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A Hybrid Mentoring Network for Next-Generation, 21st Century Faculty

Lisa M. Bunkowski (Texas A&M University Central Texas, USA)
Laresa Trusty (Texas A&M University Central Texas, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 10:15am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Blended Program/Degree
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Southern Hemisphere III
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 6
Virtual Session

Meet the needs of next-generation, 21st century faculty through a mentoring network designed around an innovative group model, incorporating new technologies, working across modalities.

Extended Abstract

- Review assessment data, LMS organization statistics, and lessons learned from pilot.
- Participate in small group activities that proved to be the most effective in stimulating mentor/mentee engagement and critical reflection.
- Review current scholarship supporting this innovative approach to mentoring for next-generation, 21st century faculty: hybrid, group, network model.
- Participate in discussion of ideas for fostering a culture of mentoring in multiple modalities across the institution.

- Full reference and resources list.
- Sample materials from our University Mentoring project.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas is an upper-level and graduate university, focused primarily on teaching. Independent within the Texas A&M System since 2009, it was independently accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - Commission on Colleges in June 2013, retroactive to January 1, 2013. At present, there are 19 tenured, 45 tenure-track, 12 professional-track, 2 visiting, and approximately 119 adjunct faculty members. With 14 fully online programs and 40% of our SCH (semester credit hours) online, it is increasingly important that the university support all faculty members, regardless of status, and emphasize quality technology-enhanced learning.

Who are these faculty members? According to Beane-Katner (2014), newly hired, next-generation tenure-track faculty share different goals, motivations, and expectations than their predecessors; and demonstrate an increasing dissatisfaction with traditional academic work as a defining characteristic. Mentoring is an important tool to support their needs. Another key group is the "21st-century faculty" (Diaz et al., 2009). They need support "keeping up with an increasingly technological workplace, developing ways to further integrate technology into the instructional experience, and assessing student learning in a variety of instructional delivery modes" (Diaz et al., 2009). All of our faculty members fall within these groups.

Because the university is relatively new, mentoring support had to be developed from the ground up. One challenge has been continuous change. Over the past five years, the department overseeing such work has gone through four distinct periods of growth, each with significant changes in name and scope. Today, the Division of Technology-Enhanced Learning (T-EL) has expanded its scope to include support for all learning spaces at the university, support for students engaged in technology-enhanced learning, and support for all faculty in their technology-enhanced teaching and learning efforts.

The major 2014-2015 initiative of the Office of Instructional Enhancement and Innovation (part of T-EL) was to design and implement a faculty mentoring program - one that would focus primarily on new faculty, but would have a related, robust support organization for all university faculty, as well.

We developed a mentoring network to meet the needs of our next-generation, 21st century faculty: an innovative group model, incorporating new technologies, working across modalities. One branch focuses on specific needs of faculty new to our university, and the other extends support to all of our faculty members.

We began a pilot in Fall 2014. Rather than conventional pairing, we employed a group-mentoring model (Otieno et al., 2010). This approach better meets the diverse needs of our faculty, and the multiple needs of individual faculty members (Bean et al., 2014). Through a network of mentoring relationships, we hope to foster a mentoring culture that extends beyond the participants.

The mentors include six experienced faculty members; five tenured faculty, and one experienced adjunct faculty member. Two mentors represent each of the following areas that are critical to faculty success to one degree or another: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service. Chosen from a pool of applicants, each Mentor received a modest stipend from the Provost.

The mentees/protŽgŽs consist of a cohort of new faculty members (both full-time and adjunct). All faculty members who have joined the university since Fall 2013 were placed into this cohort.

The program launched with a meet-and-greet, followed by a work-session which addressed goals and objectives. It is important that both groups understand what is expected of them, and that they accept responsibility to make the program, and themselves, successful (Holmberg-Wright, 2013).

We held two formal orientation/training sessions with the Mentors, to discuss their roles and responsibilities, work on mentoring strategies, and develop their personal inventories (Moore et al., 2008).

We facilitated group meetings for each Mentor-team throughout the year to share an informal meal and discuss university expectations, resources, and each Mentor-team's area of expertise. There were additional meetings addressing Technology-Enhanced Learning.

Because many potential participants are not physically present at the university, we made an e-mentoring option available in the Blackboard organization, University Mentoring Project. Ensher (2013) maintains, "E-mentoring relationships are advantageous as they allow mentors and protŽgŽs to enjoy maximum flexibility as they communicate without the constraints of physical proximity or time" (Ensher, 2013).

To extend support to all faculty members we created another organization, the IEI Faculty Resources & Forum, which provides information on best practices, course development, student engagement, assessment, policies and procedures, conferences, journals - all to support technology-enhanced teaching and learning. In addition, the organization hosts a forum. Faculty members can contact us directly, but the organization provides another layer of support, and access to an entire network of experienced educators.


Mentors and mentees/protŽgŽs were asked to complete evaluation surveys after working together for two semesters. The survey instruments included open-ended, reflective questions in addition to Likert Scale responses to statements about the program and activities. We drew on survey work done by scholars in this area (Bean et al., 2014; Ewing et al., 2008; Moore et al., 2008). The purpose was to measure participants' satisfaction with the program, explore their reflections and reactions to their experiences, and to collect suggestions for improvement. These data have enabled us to revise the mentoring program for AY 2015.

Using Blackboard statistics, we have examined traffic to both mentoring organizations. The results from these reports have enabled us to make revisions to the sites and to our practices to make both more effective and more frequently utilized by faculty members.

For AY 2015, the project will be expanded to include "new faculty" and "junior faculty" cohorts.

Lead Presenter

Dr. Lisa Bunkowski is the Director of Instructional Enhancement and Innovation. She is engaged with leading faculty development, mentoring, and is actively involved in supporting online and blended initiatives. As a Historian and member of the History faculty, her research focus is the mid-19th century U.S., with emphasis on issues of violence and gender. She is also involved with regional history, and is working on the Bell County, Texas Oral History Project.
Ms. Laresa Trusty is the Coordinator of the Technology-Enhanced Learning (T-EL) division. She is involved in most T-EL daily operations, facilitating and coordinating budgeting, assessment, and the Mentoring Project activities. She is also working on her M.S. in Instructional Design and supports the Blackboard organization component of the University Mentoring Project.