Faculty Mentoring Program

Your dean or department/division chair will be a critical source of important information and will serve as a mentor to all faculty members in your academic unit. But in addition to the dean or chair, we want every faculty member to have a person that he or she can go to for answers, support, or advice. Each department chair or dean has assigned a faculty member within the unit to serve as a mentor for each new faculty member. Please get to know your mentor and take advantage of their experience, wisdom and expertise. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice or help. The mentor-mentee relationship can be an important element in getting off to a successful start at USC Upstate.

Remember that most successful professionals gather a network of mentors who can provide guidance and support across a range of career areas. Be sure to seek out informal mentors in addition to your formal faculty mentor. 



The term mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey, where Mentor was Odysseus's friend entrusted with educating and serving as a guide and counselor to Odysseus' son Telemachus. According to Christopher Lucas and John Murray in New Faculty: A Practical Guide (2002), “Faculty with mentors have been found to be more productive, to receive more competitive grants, to publish more, and they indicate higher career and job satisfaction, while achieving greater long-term success than those not mentored.”

Program GOALS

The purpose of the mentoring program is to help new faculty members – both tenure-track and instructors – adjust to their new environment. A valuable relationship with a respected mentor can be an essential element – in conjunction with the assistance and advice from the dean and/or chair – in ensuring a successful start to one’s career at Upstate and in the academy. The mentor/mentee pair will work together to help the new member acclimate to the institutional culture at Upstate, increase their understanding of and visibility in both the university and professional community, establish important relationships, set priorities, and, for tenure-track faculty, understand and get a “jump” on the tenure process. A successful relationship depends ultimately on a commitment to the mentoring process and a willingness to invest the time and energy necessary in that process.


As soon as the faculty appointment is made, the department/division chair or dean of the college or school assigns a faculty member to serve as mentor. For new tenure-track faculty, the mentor should be a tenured faculty member. The dean or chair is responsible for advising new faculty on matters pertaining to academic reviews, including the promotion and tenure process. They should also make sure that the mentor is aware of these processes, as the mentor will also be asked to provide informal advice in this area.


Before the new faculty member arrives on campus, the mentor should contact the new faculty member to welcome them to the University and to introduce themselves. Ideally, the mentor should meet with the new faculty member on a regular basis over the first two years. The mentor’s role includes providing informal advice and guidance concerning teaching, research, and service. The mentor should also be able to direct the new faculty to appropriate University offices, services and individuals. The mentor should respect the confidentiality of all exchanges and interactions with the mentee. While the mentor may provide constructive criticism, it is important to remember that the mentor does not assess or evaluate the new faculty member. The mentor’s role is solely to provide support and guidance.


It is important that the new faculty member informs the mentor of any problems or concerns as they arise. When the mentee desires input from the mentor regarding such things as critiquing drafts, they should allow sufficient time for the mentor to review and provide feedback.


Sometimes, it may be necessary to change mentors. It is important to realize that various circumstances - new commitments, personality conflicts, incompatible schedules or interests - may occasionally arise that would create the need to assign a mentor. If this occurs, the mentor or mentee should seek confidential advice from the department chair or dean. It is important to realize that changes can and should be made without prejudice or fault, and a new faculty member should be encouraged to seek out additional mentors should the need arise.

For questions or comments concerning faculty mentoring, contact Dr. Pam Steinke, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, psteinke@uscupstate.edu; phone: 864-503-5005.

For Mentors


Mentors can take on various roles, such as coach, friend, champion, advocate, career guide, role model, instructional resource, or confidant depending on the needs of their new faculty and the nature of their mentoring relationship. Sharing knowledge and experience with formal institutional processes as well as informal networks can provide a valuable orientation to new faculty members and can aid with retention and success of junior colleagues. 

Mentors Are Responsible for:

  • Taking the initiative for contacting their mentees and staying in touch with them.
  • Devoting time to the relationship and be available when requested.
  • Assisting new faculty with their various questions, needs, or concerns.
  • Sharing their knowledge and experience to benefit their new faculty and following up on their progress at Upstate.
  • Maintaining confidentiality of the information shared by their new faculty colleagues. (Source: Northern Illinois University)


  • Accessibility – the mentor is encouraged make time to be available to the new faculty member. The mentor might keep in contact by dropping by, calling, sending e-mail, or extending a lunch invitation. It is very helpful for the mentor to make time to read / critique proposals and papers and to provide periodic reviews of progress.
  • Networking – the mentor should be able to help the new faculty member establish a professional network.
  • Independence – the new faculty member’s intellectual independence from the mentor must be carefully preserved and the mentor must avoid developing a competitive relationship with the new faculty member. (Source: UC Davis)


Short-term goals

  • Familiarization with the campus and its environment, including the USC Upstate system of shared governance between the Administration and the Faculty Senate.
  • Networking—introduction to colleagues, identification of other possible mentors.
  • Developing awareness—help new faculty understand policies and procedures that are relevant to the new faculty member’s work.
  • Constructive criticism and encouragement, compliments on achievements.
  • Helping to sort out priorities—budgeting time, balancing research, teaching, and service.

Long-term goals

  • Developing visibility and prominence within the profession.
  • Achieving career advancement. (Source: UC Davis)


  • Exchange CV's with your protégé to stimulate discussion about career paths and possibilities.
  • Ask about and encourage accomplishments. Provide constructive criticism and impromptu feedback.
  • Use your knowledge and experience to help junior faculty member identify and build on his/her own strengths.
  • Try to be in contact twice monthly (if possible) about the junior faculty's career and activities. Commit to making one contact per month to show you're thinking about your protégé's career.
  • Discuss annual performance reviews with the junior faculty member: how to prepare, what to expect, how to deal with different outcomes. Preview the document before it is submitted to the chair or dean.
  • Aid the junior faculty in exploring the institutional, school, and departmental culture, i.e. what is valued? What is rewarded?
  • Share knowledge of important university and professional events that should be attended by the junior faculty member. (Source: Emory University)


  • Take the initiative in the relationship. Invite your mentee to meet, suggest topics to discuss, and ask what your mentee's needs are. Encourage her to contact you with questions or issues she would like to discuss. You are expected to meet in person at least once each semester and encouraged to make contact by e-mail or telephone periodically between formal meetings.
  • Be considerate of your mentee's time. Respond to messages promptly and be on time for meetings. Be explicit about your own needs and limits (times you wish not to be disturbed, whether you would like to be contacted at home, etc.).
  • Always ask if you can make a suggestion or offer criticism before doing so. Complement your observation with specific suggestions for improvement. Give praise as well as criticism.
  • State explicitly to your mentee that you are only offering suggestions and that she should weigh your advice along with those received from other mentors.
  • Keep confidences. Make only positive or neutral comments about your mentee to others.
  • Be honest. Don't be afraid to end your mentoring relationship if changing professional or personal circumstances limit your availability and effectiveness as a mentor, if your mentee's needs change dramatically, or if you find you are ill-matched. If necessary, your department chair or dean can arrange a new mentor for your mentee.
  • Keep the door open for your mentee to return in the future. If at all possible, try not to end the relationship on bad terms. (UW-Madison)


  • Satisfaction in assisting in the development of a colleague
  • Ideas for and feedback about the mentor’s own teaching / scholarship
  • A network of colleagues who have passed through the program
  • Retention of excellent faculty colleagues
  • Enhancement of department quality (Source: UC Davis)
For Mentees


New Faculty can take on various roles such as friend, protégé, new colleague, or junior faculty depending on their needs, academic experience, and the nature of their mentoring relationship.

Mentees Are Responsible for:

  • Devoting the time to the mentoring relationship and interacting with the mentor often.
  • Making use of the opportunities provided by the mentor.
  • Keeping the mentor informed of academic progress, difficulties, and concerns.
  • Exchanging ideas and experiences with the mentor.
  • Seeking help and support when needed. (Source: Northern Illinois University)

Both the mentors and new faculty colleagues have the responsibility for gaining each other's trust and confidence, interacting in a collegial manner so as to value each other's time, and professional and personal commitments, and engaging in activities that support the mission of USC Upstate.


  • Show initiative in career planning: write a personal statement about your educational philosophy (to be amended as needed); exchange your CV with your mentor for discussion.
  • Find out about, and take advantage of, opportunities for learning about how the university, and your field, operate. Write down questions as they occur to you, and then begin searching out the answers.
  • Realize that your success is important not just to you, but also to your department and the university. Consider that "going it alone" doesn't work that well for anyone.
  • Make your scheduled meetings with your mentor a priority, and take advantage of e-mail and the telephone to keep in touch informally.
  • Be willing to ask for help.
  • Let your department chair, dean or the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs know if you have questions or concerns about the program.
  • Begin assembling your "advisory board" of supporters and advisors in the university community.
  • Make and maintain contacts with other junior faculty, within your department as well as in other departments and schools.
  • Become familiar with the resources available to support and strengthen your teaching and research.
  • Assemble a library of information about your institution, school, and department: i.e., the latest strategic plan for your school and your department.
  • Set a meeting with your chair to discuss departmental expectations for tenure and promotion. (Source: Emory University)


  • Evaluate your needs and communicate with your mentor about your expectations as a mentee. You may find it helpful to record goals or write a formal mentoring agreement that you can review together periodically.
  • Be considerate of your mentor's time, but don't be shy about contacting her. Respond to messages promptly and be on time for meetings. You are expected to meet at least once each semester and encouraged to make contact by e-mail and/or telephone periodically between formal meetings.
  • Do ask for advice. Do not assume that advice will be offered if it is not solicited. Be as specific as possible when asking for advice.
  • Listen attentively to what your mentor has to say and seriously consider her advice even if your immediate reaction is not positive. Whether you elect to follow her advice, take another person's suggestion, or choose your own solution to a problem, let your mentor know how your conversations have contributed to your decision-making process.
  • Show appreciation for the time and assistance given to you by your mentor. Mentors need encouragement, too.
  • Keep confidences. Make only positive or neutral comments about your mentor to others.
  • Be honest. Don't be afraid to end your mentoring relationship if your needs change dramatically, if your mentor's changing professional or personal circumstances limit her availability and effectiveness, or if you find you are ill-matched. If necessary, the dean or department chair can arrange a new mentor for you.
  • Keep the door open with your mentor. You never know when you may need her advice or support at some time in the future. (Source: UW-Madison)
Structuring Mentoring Meetings


  • Mentors and new faculty are encouraged to meet face-to-face frequently during the first two semesters and keep in touch frequently through phone or email. Suggested mentoring activities are:
  • Discuss short term and long term career goals and professional interests.
  • Attend workshops or other faculty development programs and events.
  • Share information on academic and student support services on campus.
  • Discuss effective instructional techniques, course development and curricular issues.
  • Explore research and sponsored funding opportunities, and writing publications.
  • Discuss academic policies and guidelines, and university governance structure.
  • Attend campus events such as sports, theater productions, and cultural programs.
  • Share information on instructional resources and Web sites useful to new faculty.
  • Discuss student issues such as advising, motivating, and handling academic dishonesty.
  • Share experiences on managing time, handling stress, and balancing workload effectively.
  • Discuss preparing for tenure and promotion and career advancement.
  • Explore professional development opportunities available to new faculty. Address special needs, concerns, or questions and help in troubleshooting difficult situations. (Source: University of Northern Illinois)



  • How is the junior faculty member's department organized? (Divisions, Committees?)
  • How are decisions made? What are the opportunities for junior faculty involvement?
  • What supplies and expenses are covered by your department? By your school? Are there other resources available to cover expenses related to teaching and research?

Research and Resources:

  • What conferences should the junior faculty attend? How much travel is allowed/expected/supported? How do you choose between large conferences and smaller events? What can you do at professional gatherings to gain the type of exposure that can lead to good contacts, and potential names of tenure-file reviewers?
  • Where should you publish? What should you publish? How much/how often? What are your department/school's expectations regarding publication before tenure and promotion? How do journal/chapters in edited collections/conferences compare? How much "new" work is necessary to make something a "new" publication? Where should your publishing energy go: is a single-author book always preferable to an edited collection? May material published be submitted elsewhere? When is it time to worry if you haven't published?
  • How do I gain a spot on the program at academic colloquia, symposiums, and conferences?
  • How do people in my field find out about, get nominated for and win assistantships, fellowships, grants, awards, and prizes?
  • Who can support a nomination effectively?
  • What is the best way of getting feedback on a paper — to circulate pre-publication drafts widely, or to show drafts to a few colleagues?
  • How should co-authorship be handled?
  • What are the leading journals in my field?
  • Have any colleagues published there?
  • Who can bring a submission to the attention of the editors?
  • Is it worthwhile to send published reports to colleagues here, and elsewhere? What's the line between sharing news of your accomplishments and appearing self-congratulatory?
  • What do you see as your research "niche" in your department, in your area of research? What does your chair see your area of research contributing to the department, eventually to the school?

Presentations on Research:

  • Should you give presentations within your department? How often? How are colloquia in your department organized? What are the opportunities for your graduate students to present their work?
  • Should you give presentations about your work at other universities/institutions/public settings? How often? How important is this? If it is important, how do you get invited to give these talks?

Collaborative Research:

  • Is collaborative work encouraged or discouraged in your department/school/fields? With other members of your department? With international colleagues? With colleagues who are senior/more established? With other junior faculty/graduate students? Long-standing collaborations, or single efforts? How important is it to have some (or all) single-author papers to your credit or papers with multiple authors in which you are first author or senior author?
  • Authorship etiquette: On collaborative efforts, how are the authors listed? How important is first authorship? How is alphabetical listing of authors viewed?
  • Should you form a research group? What sort of activities should the group do, as opposed to work you should undertake individually?


  • Will you be expected to assemble a teaching portfolio for your tenure review? What goes into such a portfolio?
  • What are you expected to teach? Graduate, undergraduate, seminar, lecture, practicum, recitation, special topic, service course? Are some types of teaching more valued? How much flexibility is there in teaching schedules? Who controls the schedule?
  • Which are the "good" subjects to teach? Is it good to teach the same course semester after semester, stay with a single area? Or should you "teach around"?
  • Is it good to develop new courses? Specialized courses in your research area?
  • How can you use a special topics course to get a new research project off the ground?
  • How much time should you spend on your course preparation? Where's the line between sufficient preparation and over-preparation?
  • Will you have a teaching assistant? Who will select him/her? What can you expect of a teaching assistant, and what are your responsibilities for evaluation of his or her performance?
  • Are there departmental/school standards for grading? What degree of freedom do you have in determining course content? Does your department expect midterm and final exams?
  • How are you evaluated on teaching? What importance is placed on peer observation of your teaching? On student evaluations? If senior faculty do observe your classes, who asks them to come? To whom do they report, and in what way? What resources are there for improving your teaching?
  • What kinds of peer review of teaching should I expect?
  • Should I seek additional feedback?
  • Are there other teaching and learning resources I should explore?
  • If a classroom problem arises you aren't sure how to handle, what are your options for seeking advice, help?
  • What documentation related to teaching should you keep? Syllabi? Exams? Abstracts?
  • How should you develop a teaching portfolio? What form should it take? What should it include?


  • How much committee work should you expect to perform within your department? School? University? At the beginning of your career at Emory? What committees should you push to serve on? Are there any you should avoid pre-tenure? How much time should you expect to devote to committees and other forms of service as a junior faculty member?
  • What organizations should I join?
  • Who sits on relevant committees?
  • How important is professional service outside of the university? How much paper and proposal reviewing is reasonable? Review boards? Journal assistant editorships?
  • How do you weigh the prestige of organizing a national event in your field versus the time commitment?

Review Process:

  • Are there informal as well as formal criteria for promotion and tenure?
  • Who can help clarify my department's expectations?
  • How do I build a tenure dossier?
  • How long is your appointment? When will you come up for review? What sort of reviews? How is a third-year review, for example, different from the tenure review?
  • What is the process? (What do you submit for review? When? How do you hear the results? How are the reviewers selected? Do you have a role in that process?)
  • If you are responsible for submitting your own list of potential outside reviewers, how do you go about assembling such a list? What kind of reviewers should you try for? Are international and domestic reviewers regarded equally? How is the reviewer's own eminence evaluated? How much prior contact with a potential reviewer makes them unsuitable for your list? (Is having been on a panel together acceptable, but not a professional friendship?)
  • What information is important in your vita? Is there any activity too trivial to include? Should you send copies of congratulatory letters to your department chair, or simply retain them for your dossier?
  • How are raises determined in your department? School? How will you find out about your raise? What's the process for discussing your raise in a given year?
  • How can you get feedback on how you're doing at any point in your pre-tenure career?

Personal Issues:

  • What are appropriate and accepted ways to raise different kinds of concerns, issues and problems? 
  • What policies does Upstate have for family and personal leave? How do you go about asking for such leave? Do you begin at the department level? Is there an appeals process if your request is turned down?
  • What programs/assistance does the university provide for childcare?
  • How visible must one be in the department? Is it expected that you'll show your face every day? Is it acceptable to work at home?
  • What problems does the university's Employee Assistance Program deal with?
  • What are the university's sexual harassment policies?
  • If you're involved in a controversy or dispute, where do you go for help? (Source: Emory University and UW-Madison)