Mentoring Perceptions and Experiences of Culturally Diverse Tenure-Accruing Faculty

By Zafar, Mueen A.; Roberts, Kellie W. et al. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Mentoring Perceptions and Experiences of Culturally Diverse Tenure-Accruing Faculty


Zafar, Mueen A., Roberts, Kellie W., Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


The lack of apprenticeship or transition time to discover and understand the roles of the profession remains a concern for new higher education faculty (Di Fabio & Bernaud, 2008; Rochlen et al., 1999). Novice professors typically lack clear expectations or a plan of action to guide their progression towards achieving tenure (Greene et al., 2008; Price & Cotten, 2006; Santo et al., 2009; Youn & Price, 2009). Compounding this issue, the transition of new faculty in academia is shrouded in mystery. In the wake of such confusion, a mentor can guide these individuals and provide some much needed direction regarding their journey into a new, uncertain, and demanding environment (Greene et al., 2008; Santo et al., 2009). Instructions or nurturing from senior faculty becomes important because most new faculty find themselves spending too much time on teaching and, while it is highly valued, excellence in teaching alone does not provide job security. Ortlieb, Biddix and Doepker (2010) agree and explain that despite being held in high regard, "without publications, there is no promotion, no tenure, no security, no more teaching, and ultimately no more job" (p. 112).

Studies reveal institutional support is an important requirement for tenure-accruing faculty (Creamer, 1995; Greene et al., 2008; Santo et al., 2009). Mentoring has been found to be one such method of support, especially for foreign national faculty, a group which typically is not as culturally aware of the demands of the U.S. teaching environment (Fink, 1984; Kline & Liu, 2005; Menges, 1999; Sorcinelli, 1994). Research conducted by Greene et al. (2008), illustrates the experiences of 96 respondents who disclosed a variable amount of support, both formal and informal, provided by their educational institutions. Forty-eight (50%) respondents reported having a formal mentor assigned to them, of which only 16 (17%) found the relationship to be helpful. Mentors, according to most of the respondents, were either too busy or lacked interest in the mentee's research focus and, as such, were not keen to publish with them. Sixty (63%) respondents mentioned that the support that they most needed came from their colleagues, while seventeen (18%) reported receiving "teaching support in the form of workshops, fewer class preparations, course-release time, and peer observation" (p. 436). Ten respondents (10%) conveyed receiving no support or help they found useful.

Similarly, other researchers have identified mentoring as an important ingredient for early career faculty. Santo et al. (2009) explained that organizations that provide "sufficient time, intrinsic motivation, formal mentorship, culture that values research, and a network of external colleagues" (p. 120) were associated with greater research productivity. McCormick and Barnes (2008) identified attributes of helpful mentors as empathetic, patient, honest, and accessible and of good mentees as ambitious, open minded, humble, and appreciative. They felt that such a combination provides honest, supporting, and trusting relationships that facilitate professional growth and development.

Research is the one area where new faculty needs the most support (Greene et al., 2008). In 2008, Greene et al. found that 39% of their respondents indicated that relevant support included having a mentor, writing groups, travel money, grant funding, and research sharing with peers, apart from "course-load reductions, an untenured faculty handbook, administrative support, workshops, clear expectations, and more communication" (p. 437). Some researchers suggest free or release time while acquiring new research skills, graduate assistant support, internal funding opportunities, reduced teaching load, statistical assistance, a support group for research and writing, and faculty professional development (Santo et al., 2009) as other forms of assistance. Assigning mentors for new faculty reduces anxieties, apprehensions and manifests increased satisfaction, motivation, and confidence for pursuing tenure (Dreher & Ash, 1990; Hill, 2009; Lewallen et al. …

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