By Kristal Kinloch-Taylor

Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and committed engagement are core principles of faculty mentoring (Columbia University, 2016). University faculty mentoring programs play a vital role in faculty success and retention (Cornell University, 2021).  Formal mentoring programs are structured and often assign mentors to mentees, typically with clear and established goals (Columbia (Columbia University, 2016; Cornell University, 2021). As an alternative approach, universities may elect to adopt informal mentoring programs. Informal mentoring programs encourage faculty with shared interests and similar identities to develop more organic relationships (Columbia University, 2016). Regardless of the approach, mentoring programs are a meaningful way to support faculty at different stages of their careers.

ODU’s Office of Faculty Diversity & Retention (OFDR) Faculty Mentoring program is designed to support and empower teaching & research and administrative faculty. Guidance is offered for faculty seeking mentorship and for those interested in serving as mentors. Faculty Diversity & Retention Director, Dr. Shanda Jenkins and Master Lecturer, Alison Lietzenmayer developed the program and had the opportunity to discuss the initiative in detail with the Center for Faculty Development (CFD) team.


CFD: Why is Faculty Mentorship important?


Dr. Jenkins:

  1. It helps faculty achieve their goals in terms of development, research, service, and teaching.
  2. It provides support for faculty as they seek promotion, tenure, and leadership opportunities.
  3. It connects faculty to colleagues and the university.
  4. It improves sense of belonging, inclusion, and retention.

Ms. Lietzenmayer: It’s about connection to communities (whether it’s university, departmental, regional, or disciplinary). Community strengthens our connection to the work we do, and that sense of belonging is important to me as a faculty member and as someone who attends events and workshops hosted by the OFDR or the CFD.  

CFD: How does the Faculty Diversity & Retention Office support Faculty Mentorship?


Dr. Jenkins:

  1. We have started a mentoring website to connect people who want to mentor with those who want mentors.
  2. We have done workshops, virtual cafes, and training on mentoring.
  3. We help with the Provost's Mentoring Award.
  4. We work with the CFD to support mentoring and launch committees in the colleges.

Ms. Lietzenmayer: Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key and Dr. Anne Perrotti should get a shoutout here for their efforts! They led the initial charge to develop the OFDR office, and Anne was brought in to identify and support the development of faculty mentoring efforts. A lot of things happen in silos on campus as we know, and they were working to identify all the areas in which faculty mentoring takes place around ODU. 

Under Shanda’s leadership, the OFDR has launched, and led several workshops on the topic and Shanda advocated for expanding mentorship through the College Diversity Committees on campus. The Office also launched a Faculty Mentoring website, and the team is working on the logistics behind creating strong "matches" between those willing to mentor formally (or informally in some cases!) and those faculty seeking a mentoring relationship. The OFDR’s monthly workshops serve as informal mentoring moments- with opportunities to connect and grow. These efforts can’t happen easily or quickly without real buy-in from faculty, and I think it’s important to know that the individuals involved WANT to participate in a mentoring experience. No one flourishes with an assigned mentor or a mismatched connection that isn’t invested in a partnership where both the mentor and mentee are growing.

But let’s give Shanda some attention here—she’s done a LOT in a short time and is advocating for faculty on a wide range of topics/issues.

CFD: What does mentorship look like across disciplines?


Ms. Lietzenmayer: I love this question– but you’ve asked someone that studied in the Humanities department-- so interdisciplinary work is very much *my favorite*. We all come to our work with intersecting identities– we’re not just ONE thing, right? So our connections across disciplines can reflect those components of ourselves and our work– and in the academic world that means our research and teaching. We can learn from each other when we are given the opportunity to connect authentically (and with respect to the challenges that different faculty face). Power systems in academia may only be annoying to some, but they are dangerous to others, and building faculty-driven space where authentic dialogue take place is key to creating the kind of inclusive community, we talk about in the mission statements of offices all across campus.

Mentoring, and interdisciplinary mentoring can be crucial for gaining perspective on challenging situations, for example. And here is where I shout out groups like the Women’s Caucus, who holds P&T workshops and sessions that are incredibly useful for people who are  up for promotion or tenure. It helps to know what is expected at an institution, and to "gut check" issues that might be unique to a department or college– sometimes it takes that external view to see a challenge or a way forward. 

And while I think we’re on track to grow more formal connections for mentoring at ODU– that’s one way of investing in a mentoring culture. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal experience– and what I like about the Virtual Cafés (hosted monthly by the OFDR ) is that one-off mentoring moments can occur when we can share advice about a topic, help locate a resource, or know who to contact to cut  through the "red tape" in some way to assist a fellow colleague (regardless of their office, department, or discipline).

CFD: How has mentorship helped you in your current or previous careers?


Dr. Jenkins:

  1. Both formal and informal mentoring have helped me to achieve my educational goals.
  2. Mentors have provided examples of what is possible.
  3. Mentors have really helped me with my research agenda.
  4. Mentors helped me handle leadership and the challenges that come with it.
  5. Mentors have helped me to become the educator that I strive to become.

Ms. Lietzenmayer: Mentoring has helped me manage the challenges of my role as a Lecturer—and informal mentoring and peer-mentoring continues to guide my evolving approach to teaching and learning. You know I love a shoutout, so here’s another– Dr. Jackie Stein (Director of Research Development, Office of Research) gave this fantastic welcome keynote for a Monarch Mentoring Week in Spring 2022, and she shared a story about a connection she made with a student as they waited for a light to cross Hampton Blvd. She left that moment feeling fulfilled that she had been able to help the student and was reflecting on how we sometimes mentor in moments we hadn’t planned for. Her focus on these informal mentoring moments resonated with me and served as a reminder of the amazing peer-mentoring and more formal mentoring connections I’ve had during my time at ODU.   

CFD: Is there a correlation between Faculty Mentorship and Faculty Retention? If so, please describe. 


Dr. Jenkins: Yes, there is research that shows mentorship (especially for early career faculty) is related to not only retention but also, career & professional development, promotion, grants, recruitment, pedagogical training, administrative support, learning of specific skills, development of intellectual abilities & critical thinking, career advancement, higher future aspirations, and better work-life balance.

CFD: Describe effective Faculty Mentorship strategies.


Dr. Jenkins:

  1. There are several types of mentoring strategies in the research. 

    1. there is formal and informal mentoring.
    2. There is committee based and dyadic mentoring.
  2. Usually, mentees are looking for the following: opportunities for collaboration, co-authoring of research, invitations to conferences, career review and help, understanding of their experiences, instrumental support, communication and support, and social connections.


Ms. Lietzenmayer: Successful mentoring strategies are rooted in active listening, empathy, and knowing when to shift from "expert” to “learner” mode. One-way mentoring relationships don’t work for a variety of reasons but for the most success, both (all) parties in a mentoring relationship need to share mutual goals and be able to communicate those goals. In other words, don’t ask a COMM person for advice on relationship building in mentoring or you’ll get a lecture on listening... is that a bit cliché? Just kidding, but since you asked, here is the best I can do for the sake of brevity.

Honesty- this might be demonstrated through transparency in communication, sharing honest assessments of situations or institutional challenges, and being open to learning.

Trust- taking the time to build trust, (and to be clear I have several colleagues that could explain these concepts with more clarity and depth than I ever could), but what I appreciate about mentoring is that when the mentor and mentee have taken the time to build trust in a shared space– then insights and feedback can be more authentic and personalized. That’s when people can grow, learn, pivot, and reflect. It doesn’t mean it’s always positive feedback either, but honesty and trust are the solid foundation for successful mentoring.

And time. People need time to do this work (because that’s what it is– even positive work is work), and we don’t have time to get into discussion about WHO does this labor, WHO has access to mentorship in traditional pathways and who does not, how mentoring is (or is not) compensated, but that’s another important conversation. While that’s happening, we can also work on making the change we want to see in our campus culture and community.

CFD: For faculty seeking mentorship, how can they get involved? For faculty looking to serve as a mentor, how can they get involved?


Dr. Jenkins: They should first reach out to colleagues, chair, department, and leadership first. Other resources include the Center for Faculty Development, the Office of Faculty Diversity and Retention

Employee Resource Groups, Women’s Caucus, and community group membership.

Ms. Lietzenmayer: Let us know! We have prepared a mentor listserv and are ready to get that going in the spring semester. Interested faculty can email or see the "Find a Mentor” on the new Faculty Mentoring website.  Interested mentors can email or see the "Be a Mentor” on the new Faculty Mentoring website.


Columbia University. (2016). Guide to best practices in faculty mentoring.

Cornell University. (2021). Best practices in faculty mentoring.