senior colleagues to do the same.

  • Assist in identifying and obtaining funding through proactive, one-on-one assistance via written and oral communications. If a grant is denied, read through the reviews and help your mentee re-package it for submission to another organization. The moment of a grant rejection is a key moment to provide active encouragement, support and help.

  • Connect mentee with potential collaborators at the School.

Education

  • Help your mentee learn to teach well, by observing them and providing feedback, and helping them develop courses by sharing syllabi, lecture notes, and names of faculty/academics who teach similar courses.

  • Discuss school-specific teaching policies, such as academic dishonesty policies, exam regulations, and grading expectations.

Academic Networking

  • Introduce your mentee to senior people in his or her field. When senior faculty in your department, suggest that your mentee be invited to meet and have meals with them.

  • Share knowledge of networks, including funding, professional, academic, and educational organizations.

  • Nominate your mentee for awards, talks, and leadership positions, and encourage your senior colleagues to do the same.

Facilitation

  • Introduce your mentee to the rules, spoken and unspoken, of the school, including its mission, governance structure, norms, and procedures.

  • Help your mentee understand that meetings are not solely for presenting successes, but for working through problems and supporting work in progress. In other words, encourage them to “show up” even when they’re discouraged.

  • Create and reinforce the mindset that excellent people can succeed, and that they can enjoy the scholarly process.

  • Be aware of possible exploitation of your mentee. Be aware of requests senior faculty make on junior faculty. Reach out to the chair or the offending faculty member to intercede as appropriate.