Best practices for college/unit leaders

The “best” formal mentoring program is one that is designed to meet the needs of an individual college or unit. Different models exist and deciding which model is best requires aligning the unit’s particular needs, goals and available resources. However, there is general agreement in the literature that successful formal mentoring programs share the following key attributes:

  • Top-level sponsorship
  • College expectations for mentoring and leadership are clearly reflected in its strategic plan, allocation of resources, and communications
  • College-level person is appointed to oversee and facilitate mentor-related programming
  • College-level support is available in the form of centralized services for efficiency (e.g., arrange orientations, organize workshops that all units can utilize, locate mentors)
  • Chair/director support and leadership for mentoring is clearly reflected in the unit-level strategic plan, budget, resources, communications, and time allowed for participation
  • Unit-level person is appointed to oversee and champion program as part of job description
  • Formal programs are designed by each college/unit based on their individual needs, strengths and constraints, and that comply with the university policy
  • Expectations for annual review and promotion are clearly stated and match disciplinary norms
  • Mentoring program policies, goals, and expectations that clarify role of mentors/mentees are clearly identified and communicated. Examples:
    • Role of mentor in reappointment, promotion and tenure (can affect trust; need for “safe” place)
    • Duration of match (e.g., one year, renewable, opportunity for reassignment)
    • Expectation for meetings (mentoring won’t happen if people aren’t meeting)
    • Confidentiality
  • Clear and effective process for identifying and matching mentors and mentees exists
  • Program addresses diversity with an inclusive process vs. singling out groups by identity
  • Orientation/training is provided for mentors/mentees to clarify program goals, expectations and policies, review best practices, and provide tips and resources
  • Recognition is given to active participants, both mentors and mentees (e.g., recognition for mentors is included in annual review, as service to the department; awards, special events and other forms of recognition are given regularly)
  • An evaluation plan, consisting of both formative and summative strategies, exists to regularly assess attainment of goals, effectiveness of processes, and measurable outcomes

See references 20, 21, and 22 in the Literature Cited list.

Developing a faculty mentoring program

See the following resources for phases 1-4 of developing a mentoring program.

  • Phase 1: Unit Assessment PDF

  • Reference 23
  • Phase 2: Designing Your Program PDF

  • References 24 and 25 in Literature cited
  • Phase 3: Program Implementation PDF

  • Phase 4: Evaluation

Evaluation is important because it helps you understand whether your mentoring program is working. Good practice involves continuous formative and summative evaluation. Follow the evaluation plan that was established during the program planning phase (Phase 2). The Michigan State University Faculty Mentoring Policy requires that colleges assess the effectiveness of their mentoring programs on a cycle not to exceed five years.

Resources on evaluation of both mentoring relationships and mentoring programs

The Mentoring Competency Assessment (MCA) is a validated tool identifying six mentoring competencies – maintaining effective communication, aligning expectations, assessing understanding, fostering independence, addressing equity and inclusion, and promoting professional development. The MCA for both mentors and mentees can be found here on the University of Wisconsin website along with other tools for mentor and mentee self-reflection.

Examples of college level expectations, policies and programs at MSU

Incentives and recognition

Incentives, both formal and informal, recognize contributions and excellence and build morale, motivation, and a positive work environment. The University Mentoring Policy specifies that, at minimum, mentoring excellence will be considered in the annual review of faculty and academic staff. Faculty may be recognized in any number of ways, including formally or informally; one time or regularly; planned or spontaneously. Be consistently clear that good mentoring efforts are valued. Most of these rewards require little or no funding.

Reference 26

Why are incentives and recognition important?

When done correctly, they can result in:

  • Improved performance and productivity
  • Improved morale and motivation
  • Increased sense of self-respect and confidence
  • Increased retention
  • Enhanced relationships
  • Open channels of communication
  • Reinforcement of university/unit values, policies and culture
  • Mutual commitment