Leverage post-tenure mentoring to help faculty navigate their new role

Expert Insight

Leverage post-tenure mentoring to help faculty navigate their new role

By Michelle DiMenna

Departments typically direct support and transition initiatives to first-year faculty, focusing on developing plans for reaching tenure. However, once faculty earn tenure, they find themselves with a whole new set of challenges and, oftentimes, no clear understanding of how to face them.

In our research study “Instilling Equity and Inclusion in Departmental Practices,” EAB highlights how mentoring can help guide faculty through these new goals and challenges.

Mentors help clarify post-tenure faculty members’ new role

Most departments clearly communicate the formal requirements for tenure, and many have taken steps to make them accessible and transparent to junior faculty. However, the criteria for promotion to full professor are far more opaque. All the while, formal review opportunities diminish after tenure, service requirements increase (disproportionately so for women and minority faculty), and faculty face work-life balance challenges as demands on their time continue to rise. This leaves faculty who may be balancing additional external responsibilities (e.g. family and home obligations) and faculty with fewer mentorship resources at a disadvantage in pursuing full professor.

One state flagship institution completed an analysis that highlighted the effect that unclear guidance can have on departmental equity—they found that African American tenured faculty were disproportionately stalled at the associate level compared to their white peers. Promotion of diversity during new faculty recruitment clearly isn’t enough—post-tenure faculty also need access to a mentor who can provide guidance on career development and the promotion process.

While pre-tenure faculty mentoring focuses on creating a robust research and teaching portfolio, tenured faculty mentoring should provide guidance on restarting or expanding research, managing new demands on time, and promotion to full professor.

Tenured faculty may require more specialized and individualized mentoring; a faculty member’s early career mentor may no longer be the best fit. In fact, some faculty may find that the appropriate mentor may not even be located on the same campus.

Institutional grants can help encourage post-tenure mentoring

To help facilitate mentoring for post-tenure faculty, the University of Massachusetts Amherst developed the Mutual Mentoring Program. Their program offers two types of small grants as incentives for faculty to develop small professional development programs of their own. With grants ranging from $1,200- $6,000, the institution has seen incredible uptake with approximately 40% of full-time instructional staff participating.

UMass Amherst Encourages Collaboration and Development Through Micro-grants

Team Grants vs. Micro-Grants

Getting mentoring right

Knowing what a mentor can and cannot provide is essential for the success of a pairing. To make sure faculty at your institution are getting the most out of their mentoring relationship, make sure they are setting clear expectations following these five steps:

Setting Expectations for Mentoring Relationships

Five Expectations

It is important to note that the needs of the mentee will shift as he or she continues through his or her career, and these five guidelines should be revisited at the beginning of each year.

Next, read more insights on faculty promotion

Learn about the three often overlooked promotion and tenure metrics that universities should track.

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