Univ. to focus on mentors for faculty



An effort to create stronger Yale faculty mentoring programs may soon help new professors establish their careers and climb the rungs of the University’s tenure ladder.

In an e-mail sent to ladder faculty members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Monday, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler asked all departments to discuss and develop model mentoring programs for non-tenured faculty by December. The departments will initiate the use of these models during the 2005 calendar year and will evaluate their effectiveness in the spring of 2006. Salovey and Butler hope the e-mail will promote discussion about the programs already in use by some departments in order to determine which activities are favored by non-tenured faculty, Salovey said.

“There’s enormous variability across departments in the way they mentor faculty,” Salovey said. “We’re disseminating best practices.”

The University currently does not have a formalized approach to faculty mentoring. While most departments provide some form of guidance to non-tenured faculty members, such programs run the gamut from infrequent informal meetings to formal mentor relationships, Salovey said. Ultimately, he said he hopes every department will develop programs that suit their unique needs and requirements.

This summer, Salovey and Butler asked department and program chairs to describe existing mentoring programs, Butler said. Some of the responses were included in the e-mail to provide examples of different approaches, he said.

“There shouldn’t be a standard mentoring program for all departments because the teaching requirements, publication requirements, research requirements are different,” Butler said.

Professor Thomas Pollard, chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, said he is currently in the process of developing a formal mentoring program for his large department. The program will address the needs of junior faculty by pairing them with senior faculty and the department chair, he said

“It will provide the basic nuts and bolts about being successful,” he said, noting that the program will likely focus on lab management and grant writing.

Religious studies professor Stephen Davis said although he can see advantages to both informal and formal University mentoring programs, he said he has enjoyed his informal interactions with senior faculty in his department.

“They’ve found various ways to include me, but it’s nothing formal,” Davis said.

But Davis added that more formal mentoring programs might help resolve what he thinks is an inherent problem with Yale’s tenure system. The University’s elaborate tenure process creates lines of division between senior and junior faculty, Davis said. Junior faculty, who are not guaranteed tenure, may not receive adequate attention from senior faculty because of their “tenuous status,” he said.

“Because the senior faculty can’t depend on someone getting tenure, they’re more likely to invest more in relationships with other senior faculty,” he said.

Salovey said the mentoring programs will help elucidate the oftentimes perplexing tenure and promotion regulations delineated in the Faculty Handbook.

“Many young faculty members report to us that they’re confused by it,” he said.

Pollard said he thinks mentoring programs are crucial in helping junior faculty understand how to make an impact in their field.

“It’s an obligation and privilege for people who have been successful to help others be successful,” he said.

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