Key Considerations

In Program Design

There are multiple factors that contribute to how to begin to think about a department-based mentoring program for faculty.  These factors play a role into decisions about the program’s purpose and structure, and often influence the capacity to deliver valuable outcomes.

Below is a list of important consideration to keep in mind as you start:

1. Size of your unit

  • How many faculty members are there in each rank and line? 
  • Will mentoring over-tax certain individuals compared to others? 
  • Is there sufficient movement in faculty hiring and promotions such that senior faculty mentors have sufficient experience and skills to mentor junior colleagues?

2. The balance between junior and senior faculty, and the presence of mid-career faculty

  • Is the faculty senior-heavy? 
  • How long has it been since mentoring junior faculty took place in the unit? 
  • Are there mid-career faculty who could bridge the generational gap? 
  • If the faculty are senior-heavy, is their knowledge up-to-date when it comes to reappointment and promotion processes, and with respect to the resources available for junior faculty development across the school?

3. The presence of new strategic directions for the unit

  • Have the new directions been clarified and described to all faculty? Have they influenced the decisions with respect to new junior faculty hires?
  • Are internal resources available to support these new directions? 
  • If the new directions require new expertise or resources, have appropriate commitments been secured with unit leadership to ensure that the junior faculty are appropriately supported?
  • Are the mentors capable and willing to mentor their new colleagues in alignment with these new directions? 

4. Faculty burnout, fatigue and historical experiences within the unit

  • What are the previous experiences with respect to mentoring in the unit? 
  • How do they shape the mentors’ orientation and disposition towards their roles as mentors? 
  • Are the past experiences overly shaping the mentor’s attitudes? What is done to expand mentor horizons and mental frames for activating their roles?

5. Demands on faculty time and other interfering commitments

  • What are the rewards for the mentors in taking up these responsibilties? 
  • Could there be resources allocated to offset the time and energy to mentor? Stipend? Administrative support? Recognitions? Awards? Salary/bonus enhancements?

6. Breadth and depth of faculty diversity, broadly-speaking

  • Are the faculty mentor’s profiles broad and diverse in their scientific/clinical backgrounds, family and personal histories, and/or life experiences?
  • How does the individual profile influence the mentor’s capacity to mentor across differences?
  • What gaps are present and how could the program bridge them for a more holistic experience for the mentees?

7. Facillitating Mid Program Changes

We recommend that the program includes a process to supplement and change mentors or mentor team with “no fault” assigned. Both mentors and mentees benefit if there is a way to change or supplement assignments that may not be working.

  • Will it possible to establish such a process without causing further difficulties—for example, a ripple effect considering mentoring loads on other mentors; cultural consideration regarding reputations; or even hurt feelings?
  • How could you normalize the process of mentor changes or address unmet needs in existing mentoring relationships through the program?
  • What monitoring, feedback and accountability mechanisms will the program establish?