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Optimizing Mentor/Mentee Relationships In Academia

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.435.1 - 3.435.7

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Paper Authors

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Barbara E. Marino

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Sandra Yost

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Session 2275

Optimizing Mentor/Mentee Relationships in Academia

Barbara E. Marino, Sandra A. Yost Loyola Marymount University/ University of Detroit Mercy


The demands of a tenure track appointment at a university can seem overwhelming to a beginning faculty member. Many new engineering professors begin such appointments immediately after a Ph.D. program or post-doctoral appointment. The decade or so of academia sitting in the student’s desk and serving as a researcher in the laboratory does not provide adequate preparation for life behind the podium. Launching a research program, obtaining funding, securing laboratory facilities and equipment, teaching courses, and weeding through the seemingly countless requests to serve on university and research-related committees and activities are all demands placed on new faculty members. Unseen to most graduate and doctoral students, these tasks present an imposing reality to the beginning faculty member.

Decisions at the beginning of a tenure-track appointment regarding the use of limited time can have lasting effects on one’s professorial career. Successfully handling the demands of a tenure track appointment and negotiating the “tenure gauntlet” requires an astute balancing act. Having a skilled mentor to assist in choosing appropriate activities and career strategies can help to “demystify” the tenure process and to ensure success.

Mentoring programs, some formal, some informal, can be found throughout business and education1-4, yet not all are effective. This is due in part to a misunderstanding of the role of both mentor and mentee. Furthermore, much of the available literature on mentoring in academia addresses the mentorship of graduate students, not new faculty colleagues. Therefore, these fledgling professors are often neglected.

This paper presents the results of interviews with new engineering faculty on their experience at the receiving end of mentoring. Important techniques for developing a good mentoring relationship with a senior colleague and practical suggestions for making the mentoring relationship work are explored. New faculty members will find guidance in choosing a mentor and in using the mentoring relationship to enhance their progress toward earning tenure. Faculty who are or would like to be mentors will find useful advice for growing in this important role in their junior colleagues’ careers.

Responsibilities of a New Faculty Member

An important goal of a new faculty member is to attain tenure. Most faculty manuals, regardless of the institution, state that the decision to award tenure is primarily based on three areas: research, teaching and service. Since many new faculty members begin their

Marino, B. E., & Yost, S. (1998, June), Optimizing Mentor/Mentee Relationships In Academia Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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