The University of Massachusetts Amherst


At SBS, we realize the impact that peer mentoring can make in our faculty’s lives. All newly-hired faculty are invited to participate in the monthly new faculty mentoring meetings during their first year run by SBS, the Office of Faculty Development (OFD), and The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). These sessions provide the opportunity to meet other professors in the college and across the university and help faculty flourish in their career at UMass. Discussions center around work-life balance, grant advice, interdisciplinary collaboration, UMass student culture, teaching, time management, and beyond.

The SBS Dean’s Office also works with departments to pair new faculty together with departmental mentors and provides a mentoring stipend to facilitate lunch meetings. These pairings help foster collaborative relationships and connect new professors to the resources and advice they need to navigate a new institution. In addition, mentors benefit from the pairings, often learning new perspectives on research and teaching from their mentees. For ideas on how to start a useful discussion with your mentor or mentee, please reference the SBS Mentoring Tips and Topics.

Joining a faculty research group is an effective way to get feedback on your research and helps you develop a network of like-minded scholars across disciplines. UMass and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has many dynamic, active working groups that are open to new members.

Your paid membership to the National Center for Faculty Development can be activated here.

Mentoring Tips and Topics for Discussion Among Mentors and Mentees

Tips for Mentors
  • You are not expected to know all the answers as a mentor. The most important thing you can do is to help network your mentee with people on campus who can become part of their mentoring network to give them what they need.
  • Try to meet monthly. Send regular emails during the academic year just to check in.
  • Reach out to the junior faculty member in the beginning of their second year about the AFRs, which they have not yet prepared before: how to prepare, what to expect, how to deal with different outcomes. Reach out again right before their mini-tenure and tenure evaluations to help them prepare their dossiers.
  • Exchange CVs with your mentee to stimulate discussion about career paths and possibilities.
  • Tell them about the faculty union (MSP), the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), the Public Engagement Project (PEP), the Office of Faculty Development (OFD), the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and other institutions that can help them in their research and teaching.
  • Encourage them to apply for internal funding and fellowship opportunities.
  • Share insider knowledge about the institutional, school, and departmental culture, i.e. what is valued? What is rewarded? What do you wish you had known when you were in their position?
  • Share knowledge of important department, university and professional events that should be attended by the junior faculty member.
  • Mutually mentor: Ask them for advice in relevant areas where they can help you, too (e.g., your research plans, social media engagement, teaching, etc.).
  • Let your mentee know they can talk to the Senior Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development to learn about important work-life balance policies at UMass, like paid caregiving leave, stopping the tenure clock, etc.
  • Some mentees find it helpful to discuss how to identify and achieve tasks that will move them towards their self-defined goals. One way you can do this is to encourage them to create a semester plan for the aspects of their job that don’t have built in accountability (their research and writing).
  • Offer to read drafts of papers and encourage them to share working drafts with other colleagues and scholars who do similar work.
  • Sensitive topics discussed with your mentee should be kept confidential.
Tips for Mentees
  • Talk to the Senior Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development about dining cards for mutual mentoring lunches/coffees to take your mentor and other relevant faculty out for coffee, lunch, etc. for advice.
  • Show initiative in career planning: exchange your CV with your mentor for discussion, and ask for suggestions about strategies to take to build your CV pre-tenure.
  • Find out about, and take advantage of, opportunities for learning about how the university, and your field, operate.
  • Write down questions as they occur to you to ask at your next mentor meeting.
  • Branch out from your mentor. Ask your mentor for names of faculty who can help you in various areas.
  • Realize that your success is important not just to you, but also to your department and the university. Consider that "going it alone" doesn't work that well for anyone.
  • Make and maintain contacts with other junior faculty, within your department as well as in other departments and schools.
  • Assemble bookmarks of information about your institution, school, and department: the Provost’s website contains documents for faculty on tenure and other personnel policies. See the SBS tenure and promotion pages for career advice:
  • Send drafts of working papers to your mentor and other colleagues and ask for feedback.
  • Set up a meeting with your chair and PC Chair to discuss departmental expectations for tenure and promotion.
Suggested Topics of Discussion for Mentoring Meetings


  • Is support staff available to junior faculty? What can be fairly expected of support staff? What supplies and expenses are covered by your department? By your school? Are there other resources available to cover expenses related to teaching and research?


  • Authorship etiquette: On collaborative efforts, how are the authors listed? Where do graduate student names go? How important is first authorship? How is alphabetical listing of authors viewed?
  • How important is it to have some (or all) single-author papers to your credit or papers with multiple authors in which you are first author or senior author?
  • Where should you publish? What should you publish? How much/how often? What are your department/school's expectations regarding publication before tenure and promotion? How do journal articles compare to chapters in edited books? When is it time to worry if you haven't published?
  • How do you navigate the terms of a book contract?
  • Is it worthwhile to send published reports to colleagues here, and elsewhere? What's the line between sharing news of your accomplishments and appearing self-congratulatory?
  • What conferences should the junior faculty attend? How much travel is allowed/expected/supported?
  • How do you choose between large conferences and smaller ones? What can you do at professional gatherings to gain the type of exposure that can lead to good contacts, and potential names of tenure-file reviewers?
  • What research resources are available to you as a faculty member?
  • How important are grants and which ones? How much effort should you be investing in capturing research funding?
  • What do you see as your research "niche" in your department, in your area of research? What does your chair see your area of research contributing to the department, eventually to the school?
  • Should you apply for a pre-tenure fellowship? Can I leave the university for a residential fellowship and how will this impact my tenure timing?
  • Should you give presentations within your department? How often?? Should you give presentations about your work at other universities/institutions/public settings? How often? How important is this? If it is important, how do you get invited to give these talks?
  • Is collaborative work encouraged or discouraged in your department/school/fields? With other members of your department? With colleagues who are senior/more established? With other junior faculty/graduate students? Long-standing collaborations, or single efforts?
  • Is interdisciplinary work encouraged or discouraged in your department/school/fields?
  • What’s the best way to protect research time?
  • What is your research plan for tenure?
  • What opportunities are there for public engagement around my research?


  • How much time should you spend on your course preparation? Where's the line between sufficient preparation and over-preparation?
  • What sorts of materials should you be collecting for the teaching portion of your tenure case?
  • What are you expected to teach? Graduate, undergraduate, seminar, lecture, practicum, recitation, special topic, service course? Are some types of teaching more valued? How much flexibility is there in teaching schedules? Who controls the schedule?
  • Which are the "good" subjects to teach? Is it good to teach the same course semester after semester, stay with a single area? Or should you "teach around"?
  • Is it good to develop new courses? Specialized courses in your research area?
  • How can you use a special topics course to get a new research project off the ground?
  • Will you have a teaching assistant? Who will select him/her? What can you expect of a teaching assistant given GEO guidelines and what are your responsibilities for evaluation of his or her performance?
  • Are there departmental/school standards for grading? What degree of freedom do you have in determining course content? Does your department expect midterm and final exams?
  • How are you evaluated on teaching? What importance is placed on student evaluations? What resources are there for improving your teaching?
  • If a classroom problem arises you aren't sure how to handle, what are your options for seeking advice, help?

Student Supervision and Mentoring

  • How important is your work with graduate students? How many should you expect to supervise? How many is too many? How much advising should you expect to do? How do you set limits on the amount of time/effort you invest in graduate students?
  • How can you sign up for a workshop to get trained in graduate mentoring?
  • How do you identify graduate students to work with? How aggressive should you be in recruiting them to work with you? What should you expect from your graduate students?
  • How important is it to the department that you are a Ph.D. student advisor? On a doctoral or comps committee?
  • What should you keep in files on your students? Remember that you have to write reviews and recommendations for them.


  • How much committee work should you expect to perform within your department? School? University? At the beginning of your career at UMass?
  • What committees should you serve on? Are there any you should avoid pre-tenure? How much time should you expect to devote to committees and other forms of service as a junior faculty member?
  • How important is professional service outside of the university? How much paper and proposal reviewing is reasonable? Review boards? Journal assistant editorships?
  • How do you weigh the prestige of organizing a national event in your field versus the time commitment?
  • What are techniques for recognizing service that is good for my career or personal interests versus not? What are diplomatic ways of turning down excessive service requests?

Promotion and Review Process

  • How does the annual faculty review (AFR) work and what materials do I need to include?
  • Do I need to “read between the lines” in my annual evaluation? (i.e., will someone tell me explicitly if there are specific concerns about my performance?)
  • When will you come up for review? How is a mini-tenure review, for example, different from the tenure review?
  • What is the process? Are there templates available of statements others have written in your department? 
  • What do you submit for review? When? How do you hear the results? How are the external letter reviewers selected? How should you go about selecting your own list of potential letter writers? How can you start cultivating your letter writers now?
  • What information is important in your vita? Is there any activity too trivial to include?
  • Should you send copies of congratulatory letters to your department chair, or simply retain them for your dossier?
  • How can you get feedback on how you're doing at any point in your pre-tenure career?
  • How should I address pandemic-related impacts on my career?

Personal and Other Issues

  • What policies does UMass have for family and personal leave? How do you go about requesting a leave?
  • What programs/assistance does the university provide for childcare?
  • How visible must one be in the department? Is face time expected every day? Is it acceptable to work at home?
  • If you're involved in a problem, controversy or dispute, where do you go for help?
  • What faculty social groups exist? Is it common for faculty in your department/university to socialize outside of work?
  • How do faculty deal with stress?
  • What community groups and events are recommended?