The scholarship on faculty retention and satisfaction identifies mentoring networks as the common characteristic of a successful start to an academic career and its continued development This is especially true for female and minority faculty. In particular multiple mentoring, through which faculty locate and depend on several different mentors throughout their careers, has been found to be more successful than the traditional model of one mentor.
In a multiple mentoring network, the protégé might pursue a mentoring relationship with a senior academic in their field, a peer in a similar position at another university, and/or an administrator in a role that they hope to one day perform. This kind of mentoring network has also been called “mutual mentoring” because it offers a more flexible model for mentoring that does not assume a one mentor/one mentee relationship in which the mentor must have all the expertise to guide their protégé through what may be a diverse and wide-ranging career path.
The Mentoring Networks are designed to supplement, enhance and support the already existing models of mentoring at Tufts. This Network focuses on five main areas that faculty at all stages find challenging:
Getting to know the institution: Whether faculty are new to the institution or are transitioning in a new role such as chair of a department, understanding an institution’s academic culture and mission can be challenging. For this area, faculty may identify mentors both within and outside of the university for their network of support.
Excelling at Teaching and Research: Teaching and Scholarly writing are areas of the academic lifestyle that require constant development. The creation of a new course, a book proposal, or the development of a tenure or promotion portfolio are all areas where academics may seek out mentors.
Leadership: As faculty and administrators take on new responsibilities throughout their careers (as chair of a department, dean, mentor to junior faculty, etc.) they may want to pursue leadership training or coaching through a mentorship relationship inside or outside of the university.
Creating Work-Life Balance: Both at the beginning of one’s academic career and throughout promotions and advancements, achieving work/life balance continues to be a difficult component of professional life for academics. Time management, in particular, is an area in which many academics may wish to pursue mentorship.
Developing Professional Networks: At all stages of the academic career, developing professional networks for future collaborations at conferences, regional meetings, and through collaborative writing and teaching endeavors is crucial to academic success, productivity, and satisfaction. Mentors who excel in professional networking may be from both inside and outside one’s home university.
Academia has long been perceived to be an isolating career choice. At several stages of one’s academic career, it can be hard to know where to turn for guidance. The Network Mentoring program has several objectives in mind:
To help retain new faculty (particularly women and faculty of color) by helping them attain the skills, knowledge, and support to have successful academic careers from the start.
To offer mid-career and seasoned faculty the opportunity and support to engage in meaningful relationships with colleagues at other universities who are doing innovative work in their field.
To foster a cooperative network for Tufts faculty both inside and outside of the Tufts University community.
To contribute to high morale for faculty at all career stages.
To enhance faculty motivation and productivity.
To further develop Tufts’ sense of community.
Tufts’s Maria Blanco and Donna Qualters (2020) have had their article, Mutual mentoring: Effect on faculty career achievements and experiences, published in Medical Teacher. This article explains the Mutual Mentoring Program and the experiences and outcomes.