What is Mentoring?

November 1, 2021

One of my goals as the 2021-2022 Provost Mentor Fellow is to begin thinking about shared language that could be used across the university to define and discuss mentoring. Such a common understanding could be used by departments, faculty, students, and staff to begin conversations and develop (or continue to develop) mentoring practices that are both research-informed and grounded in our collective values. In exploring the literature on mentoring, the following 4 concepts stood out to me. I offer these as a place to start thinking about how we might want to define mentoring at the UO.

  1. Culturally Responsive: A culturally responsive mentor recognizes the different experiences and identities within the mentoring relationship, honors those differences, and reinforces their mentee’s self-efficacy. Mentees are in charge of their own learning, with mentors operating as guides or coaches.
  2. Network Based: A network model of mentoring involves a rich constellation of formal and informal relationships with a variety of professional colleagues, each supporting the mentee according to their own competencies, skills, and lived experiences.
  3. Reciprocal: Reciprocal mentorship recognizes that mentees can bring complementary knowledge and experiences to the relationship. It functions as a creative and dynamic alliance in which all parties regularly engage in identifying, communicating, and investing time working toward developmental goals.
  4. Adaptive: Mentoring changes with the needs of mentees, reflecting the mentees’ current career stage, professional goals, and need for guidance. Over time, adaptive mentoring relationships develop beyond transactional, hierarchical structures into ones in which all parties move between expert and learner roles as appropriate.

In the coming months, I’m looking forward to talking about these mentoring concepts with as many people as possible. I imagine that they will continue to change—possibly drastically—as a result of these conversations. You can let me know what you think by submitting your comments and ideas via this short Qualtrics survey.

Maile S. Hutterer

Selected Resources on Mentoring in Higher Education

Columbia University, The Office of the Provost. “Guide to Best Practices in Faculty Mentoring.” August, 2016.

Johnson, Brand, W. On Being a Mentor: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Lunsford, Laura Gail and Vicki L. Backer. “Great Mentoring in Graduate School: A Quick Start Guide for Protégés.” Council of Graduate School Occasional Paper Series 4 (September 2016).

National Academy of Sciences, “The Science of Effective Mentorship in Stemm. Online guide v1.0.” The National Academies Press, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2021. www.nap.edu/resource/25568/interactive/index.html