Perlman, B., & McCann, L. I. (1998, Fall). Retaining and Mentoring New Colleaguesa. The Department Chair, 9(2), 15-16.
In a series of previous articles in the Department Chair, we have discussed the ethics, planning, and nuts and bolts work involved in recruiting new faculty. But what is the point of all this work if your new colleagues are unhappy, and leave within a few years of arriving, or stay but withdraw from a full academic life? In this final article, we discuss what you can do to attend to new faculty to maximize their sense of belonging, their shared purpose with their colleagues, and to keep them on your faculty.
Prepare For Your New Colleague's Arrival
Retention of new colleagues starts with the simple things. Have their office cleaned and painted if necessary, and order a name plate for the door. Make sure a mailbox is assigned, phone connected, and keys to the building, mailbox, and laboratory are ready to give them. If a computer was ordered, try to have it in their office and running when they arrive. Put them in contact with other recently hired faculty for help in finding housing, and urge them to arrive as early as possible to find their away around the campus and community and settle in.
Assign A Mentor and Require Mentoring
We recommend that a mentor be assigned to each new faculty member and that attending departmental or university mentor meetings, orientations, workshops and programs be required. Mentors help new hires to grow into their professional roles and to become productive faculty members. The best mentors remember their own early years as faculty, know something about the developmental process a new faculty moves through, want to work with a junior colleague, are proficient in teaching and scholarship, and are familiar with the people and processes in the college or university. Good mentors are patient, knowing that new faculty may resist the idea of taking time away from lecture preparation or scholarship just to talk, and recognizing it may take time to establish a relationship.
Mentoring seems to work best in a one-to-one relationship. It need not be done by senior faculty, nor by someone within the same department. There is value in a mentor from outside the home department, someone not involved in personnel decisions for the new hire nor with departmental politics. However, someone within the department needs to work with a new colleague to educate about its history, current faculty, and its processes and procedures.
General Advice for On-Campus Mentors
We recommend that on-campus mentors:
o Do some reading on new faculty, good teaching, and
o Meet regularly with new faculty, about every two weeks.
o Provide an orientation for your new colleagues early in their first year. Include a larger perspective (e.g., department or institutional history) and small details (book orders' due dates, what paperwork requests can be expected during a semester).
o Meet on- or off-campus, but within walking distance if possible. Get the new colleague out of the office.
o Do not set a rigid agenda. Let the new faculty bring up issues, but be sensitive to what is not being discussed (e.g., struggles with lectures or anxieties about scholarship).
o Discuss the stress of teaching and be prepared for the small crises which will inevitably occur.
o Know department and university standards for renewal and tenure so you can ensure that your new colleague is doing the things that must be done (e.g., obtaining teaching evaluations, peer reviews of teaching).
o Be focused. Your underlying concern must always be with professional development.
Specific Areas of Mentoring Responsibility
Teaching. The mentor should ensure that the new hire receives as much teaching information and material as possible, and as soon as possible, to ease the process of preparing and beginning several new classes (at once) in a new teaching environment. The following are things the mentor can do to increase the chances of a successful first year in the classroom, laboratory or studio.
o Provide a book or two on teaching, such as McKeachie's
(1994) Teaching Tips.
o As the semester unfolds help the new colleague plan ahead.
Having three sets of student papers due from different classes on the same day is not good planning.
o Provide information on departmental curricula, philosophy, syllabi requirements, grading practices, and assessment of student outcomes.
o Support risk taking in the classroom. Even if you believe in the lecture format, encourage new faculty to walk into a class prepared to lead a discussion or engage students in an active learning exercise. New teachers need to learn about different ways of teaching.
o Assist in coping with student problems such as difficult students in the classroom, or complaints about grades.
o Help to interpret and use teaching evaluations to improve teaching.
o Encourage attendance at on- or off-campus forums or conferences to learn more about teaching.
o Assist in developing or revising a teaching portfolio after the first year.
Scholarship or Artistic Performance. Because of the necessity of meeting assigned classes, teaching commands the attention of new faculty. If scholarship or artistic performance suffers in the process, anxiety and concern will rise. We suggest the following:
o Prepare a scholarly activity plan (Freudenthal & DiGiorgio, 1989) to focus attention on the need to be active and manage time effectively.
o Introduce the idea of working on scholarship regularly, even if only a few hours a week. If new faculty feel scholarship must be done as it was in graduate school, with huge amounts of time and all at once, they will become frustrated and unproductive.
o Have new hires log how their time is actually spent, discuss it, and help them make changes if needed.
o Be honest and supportive regarding standards for renewal and tenure.
o Make sure new faculty receive promised studio or laboratory space and equipment.
o Review methodological issues prior to data collection, and offer to read draft manuscripts.
o If on-campus funding is available to support scholarship or artistic performance, help new colleagues apply. Work with them to increase the chance of success. If they are denied support help them read feedback honestly, and resubmit. Successful scholars all suffer setbacks, but they persevere.
o Provide information on travel policies and support.
o Suggest conferences where work in progress or supervised undergraduate or graduate scholarship can be presented.
o When a new faculty is successful make sure your colleagues know it.Service, Citizenship, and Personnel Decisions. Some of a mentor's most useful advice involves issues of service, departmental citizenship, and personnel decisions.
o Get new hires talking with others. Urge them to schedule one or more hours a week in the faculty lounge or visiting colleagues' offices.
o Discuss how the new hire is getting along with others. Describe department colleagues' styles and quirks.
o Point out alternative ways of handling situations in meetings and committees, and how to disagree diplomatically.
o Assist new faculty members in seeking and accepting service assignments. You do not want them to be overwhelmed by service.
o Prepare new hires for their first contract renewals. Make them aware of deadlines, provide a sample of a completed document, and offer to edit an early draft. Suggest they begin a file for contract reviews and salary decisions, and help them organize it.
The Community. Do not underestimate the importance of the non-work environment in determining whether someone decides to stay with you or leave. Some suggestions:
o Discuss housing preferences, family, hobbies, etc.
o Make sure new faculty attend department, college, and university social events so they can meet people in a relaxed social atmosphere.
o Inform your new colleagues of campus and community events.
If you attend, ask them to join you.
Relationships with mentors on other campuses should be encouraged. New faculty need someone to talk with about their career and job, and to provide a perspective on their complaints and achievements.
Points of Entry Made Easy
We recommend providing new faculty with lists of helpful individuals in various capacities, both on- and
off-campus. Include titles, phone numbers, and who has a relationship with them (you, another colleague, a spouse). Examples of such entry points include:
o Budget/Accounting (travel forms, reimbursement, etc.)
o Computers (purchasing, service, e-mail, networking, etc.)
o Media services (making high quality posters or
o Library (interlibrary loans, reserving materials)
o Dean of Students (troubled students, cheating, etc.)
o Teaching Excellence Center
o Faculty Development Program
o Personnel (health coverage, W-2 forms, paychecks)
o A helpful custodian
o Physicians, attorneys, dentists, accountant, etc.
o Travel agent
o Real Estate agent
o Day Care, schools, baby sitters
o Auto mechanic
o Home owning (plumber, electrician, remodeler, etc.)
Take the same care, thought, and attention in helping new colleagues adjust to and grow as academics as you did in recruiting them. Attention to your colleagues pays dividends in maximizing the chances they will survive their first year or two with you, and be productive and knowledgeable department members. They will be grateful for the support you gave, and in return seeing the academic world through the experiences of new colleagues can refresh and invigorate more senior faculty, confirming both the joys and difficulties of academic work.
a Baron Perlman and Lee McCann are Professors of Psychology, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. This article is based on material from their book, RECRUITING GOOD COLLEGE FACULTY: PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR A SUCCESSFUL SEARCH, Anker, 1996.
References and Recommended Readings
Boice, R. (1992). The New Faculty Member: Supporting and Fostering Professional Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Braskamp, L. A., Fowler, D. L., & Ory, J. C. (1984). Faculty development and achievement: A faculty's view. Review of Higher Education, 7, 205-222.
Fink, L. D. (1990). New faculty members: The professoriate of tomorrow. Journal of Staff, Program, and Organization Development, 8, 235-245.
Freudenthal, N. R., & DiGiorgio, A. J. (1989). New faculty mentoring: The institution as mentor. Journal of Staff, Program, and Organization Development, 7, 67-71.
Gibson, G. W. (1992). Good Start: A Guidebook For New Faculty In Liberal Arts Colleges. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Lavery, P. T., Boice, R., Thompson, R. W., & Turner, J. L. (1989). Mentoring for new faculty. Journal of Staff, Program, and Organization Development, 7, 39-46.
Levinson, D. J. (1978). The Seasons of a Man's Life. NY: Knopf.
McKeachie, W. J. (1994). Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory For College and University Teachers (9th Ed.). Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath.
Perlman, B., & McCann, L. I. (1996). Recruiting Good College Faculty: Practical Advice for a Successful Search. Bolton, MA: Anker.
Sands, R. G., Parson, L. A., & Duanne, J. (1991). Faculty mentoring faculty in a public university. Journal of Higher Education, 62, 174-193.
Schuster, J. H., Wheeler, D. W., et al. (Eds.). (1990). Enhancing Faculty Careers: Strategies For Development and Renewal. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.