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Developing Mentorship Programs for Historically Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Minorities and Other Marginalized Faculty Members: Elements to Consider

Mentorship program can take varied forms. Regardless of the form, we ask that unit leadership keep in mind the experiences of racial/ethnic minorities and other marginalized populations as they consider the many ways to strengthen and expand their collegial communities through mentorship. Below we list and discuss a few elements to keep in mind as you create and/or revise a mentorship program.

1. Mentor Selection. Assistant professors, minority and marginalized faculty members may find it more comfortable to begin a mentorship relationship and program if a) the initial mentor match is selected and appointed by unit leadership and b) there is a minimal set of expectations that guide the relationship (e.g., meet at least once a semester, rotate to a different mentor each April).

2. Guidelines for Shifting Mentors. Changing mentors is not an easy task, especially for early career faculty members or those who are part of marginalized populations. Given this, mentor/mentee matches may be best characterized from the start as arrangements that are dynamic. As such, they are expected to change as greater clarity occurs around shared interests, work style, and goals. To facilitate the ability of mentees and mentors to request a shift, please consider the development of a brief set of expectations that will allow changes to occur in ways that maintain mutual respect and a commitment to collegiality.

One approach to this may be to rotate mentors from one year to the next. In this way, mentees have the opportunity to come to know and seek guidance and support from multiple others, and may end up forming several long-term professional and/or social relationships. This also encourages more senior faculty to comfortably form relationships with those more junior.

3. Define the Relationship. Relationships are easier when people recognize what they have in common and build trust and communication upon this. Mentorships do not always come ready-made and will often require that pairs get to know one another, learn to communicate, and explore whether or not they have shared interest and goals. We encourage leaders to offer mentors and mentees a baseline on which to begin the relationship. Whether or not they share scholarly interests, it may be helpful to for their initial visit include the discussion and/or completion of a checklist that encourages them to identify 1) how often they will meet, 2) the mode of meeting, 3) the purpose of the relationship, and 4) goals related to the purpose of the relationship. Please see Initial Meeting, a template for an immediate a conversation and professional relationship starting point.

4. Accountability. Consider an easy electronic “check-in” for mentors and mentees that enables them to provide a brief update on whether or not point three (above) has been accomplished and whether or not meetings have occurred.

5. Acknowledgment of Service. From our view, the development and maintenance of collegial mentorship relationships that intentionally support the success of faculty members is a priority in a diverse intellectual community. Given this, the role of mentor is vital to the functioning and stability of a unit in ways similar to other service. We encourage leaders to establish “faculty mentorship” as a college, campus and/or department/program level of service. This can be counted, for example, in ways similar to committee service, committee leadership, or other modes of departmental contribution. This service can also be publicly recognized on websites, newsletters or other forums that make clear that these efforts are a core expectation of senior members of the faculty.

6. Ask us. Senior Faculty Mentors are available for brief consultation about your mentorship plan.