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IUPUC mentoring program piloted in 2015-16 will return this school year

July 20, 2016

A pilot program in which experienced IUPUC faculty mentored pre-promotion faculty from underrepresented groups was so successful, it’s coming back for the 2016-17 school year.

“My colleagues and I found the pilot program very rewarding,” said George Towers, professor of geography and head of the division of liberal arts and of the division of science. He was also one of the grant writers for the pilot.

IUPUC mentoring

Anna Carmon, associate professor of communication studies and director of IUPUC’s communication program, mentors J.D. Mendez, an assistant professor of chemistry. They took part in IUPUC's successful faculty mentoring pilot program. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IUPUC

The program’s goal was to increase faculty members’ confidence in directing their professional career, but getting the faculty members together resulted in much more. At IUPUC, 56 percent of faculty are women, 22 percent are minorities, and, as an indicator of working-class origins, 48 percent are first-generation college graduates.

“The opportunity to play a part in the success of others is what attracted us to higher education in the first place,” Towers said. “On top of that, the program was a lot of fun. I think we all learned a lot and built lasting relationships.”

Ten faculty mentees participated in the program, and each was paired with a faculty mentor.

Among them were mentor Anna Carmon, associate professor of communication studies and director of IUPUC’s communication program who has been at the university for seven years, and mentee J.D. Mendez, an assistant professor of chemistry who has been at IUPUC for nearly three years. 

Even though Carmon and Mendez came from different disciplines, they found common ground in their passion for teaching. 

During their monthly meet-ups, they focused on Mendez’s three-year review for promotion and tenure. Carmon who had already been through the process was able to help Mendez prepare by offering feedback on his materials and observing Mendez during class to help him think about his teaching style.

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“The third-year review can be rather intimidating, and it was very helpful to have someone like Anna who had recently been through this to help guide me,” Mendez said. “The program was a great experience for me. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have gotten through my third-year review without it.”

For Carmon, getting to know another faculty member she likely wouldn’t have connected with was a great experience.

“I think there is nothing more exciting than listening to another faculty member talk about their area of research or teaching interest and seeing their passion show through,” Carmon said. “J.D. has done some pretty innovative things with 3-D printing both at IUPUC and in the area county public schools that I would have never known about if we weren’t paired together.”

Carmon and Mendez’s experience was typical of the mentor-mentee pairs in the program, according to Towers.

“Even though the program was designed to help mentees, the mentors reported that they also benefitted greatly,” Towers said. “At the beginning of the program, mentees stressed that their top priority was to learn success strategies. Yet as the program progressed, they reported that the aspect of the program they most highly valued was their relationship with their mentor.

“By building better relationships between faculty, we think that the program contributed to the strengthening of campus culture.” 

The program included mentor training, an opening retreat, regular group feedback sessions and program assessment. It was made possible through a $4,642 grant from IUPUI and matched by IUPUC. 

Along with Towers, Joan Poulsen, associate professor of psychology; Darrin Carr, clinical assistant professor of mental health counseling; Aimee Zoeller, sociology lecturer; Anibal Torres, assistant professor of mental health counseling, and Cheryl Crisp, assistant professor of nursing, helped write the grant and administer the pilot mentoring program.

While the grant is not recurring for the next school year, Towers is confident the program will continue in the 2016-17 school year with some changes.

 “We're hoping to continue the program by opening it up to all IUPUC faculty instead of only those from underrepresented groups,” he said. “We'll also introduce peer mentoring in which mentees can work together and learn from each other. We plan to establish a mentor bureau in which mentors can provide guidance on their areas of greatest expertise. We do not anticipate that sustaining the program will incur significant additional costs.” 

Both Carmon and Mendez are glad to see the program continue and intend to recommend it to their colleagues.

“Even though IUPUC is small, having someone to help navigate all of the intricacies was very helpful,” Mendez said.

IUPUC's faculty mentoring program aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a celebration of a community of scholars.

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