Feature

When Leonard Draganowski, PsyD, a 2003 clinical psychology graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (CSOPP), became the school's newest assistant professor last spring, he struggled with making the transition. After all, Draganowski was nearly the same age as many of his students, and, fresh out of graduate school himself, he still had the "student mentality" of disliking professors who were strict and overbearing-he wanted to be well liked.

"But," says Draganowski, "I had to consider what was the right thing to do as a professor and not worry about what people thought of me."

For aid in finding that "right thing," he turned to his mentor since graduate school, former CSOPP psychology professor Patricia Eggleston, PhD. She helped him build his classroom confidence, for example, by guiding him on handling problem students, and generally pointing him to the knowledge base and training he has to teach successfully.

Ultimately, Draganowski credits her with helping him nab the department's Faculty of the Year Award, which is based on student votes.

Indeed, research indicates mentoring typically benefits new professionals and graduate students by increasing their job satisfaction, confidence and career success, according to research by W. Brad Johnson, PhD, of the U.S. Naval Academy, in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (Vol. 22, No. 1, pages 88-96).

And, recognizing that mentors aren't just for students, many universities have created mentoring programs that link new faculty with senior colleagues to guide them through the challenges of beginning their academic careers.

Draganowski's experience illustrates the payoffs. Having a mentor, he says "was a lot better than me floundering and using trial-and-error to figure things out."

Creating connections

In the early 1990s, Nadya Fouad, PhD, a professor in the educational psychology department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, developed a mentoring program for women that matched new faculty with senior faculty. Fouad developed the program to help women make the contacts they needed to secure tenure. The program has since evolved to include male junior faculty and serves as a model for other universities, such as Arizona State University, Fouad says.

Through the program, senior faculty advise junior faculty from other departments-an effort to ensure that mentors have no direct power over mentees (such as being able to vote on tenure). About 90 percent of the junior faculty members participate in the program when they join the department, Fouad says.

The program also offers workshops on professional issues that junior faculty face, such as how to publish, secure tenure and balance work-family issues.

Beyond the university setting, associations and other such groups offer other ways for aspiring faculty to get an early start on finding a mentor. For example, APA's Div. 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) offers a Links and Shoulders Mentoring program, which matches Div. 45 members with psychology students and young professionals based on their similar academic or research interests. The program is offered yearly at APA's Annual Convention.

Also, APA's Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology) offers a Web-based mentoring service that allows junior faculty to connect with more experienced professors to address such topics as classroom management, academic dishonesty, professional development, promotion and tenure-review preparation, and laboratory development. More than 40 senior faculty offer advice on the site, located at www.psynt.iupui.edu/MentoringService.

Tapping multiple mentors

And having more mentors may be better than having just one. Last year, Jessica Blom-Hoffman, PhD, an assistant school psychology professor at Northeastern University in Boston, received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mentored Qualitative Research Career Development Award, which allows her to have the support of national leaders to develop her skills in conducting health-promotion research in schools. The five-year award provides her with financial support as she gains skills to pursue her research interests. The grants aim to prepare early-career faculty to compete for NIH research grants and guide them on their preliminary work.

Blom-Hoffman receives mentoring from a Northeastern colleague, professor Debra Franko, PhD, and from psychologist Thomas Power, PhD, and physician Virginia Stallings, MD, both from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Having three mentors gives her three different vantage points, says Blom-Hoffman. "They each have their own strengths," she says.

For example, the mentoring she receives from Stallings allows her to access knowledge about nutrition and exposes her to interdisciplinary medical work.

In fact, says Blom-Hoffman, junior faculty "should not expect one mentor to provide mentorship in every area. They should recognize that there are different people to go to for different needs."

Armando Piña, PhD, who began this year as an assistant psychology professor at Arizona State University, also turns to several mentors for guidance on his teaching and research-from colleagues at his psychology department to his former doctoral school advisers and associates he met as a fellow in APA's Minority Fellowship Program.

"I cannot wait to be in the position to sit with a young faculty member like myself and guide them and share with them everything that I've received from my mentors," Piña says.

Melissa Dittman Tracey is a freelance writer in Chicago.

Further Reading

  • Cohen, L., Morgan, R.D., DiLillo, D., & Flores, L.Y. (2003). Why was my major professor so busy? Establishing an academic career while pursuing applied work. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(1), 88-94.

  • Darley, J.M., Zanna, M.P., & Roediger III, H.L. (Eds.) (2004). The compleat academic: A career guide. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  • Rheingold, H.L. (1994). The psychologist's guide to an academic career. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.