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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

March 29, 2004

In mentoring program faculty guide faculty

CSUS doesn’t keep its reputation for great teaching by resting on its laurels. To ensure professors are able to stay at the top of their game, the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning offers access to experienced “coaches” through its Faculty Mentoring Program.

The peer-to-peer program matches professors who want to advance their teaching with advisors who can provide objective assessment and advice.

“We’re here to be an advocate for who they want to be in teaching and scholarship,” says center director Rosemary Papalewis, a professor in educational leadership and policy studies. “We work with them to determine where they need assistance.”

The program is open to faculty from any field and mentors represent almost every College. And though professors seek it out for a number of reasons, Papalewis sees it particularly useful for faculty who are new to teaching.

She says while new professors are trained as experts in their subject area, they usually haven’t had much training as teachers. “We get to work with faculty who want to be good teachers but need different strategies for student differences. For instance, you get very different students in a morning lower division class than you get in an afternoon upper-division class or an evening graduate class. The minute you’re not engaging the student, you’re not teaching,” Papalewis says.

“We can help provide strategies and tools to take deep knowledge of subject into an active learning environment,” she adds. Mentors can help with curriculum planning, attend class sessions and even videotape individual teaching for critique.

Mentors can also help campus newcomers feel at home. “In a large organization like Sac State, it’s easy to get lost,” says center associate director Mark Stoner, who is also a communication studies professor. With so many new faculty coming in, there isn’t as much opportunity for them to learn the ropes from veteran faculty, who are often in transition themselves.

“The traditional ‘giving of the mantle’ has been disrupted by all the hiring and retiring. The mentor program hooks new faculty up with someone who can answer questions and give them the lay of land in terms of the political environment,” he says.

Some professors are referred by their College, but most seek out the program for specific needs. Although teaching support is the primary reason, some faculty members also want to learn more about research or service opportunities. Others may be “ABD” (all but dissertation), seeking additional guidance in getting through the dissertation process. The center is also seeing more senior faculty seeking to reinvigorate their teaching strategies and incorporate technology. In fact, the need for assistance with technology has led to an additional set of technology mentors.

The process is confidential. “It’s a private relationship between us and the faculty,” Papalewis says. “The written follow-up is only put in the professor’s personnel file if they choose to do so. We understand it takes courage to come in and ask for help.”

Since the program began in 2001, the mentor ranks have grown to include a breadth of campus experience. “The intent is to have a cadre of mentors who potentially could help anyone,” Stoner says. For example, one mentor is still in the tenure process while others have been at the University about five years. “They provide a dimension of newness,” Stoner says. “They can relate to problems new faculty face because have been through it recently.”

There are also mentors on the other end who have been on campus for nearly 30 years, with long institutional memories and a respected record of teaching and research. Because it’s often easier to talk to someone who understands the unique issues that come with specific disciplines, the program has also recruited mentors from across campus. Center associate technology mentor and electronic and electronic engineering professor Jean Pierre Bayard says this is valuable in a field such as engineering. “Among those in engineering there is somewhat of a community of interests. We think similarly,” he says.

Mentors must apply to the program and submit a philosophy of teaching statement. Many are former recipients of the University’s Outstanding Teaching Award and others have specific expertise in educational technology.

For more information about getting, or becoming, a faculty mentor, call the Center for Teaching and Learning at 278-5945 or visit www.csus.edu/ctl.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu