New Faculty Mentoring Program

"A mentor is a wise and trusted teacher. In Greek mythology, Mentor was Odysseus' counselor"

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This is a voluntary program through which experienced faculty at Northern Illinois University (NIU) knowledgeable about the campus and academic life are matched with new faculty to orient them to NIU, inform them about campus support services, and assist them in the early stages of their academic careers at NIU.  This program is not meant to be a substitute for existing mentoring programs at the department or college levels but can be a supplement to those programs.  For more information about the New Faculty Mentoring Program, contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Goals of the Mentoring Program

Help new faculty members to:

  • Learn about NIU, the surrounding community, and support resources for faculty.
  • Adjust to the new environment and become active members of the university quickly.
  • Address questions, concerns, and special needs in a confidential manner.
  • Gain insight about teaching and career development from a seasoned veteran.
  • Network with other faculty and develop a personal support system within NIU.

Encourage experienced faculty to:

  • Share their knowledge and experience with new faculty and gain professional satisfaction.
  • Assist new faculty to adjust quickly to the campus and address their unique needs, concerns, or questions, if any.
  • Help shape the careers of new colleagues and enjoy opportunities for self-renewal.
  • Provide a valuable service to the university by promoting collegiality through mentoring.
  • Contribute to teaching, research and scholarly activities, and service mission of NIU.

Suggested Mentoring Activities

Mentors and new faculty are encouraged to meet face-to-face frequently during the first two semesters and keep in touch frequently through phone or email. Suggested mentoring activities are:

  • Discuss short term and long term career goals and professional interests.
  • Attend the programs offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center and other campus units.
  • Share information on academic and student support services on campus.
  • Discuss effective instructional techniques, course development and curricular issues.
  • Explore research and sponsored funding opportunities, and writing publications.
  • Discuss academic policies and guidelines, and university governance structure.
  • Attend campus events such as sports, theater productions, and cultural programs.
  • Share information on instructional resources and Web sites useful to new faculty.
  • Discuss student issues such as advising, motivating, and handling academic dishonesty.
  • Share experiences on managing time, handling stress, and balancing workload effectively.
  • Discuss preparing for tenure and promotion and career advancement.
  • Explore professional development opportunities available to new faculty.
  • Address special needs, concerns, or questions and help in troubleshooting difficult situations.

Matching Mentors with New Faculty

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will match new faculty at their request with senior faculty mentors from the same department, college, or outside the college. If a new faculty's department or college has assigned a mentor from within the department or college, the new faculty can still request mentors from outside the department or college. Mentors are usually identified through personal contacts, recommendations of the deans, chairs, and colleagues.

As the research on successful mentoring has suggested, mentors assigned are generally of the same gender as the new faculty. However, mentors of particular gender, race, ethnicity, or background can be requested for multicultural development or other professional development reasons.

Duration of the Mentoring Process

No set duration is required for the mentoring relationship between a mentor and a new faculty. It is recommended that mentors and new faculty interact frequently during the first two semesters. At the end of the second semester they can decide if it is necessary to continue the mentoring relationship at the same pace, or on an as needed basis, or conclude it if individual goals have been met.

At any point during the mentoring process, if a mentor or new faculty feels that the relationship is not productive, the Center should be informed so that a different mentor or new faculty can be assigned. Due to the voluntary nature of the program, the Center cannot monitor the mentoring relationship closely or guarantee the outcomes of individual mentor-new faculty relationships.

Mentors and new faculty will be requested to provide feedback on the progress of their relationships at the end of the second semester so that the Center can evaluate the program and use the feedback to improve the program in the future.

Roles and Responsibilities of Mentors

Mentors can take on various roles, such as coach, friend, champion, advocate, career guide, role model, instructional resource, or confidant depending on the needs of their new faculty and the nature of their mentoring relationship.

Mentors are responsible for:

  • Taking the initiative for contacting their mentees and staying in touch with them.
  • Devoting time to the relationship and be available when requested.
  • Assisting new faculty with their various questions, needs, or concerns.
  • Sharing their knowledge and experience to benefit their new faculty and following up on their progress at NIU.
  • Maintaining confidentiality of the information shared by their new faculty colleagues.

Roles and Responsibilities of New Faculty

New Faculty can take on various roles such as friend, protégé, new colleague, or junior faculty depending on their needs, academic experience, and the nature of their mentoring relationship.

Mentees are responsible for:

  • Devoting the time to the mentoring relationship and interacting with the mentor often.
  • Making use of the opportunities provided by the mentor.
  • Keeping the mentor informed of academic progress, difficulties, and concerns.
  • Exchanging ideas and experiences with the mentor.
  • Seeking help and support when needed.

Both the mentors and new faculty colleagues have the responsibility for gaining each other's trust and confidence, interacting in a collegial manner so as to value each other's time, and professional and personal commitments, and engaging in activities that support the mission of NIU.

The 10 Commandments of Mentoring 1

  1. Don't be afraid to be a mentor. Many mentors underestimate the amount of knowledge that they have about the academic system or their organization, the contacts they have, and the avenues they can use to help someone else. A faculty member does not have to be at the absolute top of his or her profession or discipline to be a mentor. Teaching assistants can mentor other graduate students, graduate students can mentor undergraduates, and undergraduate majors can help those beginning the major.
  2. Remember you don't have to demonstrate every possible faculty role to be an effective mentor, but let your new faculty colleagues know where you are willing to help and what kind of information or support you can give that you believe will be particularly helpful. Be clear about whether you are willing to advise on personal issues, such as suggestions about how to balance family and career responsibilities.
  3. Clarify expectations about how much time and guidance you are prepared to offer.
  4. Let new faculty know if they are asking for too much or too little of your time.
  5. Be sure to give criticism, as well as praise, when warranted, but present it with specific suggestions for improvement. Do it in a private and non-threatening context. Giving criticism in the form of a question can be helpful, as in "What other strategy might you have used to increase student participation?"
  6. Where appropriate, "talk up" your new faculty accomplishments to others in your department and institution, as well as at conferences and other meetings.
  7. Include new faculty in informal activities whenever possible - lunch, discussions following meetings or lectures, dinners during academic conferences.
  8. Teach new faculty how to seek other career help whenever possible, such as funds to attend workshops or release time for special projects.
  9. Work within your institution to develop formal and informal mentoring programs and encourage social networks.
  10. Be willing to provide support for people different from yourself.

1 Taken from: Sandler, B. 1993. Women as Mentors: Myths and Commandments. Chronicle of Higher Education. March 10, 1993.

Acknowledgments and additional information

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all the POD members and the institutions listed above for sharing information about mentoring programs at their institutions.

For more information about the New Faculty Mentoring Program at Northern Illinois University, please contact the center at or 815-753-0595.

Last Updated: 12/15/2015

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