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The following pages provide summaries of advice from the research on faculty mentoring or from essays by experts in the field.


Considerations in selecting a Mentor

Even if you are assigned a mentor or a mentoring committee, you still have a choice about how much you depend on your assigned mentor for guidance and how much you seek out others on an informal basis. If you are not assigned a mentor, then the responsibility rests solely with you to get the guidance and assistance that will help you succeed. The following considerations may be of value to new faculty in either circumstance.

  • Be focused and intentional in finding mentors.
    • Know what you want to accomplish
    • Meet with people you know and trust; solicit recommendations about who might be a good mentor.
    • Seek multiple mentors based on what you want or need.
    • Don’t discount someone with different viewpoints, backgrounds, or experiences
  • Determine your objectives for a mentoring relationship.
    • Who possesses the specific skill(s) you’d like to develop?
    • Who has charted a career path that appeals to you?
    • Who has overcome many challenges to get where he/she is today?
    • Who is in a sufficiently senior role within the organization to provide you with relevant advice and opportunities?
  • Take time to evaluate your choices. Consider the following questions:
    • Would he/she be willing to mentor you in the areas you need?
    • How often would he/she be able to meet with you?
    • What are his/her expectations of a mentoring relationship? Is there a fit?
    • Do you feel comfortable enough with the person to share your genuine concerns
    • Do you think the prospective mentor can respond helpfully if differences arise

*Adapted from a mentoring relationship webinar presented by the University of Texas System Leadership Institute, Nov. 12, 2009. Used with permission of Suzan Franzen, Director.

Tips for Faculty Being Mentored

  • Be proactive. Initiate contact with your mentor(s).
  • Give a copy of your CV to your mentors and ask for copies of theirs. (Remember that your mentors often have been in academia for many years, so their CVs will be longer than yours. Be careful about comparisons.)
  • Be willing to ask for help and advice. Recognize that your success is important not only to you but also to your department or school and to the University.
  • Be sure to share your accomplishments with your mentors. Mentors are there to help you deal with problems and concerns, but they also want to share in your joys.
  • Write down questions as they occur to you and bring the list along to your meeting with your mentor.
  • Get to know your junior colleagues in the school or department and across campus. Remember the value of peer mentoring. Those who have been at UNC a few years longer than you can provide invaluable information and advice.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to speak about and present your work. That lets other people know what you are interested in and can help create partnerships and other opportunities.
  • Take advantage of the many faculty support services the University offers, including, but not limited to, the programs and resources of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence (
  • Show initiative in planning your own career. Set short- and long-range goals for your teaching, research, and service. Share those goals with your mentors.
  • Be respectful of your mentor’s time and other responsibilities. Do not expect overnight turnaround on materials you ask your mentor to review.
  • Ask for periodic feedback from others in your unit responsible for guiding new faculty. This could be your department chair or assistant chair, division head, or associate dean. If you are “veering off course” in any way, it is helpful to know as quickly as possible. If you are on course, then it is good to know that as well.

Adapted from Rachel Thomas, “Exemplary Junior Faculty Mentoring Programs,” March 2005, pp. 5-7.

How good is your Mentor?

Nobody is perfect, and you don’t need your mentor to be perfect. However, you should be able to recognize your mentor in the following list of descriptors. If not, it might be time to have a discussion with the head of your department about how the mentoring relationship is going.

Good mentors are:

  • Good listeners: They take time to understand what is going on with the mentee before they offer advice and information.
  • Self-aware: They know what they can and cannot offer, and they observe and note how what they offer is being received by those they mentor.
  • Flexible: They are willing to adjust to the needs of mentees.
  • Good role models: They demonstrate effective academic practices.
  • Transparent: They make their thinking explicit so mentees understand why they do what they do.
  • Positive guides: They recognize and acknowledge the progress mentees make; they also provide constructive criticism and helpful advice. They pay attention to the timing of their comments. They strike the right balance between guidance, criticism, and praise.
  • Facilitators: They help mentees connect to others who share their interests, who can help them and provide resources.
  • People of integrity: They are honest in what they say and do and work for the good of those they mentor; they do not take advantage of the mentoring situation.
  • Reasonably available to the faculty member being mentored.


*Based on material provided at an April 2010 mentoring workshop at UNC by Deborah DeZure, Assistant Provost for Faculty and Organizational Development, Michigan State University. Material adapted from J. Nakamura, D. Sheronoff, and C. Hooker (2009). Good Mentoring: Fostering Excellent Practice in Higher Education. Good Mentoring: Fostering Excellent Practice in Higher Education.