When Dr. Connie Barber started a new faculty position this year, she found the University Faculty Mentoring Program to be an invaluable guide to learning the ropes at UA Little Rock.
“I came from a previous university where I taught for seven years,” said Barber, assistant professor of management, marketing, and technology. “Being in the mentor program helped me transition to UA Little Rock and understand the academic culture from a faculty member perspective. It was a chance to get to know faces around campus that I might otherwise not have met.”
“The provost’s office decided to provide authority and support for the creation of a university-wide Faculty Mentoring Program in 2012,” said Dr. David Montague, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs – student success. “This is a volunteer program that provides a lot of good information that any faculty member would benefit from. We wanted to make this program something the faculty would look forward to every month.”
Montague co-runs the Faculty Mentoring Program with Dr. Shannon Collier-Tenison, interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for faculty relations and administration. Each mentoring program class runs for one academic year with a cohort of 15-20 people. Program participants, who are called proteges, have the opportunity to learn and ask questions from seasoned faculty members and gain access to additional resources that are housed on Blackboard in order to advance their faculty development.
Program participants meet monthly and learn about important faculty topics from successful faculty members. The talks on teaching, research, and service, for example, are taught by the winners of the Faculty Excellence Awards, the university’s highest honor for professors. Through this program, UA Little Rock is developing successful faculty members who serve as strong teachers and mentors that help students succeed in their college careers.
Additional topics covered include annual review, tenure, networking, grants, contracts, self-care, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the end of the program, graduates receive a letter of completion that is sent to their department chairs.
Dr. Emily Hood, assistant professor of art education, learned great lessons from the guest speakers who each spoke about an area where they had found success.
“I think the thing I enjoyed the most was having the consistent monthly meetings and knowing that I could bring my questions and receive high-quality feedback,” she said. “I noticed that their successes were rooted in their authentic love for the work they have done and are doing. I found myself encouraged to lean into my talents, and really commit my time to projects and collaborations that resonate with my deepest values, and trust that success will emerge from that commitment.”
One important element of the Faculty Mentoring Program is that it changes and grows with the needs of faculty members. For example, UA Little Rock’s deans requested the program add a session covering annual review, which covers faculty members’ teaching research, and service activities for the year.
“Now we have a panel of department chairs who come and talk about annual review and third-year review every November,” Montague said. “It’s a great session where people ask tough questions straight from the source and learn how to showcase what they have been doing as faculty members.”
Montague said the greatest change he’s seen in the program has been to open it up to all faculty members. Originally only available to tenure-track faculty, the Faculty Mentoring Program has also opened up to instructors, visiting faculty, and adjuncts.
“The program has been open to change and transition. I think it’s great that we have universal access to this program for all faculty members,” Montague said. “I like the fact that no matter what department or school a faculty member is in, they get a university level understanding of what it means to be successful. That is very important to their development as a successful faculty member.”
Proteges are also encouraged to find a mentor in their discipline outside the university. This external mentor encourages the faculty member to dig deep about what it means to be successful in their discipline, to network, and to be active in professional development opportunities.
At the end of the program, proteges have formed bonds with their fellow faculty members.
“Proteges often serve as support for each other after the program has finished,” Montague said. “We’ve had proteges collaborate on research and create public service projects together. This program is a really great addition and support for this university. It’s a way for people to feel like they are valued and belong here. We want people to become the type of professor they choose to be. It’s a privilege to educate others, and they should enjoy being faculty members.”