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October 18, 2017

Mellon Foundation renews faculty mentoring grant

Early-career University of Massachusetts faculty and UMass academics from underrepresented backgrounds will continue to receive mentoring from fellow faculty members thanks to the renewal of a three-year, $400,000 grant from the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation announced last week.

The grant will permit UMass to extend its Mellon Mutual Mentoring Initiative, which “promotes the use of non-hierarchal mentoring networks that draw upon the experiences and expertise of a wide variety of mentoring partners, including peers, near-peers, senior faculty, and administrators, both on- and off-campus,” according to a Dec. 1 release. The program launched in 2006, received a three-year extension from 2007 to 2010, and will now run until 2013.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its ongoing investment in UMass Amherst’s future,” said Provost James V. Staros in the release. “This renewal grant will enable our faculty to have continued access to the resources and support necessary to develop mentoring relationships that contribute positively to their long-term success.”

The program is led by associate provost for faculty development Mary Deane Sorcinelli, director for new faculty initiatives Jung H. Yun and Brian Baldi, senior project manager. At the heart of the plan is the so-called Mutual Mentoring Team Grant Program, which aids faculty working in groups of varying sizes in designing “context-sensitive mentoring networks at the departmental, school and college, interdisciplinary or inter-institutional levels,” according to the release.

Yun, charged with innovating new faculty plans, said the grant allows UMass flexibility in planning faculty mentoring programs.

“The Office of Faculty Development created these flexible, faculty-driven grant programs because a one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring was unlikely to serve the wide range of faculty needs at a research-extensive institution like UMass Amherst,” he said. “We are thrilled by the fact that over 370 individual faculty members have elected to participate in our Mellon Grant programs since 2006 and impressed by the innovative networks they’ve created.”

Baldi said the grant assists traditionally underrepresented groups in getting their feet off the ground in the world of academia.

“A number of studies identify mentoring as a means of addressing common obstacles to building an academic career, particularly for women and faculty of color,” he said. “In four years, 120 faculty of color and 198 female faculty on our campus have taken part in this initiative, which are exceptionally encouraging participation rates for an entirely voluntary professional development program.”

According to Sorcinelli, UMass’ program has garnered the interest of faculty and administrators the world over.

“My co-PIs and I have been invited to disseminate our model and practices at over 25 conferences, universities and colleges in the U.S., as well as China, Canada, Egypt and Ireland,” she said. “We are also delighted that four U.S. universities have adapted our work and implemented Mutual Mentoring grant programs on their own campuses.”

-Collegian News Staff

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