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Mellon Mutual Mentoring Grants

Introduction to the Mutual Mentoring Model

In the literature of faculty development, mentoring is frequently cited as one of the few common characteristics of a successful academic career, particularly for women and faculty of color. Yet mentoring, as most of us now know it, has traditionally been defined by a top-down, one-on-one relationship in which an experienced faculty member guides and supports the career development of a new or early-career faculty member.

“Mutual Mentoring” distinguishes itself from the traditional model by encouraging the development of a broader, more flexible network of support that mirrors the diversity of real-life mentoring in which no single person is required or expected to possess the expertise of many. Within this model, early-career faculty build robust networks by engaging multiple “mentoring partners” in non-hierarchical, collaborative partnerships to address specific areas of knowledge and experience, such as research, teaching, tenure, and work-life balance. These partnerships should be designed to benefit not only the person traditionally known as the “protégé,” but also the person traditionally known as the “mentor,” thus building on the idea that all members of an academic community have something to teach and learn from each other.

A typical Mutual Mentoring network may include any or all of the mentoring partners listed below:


Peer Mentoring Partners
UMass Amherst colleagues who are of the same rank, e.g., assistant professors

Near Peer Mentoring Partners
UMass Amherst colleagues who were recently promoted to a higher rank, e.g., newly tenured associate professors

Senior Faculty Mentoring Partners
UMass Amherst associate and full professors

UMass Amherst chairs, heads, deans, and associate deans

Professional Staff Mentoring Partners
UMass Amherst professional staff and librarians

Student Mentoring Partners
UMass Amherst undergraduate and/or graduate students

Off-Campus Mentoring Partners
Faculty from the Five Colleges or other campuses (U.S. or abroad) – may also be cross-listed as peer, near peer, or senior faculty mentoring partners

On- or off-campus mentoring partners not defined above, e.g., a program officer at a funding agency or foundation.

Mentoring partners may choose to meet one-on-one, in large groups, in subgroups, in person, online (e.g., email, chat, SKYPE, etc.), or a combination of the above.

Faculty Development through Mentoring

In 2007, the Center for Faculty and Teaching Development (CTFD) established two faculty grant programs to encourage the creation of projects and resources that support early-career faculty and faculty of color through Mutual Mentoring. The following grant programs were made possible by a generous three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which was renewed in 2010 for an additional three-year period.

The Mellon Mutual Mentoring Team Grant Program
Team Grants support faculty-driven, context-sensitive projects based at the departmental, school/college, interdisciplinary, or inter-institutional levels. The core philosophy of the Team Grant Program is that mentoring should not be imposed from the top-down. The most successful faculty mentoring projects originate at the faculty ranks and are carried out by teams that conceive and implement their own project plans. Examples of possible Team projects include: establishing a departmental mentoring program that brings together new, early-career, and/or tenured faculty as mentoring partners around a particular issue, such as research interests, effective teaching, tenure prep, work-life balance, etc.; creating an interdisciplinary mentoring network within a particular school or college; or building a research mentoring roundtable of pre-tenure faculty across the Five Colleges.

The Mellon Mutual Mentoring Micro Grant Program
Micro Grants are individual mentoring grants that are intended to encourage pre-tenure faculty to identify desirable areas for professional growth and opportunity, and to develop the necessary mentoring partnership(s) to make such change(s) possible. Micro Grants are designed to promote purposeful career advancement, using mentoring as the medium to seek and exchange knowledge, resources, experiences, and opportunities across a small network. Examples of possible Micro projects include: bringing an off-campus mentoring partner to UMass Amherst or traveling to his/her campus for in-person mentoring meetings; creating a small faculty writing group to peer review manuscripts or tenure dossier components; sharing travel expenses to co-present with a mentoring partner at a professional conference, etc.

Priority Mentoring Areas

In the spring of 2006, staff from the CTFD organized several focus groups comprised of early-career faculty to better understand their interest in and need for mentoring. In the spring of 2007, the CTFD also launched a comprehensive online survey about mentoring, which was distributed to all pre-tenure faculty and yielded a 74% response rate. In effect, CTFD staff asked to be “mentored” on how best to proceed with their programmatic development.

According to the focus group participants and survey respondents, there are numerous challenges to professional success and personal well-being, the majority of which fall into five key categories that closely parallel the challenges identified in the literature of faculty development at large. These challenges have been designated as “Priority Mentoring Areas” at UMass Amherst.

Getting to Know the Institution
Understanding the academic culture of departments, schools/colleges, and the institution; identifying resources to support research and teaching; and creating a trusted network of junior and senior colleagues.

Excelling at Teaching and Research
Finding support for research such as developing a research/writing plan, identifying sources of internal and external funding, soliciting feedback on manuscripts and grant proposals; and finding support for teaching such as developing new courses, pedagogical methods, technologies, and interdisciplinary curricula.

Understanding Tenure and Evaluation
Better understanding the specific steps of the tenure process, learning more about the criteria for evaluating research and teaching performance, finding support in developing the tenure dossier, soliciting feedback on the quality and quantity of work through the annual faculty review.

Creating Work-Life Balance
Prioritizing/balancing teaching, research, and service; finding support for goal setting; developing time management skills; attending to quality of life issues such as dual careers, childcare, and affordable housing.

Developing Professional Networks
Establishing substantive, career-enhancing relationships with faculty who share similar interests in research and/or teaching. These faculty may be from other UMass Amherst departments and schools/colleges, and/or from other institutions, with particular emphasis on faculty from the Five Colleges consortium.

The Mutual Mentoring Initiative respects and responds to the voices of early-career faculty, who have been exceptionally generous in sharing their insights, ideas, and experiences with CTFD staff. As a result, Team and Micro Grants will only be awarded to applicants whose projects address one of more of the Priority Mentoring Areas outlined above.

The Mellon Mutual Mentoring Team Grant Program

The Team Grant Program provides support of up to $10,000 for 10 departmental, school/college, and interdisciplinary teams per year. All full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty are eligible to submit applications for Team Grants; however, at the request of the Mellon Foundation, projects must be designed primarily for the benefit of pre-tenure faculty. Although grants are awarded for 1-year periods, at the Selection Committee’s discretion, projects that demonstrate and document extraordinary success or potential for success may receive a second year of funding. Team Grants cannot be used to fund pre-existing programs and/or regular departmental or school/college activities.


  • Team Grants are available to support networks comprised of four or more faculty (minimum). Please consider applying for a Micro Grant if you do not have the minimum number of faculty members in your network.

  • If your network will include off-campus mentoring partners, please provide their biographical information (e.g., full name, title, institution, department, and contact information).

  • Under exceptional circumstances, the Faculty Selection Committee will award a grant to a team previously funded by the Mellon Initiative. However, priority will be given to teams that have not yet received funding.

The Mellon Mutual Mentoring Micro Grant Program

The Micro Grant Program provides support of $1,200 to up to 15 pre-tenure faculty members per year to build a small Mutual Mentoring network of their own design. All pre-tenure faculty are eligible to submit applications for Micro Grants, which will be awarded for one-year periods. No project will be funded for more than one year. The following are examples of projects that can be funded by Micro Grants:

  • Off-campus meetings to visit a mentoring partner to learn or discuss a new research or teaching method;

  • Travel expenses to co-present with a mentoring partner (or partners), and/or meet new or existing mentoring partners at a professional conference;

  • Modest honoraria to bring a mentoring partner to UMass Amherst for in-person mentoring and/or a public event, such as a departmental workshop or talk.

  • Editing services from a writing coach or editor to proofread, fine tune, or edit a scholarly manuscript for submission;

  • One-on-one or small group coaching services to improve writing, productivity and/or time management skills.


  • Micro Grants are available to support networks comprised of up to three individuals maximum (the applicant and up to two on- or off-campus mentoring partners). Please consider applying for a Team Grant if you have more than three members in your network.

  • If your network will include off-campus mentoring partners, please provide their biographical information (e.g., full name, title, institution, department, and contact information).

  • Past recipients of Micro Grants are not eligible to apply.

For examples of previously funded Team and Micro Grant projects, please visit our list of Mentoring Exemplars.

Criteria for Selection

A Mutual Mentoring Selection Committee will select the grant recipients for the Team Grant Program and determine the appropriate grant amounts. Membership on this committee will consist of three faculty members across career stages and from different schools/colleges who will serve for one-year terms, plus three program administrators from the CTFD. CTFD staff will select the grant recipients for the Micro Grant Program.

Proposals for both programs will be evaluated based on the five key criteria below:

  • Mission
    Does the project build upon the Mutual Mentoring model to address one or more of the University’s five Priority Mentoring Areas?

  • Innovation
    Does the project apply the concept of mentoring networks in a fresh, innovative way to address faculty needs? (This does not preclude replicating other successful projects.)

  • Action
    Does the project include a plan of action that is realistic, practical, and fiscally responsible?

  • Inclusion
    Does the project bring faculty together in a way that respects, promotes, and encourages dialogue about diversity?

  • Replication
    Can the project serve as a model for mentoring in other individual, departmental, school/college, and interdisciplinary scenarios?

Application Materials

Currently, we are not accepting new proposals for the Mutual Mentoring Grant Programs. Thank you for your interest and please feel free to contact by email or phone (413-545-1699) if you have any questions or comments.

FAQ about Applications for the Team and Micro Grant Programs

Can full-time lecturers, instructors, and visiting professors apply for these grant programs?
The CTFD makes the vast majority of its programming and resources available to lecturers, instructors, and visiting professors. However, the Mellon Grant Programs are funded by a private foundation with a particular interest in promoting the recruitment, development, and retention of tenure-track faculty. As a full-time instructor, lecturer, or visiting professor, you are very welcome to participate in a mentoring network, but you are ineligible to apply for a grant.

Can tenured faculty, department chairs/heads, or deans apply for these grant programs?
Tenured faculty, department chairs/heads, and deans may apply for a Team Grant, provided that your team includes a minimum of four faculty members, and the network is designed primarily for the professional development and benefit of pre-tenure faculty.

Tenured faculty, department chairs/heads, and deans are ineligible to apply for Micro Grants, which are reserved for pre-tenure faculty only.

Are Team Grant proposals from larger teams looked on more favorably by the Selection Committee?
No. While inclusion is important, past experience has taught us that very large teams can be unwieldy in terms of scheduling meetings and finding space for events. Far more important than the size of your team (provided that you meet the minimum number of members) is the quality of your proposal and the commitment of the team members to participating actively in the network.  

I would like to include travel funds for a conference in my proposal budget – is that considered an acceptable use?
If you choose to include travel funds in your proposal, please be specific about the conference (name, dates), as well as the purpose of your participation and how it relates to building your mentoring network. E.g., co-presenting research with an off-campus mentoring partner is considered an acceptable and highly valuable use of funds. Travel for the sake of travel, with no further explanation, is unlikely to be funded. 

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