Faculty Mentoring and Sponsorship at Clemson University



What is faculty mentorship? The National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine subscribe to an operational definition of mentorship that "mentorship is a professional, working alliance in which individuals work together over time to support the personal and professional growth, development, and success of the relational partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support" (https://nap.nationalacademies.org/resource/25568/interactive/index.html). That statement succinctly captures the values Clemson espouses in its mentorship efforts.

Faculty mentorship is a reciprocal investment, one that benefits individual faculty members and bolsters the academic success of Clemson University. Academic excellence requires that faculty be able to understand their role as teachers, researchers and scholars. Mentorship helps faculty grow in that personal knowledge.

There is no standard model or style specific to mentorship or sponsorship and take place at the college, department, and individual level. The university as a whole is committed to seeing all of their faculty members supported and guided throughout their academic career. The new CU Faculty ADVANCEment Office will tap the recently-formed University Faculty Mentoring Committee to provide connectivity among leaders running programs within their colleges and departments and will focus itself on mid-career faculty stages.

Faculty mentoring is both a formal and informal activity, and it should touch upon all the components of academic life, such as establishing work/life balance, developing a research agenda, sharing best practices with teaching and engaging with institutional service and career advancement.

This webpage is designed to support the efforts of departments and schools in the advancement of faculty. Within it you can find recommended workshops on developing faculty mentorship, best practices for faculty mentoring, online communities and published scholarship on faculty mentorship.

Why establish a mentoring program?

To provide support for faculty
  • Clarify expectations for promotion and tenure
  • Increase retention
  • Enhance productivity (e.g., number of publications, grants submitted/funded, etc.)
  • To sustain vitality and productivity of regular and special-ranked faculty
  • To build community, collegiality and a positive climate
  • To provide a safe venue to discuss concerns, particularly for underrepresented faculty, who may face particular challenges, including isolation, exclusion from informal collegial networks, unconscious bias, and devaluation of scholarship focused on minorities or women
  • Because it works: Research indicates that junior faculty members who received mentoring averaged 0.4 more NSF or NIH grants and 3 additional publications and were 25 percentage points more likely to have a top-tier publication than faculty without mentors (Blau et al. 2010 American Economic Review, 100:348-52). Ibarra and colleagues (2010) and Bickel (2014) have also found that mentoring is important for women and minority faculty

What could mentorship look like?

    • Traditional mentorship - one mentee with one mentor from the same department
    • Team mentoring: one mentee and a group of mentors, assigned from the mentee’s department, outside the department or outside the institution
    • Peer Mentoring: a group of faculty who serve at a similar stage in their careers, who come together to discuss their professional expectations and personal issues. These sessions could be facilitated by a senior mentor
    • Sponsoring: A mentee is connected with a senior faculty member who could connect that person to his or her professional networks. This relationship does not necessarily include constant feedback on the mentee’s professional work
(Source: https://facultydevelopment.cornell.edu/mentoring-guidelines)

Mentoring plan templates

Some departments find contractual agreements helpful in establishing roles and expectations of the mentor/mentee in a faculty mentoring relationship. The following website has agreements developed for UMass Amherst faculty, but useful for the Clemson community: 


Resource Guides from TIGERS Advance Trailblazers: Provost's Mentoring Initiative for Faculty

The Trailblazers: Provost’s Mentoring Initiative for Faculty assisted pre-tenure and tenured faculty in developing their abilities to transform organizations by serving as advocates and champions of gender equity in higher education; preparing them to lead initiatives at Clemson University and other organizations (professional associations/government); and, equipped them with the tools necessary to establish faculty mentoring programs within their departments and colleges. The following documents are resource guides shared with various cohorts of Trailblazers, relevant for Clemson's future efforts with mentoring.

Focus Areas and Considerations

  • Mentoring Focus Areas for Early Career Faculty
    • Getting to Know the Institution
      • Understanding the academic culture of departments, colleges and the university
      • Identifying resources to support research and teaching
      • Creating a trusted network of junior and senior colleagues
      • Building a community
    • Excelling at Teaching, Research and Service
      • Helping set career aspirations and goals
      • Finding technical and financial support, including seed funding resources
      • Developing a research/writing plan
      • Identifying external funding mechanisms and best practices to receive grants and awards
      • Discuss awards that mentee may be able to win, short term and long term, and how to position themselves to enable this
      • Navigating the regulatory landscapes
      • Managing personnel and students
      • Soliciting feedback on manuscript and grant proposals
      • Finding support for teaching, such as developing new courses, pedagogical methods, technologies and interdisciplinary curricula
      • Providing advice about courses of action to address a specific problem (e.g., research collaboration, teaching evaluations)
      • Helping improve skills, such as how to give talks, supervising research assistants and managing classroom dynamics)
      • Thinking through or re-playing difficult situations that need to be negotiated
      • Identifying people at the university (or outside the university) who can be helpful to one's career, and how to approach them
      • Selecting which university committees to serve on
      • Navigating informal and formal advising demands
    • Understanding Tenure and Promotion Expectations
      • Understanding the specific steps of the tenure process
      • Learning about department-specific criteria used to evaluate research, teaching and service
      • Understanding the relative importance of teaching, publishing and service for specific faculty appointments
    • Navigating Work-Life Balance
      • Prioritizing/balancing teaching, research and service
      • Developing time management skills
      • Attending to quality of life issues such as dual careers, child or parent care, health
      • Identifying information about policies and support for work-life balance (including dependent care, elder care, wellness, community resources, etc)
    • Developing Professional Networks
      • Connecting to senior/influential colleagues
      • Identifying people external to the university who can be helpful to the mentee's career, and facilitating connections with them
      • Advising about participation in professional organizations and conferences
    • Source: https://facultydevelopment.cornell.edu/mentoring-guidelines
  • Mentoring Focus Areas for Mid-Career and Senior Faculty
    • Understanding the post-tenure evaluation process
      • Understanding the timeline and expectations for successful advancement to next promotion (professor, principal lecturer, etc)
      • Learning about department and college criteria for evaluating research, teaching, service performance post-tenure and post-special faculty promotion
    • Articulating post-tenure career goals
      • Help articulate continued scholarly distinction
      • Set time frames: establish short-term goals, align personal needs with department expectations
      • Obtain information about how to advance into academic leadership positions
    • Balancing increased service and work/life demands
      • Learn how to manage increased demands for service with family needs, such as aging parents and growing children
      • Learn to assess how to negotiate these demands with career goals
    • Develop career development opportunities
      • Help to identify resources for leadership, and field-specific development opportunities
    • Source: https://facultydevelopment.cornell.edu/mentoring-guidelines
  • Considerations for Setting a Mentoring Program
    • Chairs should set a mentoring relationship soon after making an offer/after tenure for all junior faculty and for interested newly tenured faculty
    • A department chair should not, if at all possible, serve as the only mentor to a junior faculty member in their department
    • When setting up the mentoring program, consider needs of the faculty (e.g. disciplinary affinity, availability of the mentor, mentee demographics
    • Mentors and mentees should draft a mentoring plan; establish the scope and focus of the mentoring relationship, e.g., research, teaching and advancement or all of the above
    • Team mentors should meet and clarify roles
    • Establish a limited duration of the mentoring relationship, usually a year, so that if the relationship does not work for either mentor or mentee, there's a graceful exit strategy; if the relationship works for both parties, it can be renewed
    • Consider conflicts of interest, the need to protect confidentiality, and how to ensure that the mentee (and mentor) can safely raise concerns
    • Chairs should consider how to evaluate the effectiveness of mentorship relationships: e.g. publications, grants, teaching evaluations
    • Make clear the relationship between the chair and the mentor - are the conversations between the mentee/mentor confidential or is there an expectation to share information between mentor and chair
    • Mentoring for faculty members with joint appointments should be coordinated among units, but the tenure-home unit should take the lead
    • Faculty should be required to check in annually with a chair, regardless of their mentoring plan
    • Chair should provide mentoring feedback and the mentor's annual review as part of their service to the department
    • Mentoring can be considered as departmental service. Good mentors should be rewarded; possible rewards can include exemption from other service demands or eligibility for department/college mentoring awards
    • Identify resources available to support mentoring (see links in accordion tabs below for suggested websites and online communities)
    • Source: https://facultydevelopment.cornell.edu/mentoring-guidelines

Resources for Faculty Mentorship

More information

University Faculty Mentoring Committee

Senior Associate Provost, Dr. Amy Lawton-Rauh - apfa@clemson.edu