Mentoring Policy

The Department will take steps to ensure that each new faculty member develops a mentoring relationship with at least one senior faculty member in addition to the Division Head. A temporary mentor will be assigned to each junior faculty member for his or her first year at the Institute. The mentor will agree to work with the junior faculty member for one year. By the end of the year, the Junior Faculty member should choose a long-term mentor who may, but need not, be the senior faculty member assigned by the Department. He/she may add another mentor at any time or change mentors without need to state a reason. Division Heads and retired faculty may not serve as primary mentors. When this occurs, or the Department Head believes a new mentor is appropriate, a new mentor will be assigned.

The junior faculty member will notify the Department Head and the Division Head of his/her mentor at the end of his/her first year of employment. In subsequent reviews, the junior faculty should discuss how well the mentor relationship is working out.

The responsibility of the Department in the mentor relationship is to see that incoming faculty members are given a mentor for a temporary one-year period. The Department is also responsible for keeping an updated list of mentors and mentees.

The Division Head is responsible for mentoring the junior faculty members in his division. He should also discuss the primary mentor relationship during the annual review process. Finally, he is responsible for assisting the Department Head in choosing the temporary mentor.

The mentor is responsible for providing the mentee with information, guidance, and honest feedback on the following subjects:

  • Teaching
  • Research directions and funding
  • Promotion and tenure procedures
  • Recruiting and mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students

The mentee is responsible for contacting his/her assigned mentor and seeking out their guidance on aspects of teaching, research, and institute policy. S/he is also responsible for finding and choosing a mentor at the end of the first year.

MIT Policies and Procedures Section 4.1.2: 

Mentoring Schools and departments shall develop mechanisms to support faculty in their career development. The aim of such initiatives is to ensure that faculty members understand their obligations and opportunities as faculty members. The provision of mentoring support in no way obligates the Institute to a particular action or outcome regarding promotion or tenure, nor does it absolve a faculty member from the obligation to demonstrate excellence. A deficiency in mentoring may not be grounds for reconsidering promotion, reappointment, or tenure decisions.

Mentor Guidelines

  1. Don't be afraid to be a mentor. Many people underestimate the amount of knowledge that they have about the academic system or their organization, the contacts they have, and the avenues they can use to help someone else.
  2. Remember that you don't have to fulfill every possible function of a mentor to be effective, but let your mentees know where you are willing to help and what kind of information or support you can give that you believe will be particularly helpful. Be clear about whether you are willing to advise on personal issues, such as suggestions about how to balance family and career responsibilities.
  3. Clarify expectations about how much time and guidance you are prepared to offer.
  4. Mentors may have to take the initiative for the first couple of meetings, since mentees may feel intimidated. Hopefully, the mentee will assume more of the responsibility for initiating contact as he/she grows more comfortable. If you don't hear from him/her for an extended period of time, either call or e-mail him/her just to see how things are going.
  5. Let mentees know if they are asking for too much or too little of your time.
  6. Begin your mentoring with the idea that the relationship will work.
  7. You need to feel comfortable with the person you are mentoring. Don't try to force a relationship. Not all relationships will thrive, including mentoring ones. If, after three months, the mentoring relationship has not begun to take hold, consider bringing the relationship respectfully to a close.
  8. Be sure to give criticism, as well as praise, when warranted, but present it with specific suggestions for improvement. Do it in a private and non-threatening context. Giving criticism in the form of a question can be helpful, as in "Do you think the research would be better if you...."
  9. Don't try to turn your mentee into your clone. That person may have a different style from yours. In some instances, listening may be more important than giving advice. Most important: don't be judgmental.
  10. If your mentee fails, remember that you cannot always ensure success, but you can help that person to begin again more intelligently. You can help a him/her see a failed experience as valuable by recapping the situation, reframing it appropriately, and honestly identifying where it went wrong. Mentors can often prevent failure from happening repeatedly.
  11. Where appropriate, "talk up" your menteee's accomplishments to others in your department and institution, as well as at conferences and other meetings.
  12. Include menteees in informal activities whenever possible -- lunch, discussions following meetings or lectures, dinners during academic conferences.
  13. Teach menteees how to seek other career help whenever possible, such as money to attend workshops or release time for special projects.
  14. Be willing to provide support for people different from yourself. Avoid the temptation to assist only those with whom we feel the most comfortable, those who are the closest to being clones of ourselves. However, if you are from different backgrounds, be aware that some miscommunication may occur. This should not prevent a relationship from developing, but it does require an extra effort by both parties to communicate effectively.
  15. Eventually the relationship will come to an end. The mentor should give careful thought to the appropriate time and method for ending the relationship. Many times a mentor will "keep the door open" in the event that the mentee wishes to make contact again.

Mentor Guidelines for Jr. Faculty

  1. After your initial contact with your mentor, it is expected that you will contact him/her.
  2. You should agree on the frequency, duration, and place of meetings, and he/she should decide whether the mentor will have an "open door" policy so as to be available for mentees at any time.
  3. Begin to ask for help about MIT, research, paper submissions, etc.
  4. Asking for things from people you don't know or who have more experience might feel intimidating. Remember that your mentor knows the parameters of the relationship and is expecting your questions.
  5. Learn to evaluate the ideas and suggestions given to you by your mentor. Just because something felt right to another person does not necessarily mean that it is right for you. On the other hand, it never hurts to try new things. Be open to new ways of looking at situations and doing things differently.
  6. Seek out several mentors if it seems appropriate. Nobody is or can be perfect at everything. You will learn different things from different people.