Posted 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023
Faculty mentoring program boosts new School of Education faculty, students
When Christine Hippert accepted a faculty position at UW-La Crosse, she had some learning of her own to do.
Hippert, who was raised in Massachusetts, noticed that many UWL students were not as outspoken as the ones she had encountered out East. Eventually, after speaking with her colleagues, Hippert developed strategies to make students more comfortable and get them to open up.
Now in her 16th year at UWL, Hippert is returning the favor by spearheading a faculty mentorship program designed to acclimate School of Education (SOE) faculty members on campus and in the community.
“Faculty at UWL are from all over the United States and all over the world,” says Hippert, a professor of archaeology and anthropology. “This means that they infrequently have a social network that they can count on to help them acclimate to La Crosse, our students and our campus. To successfully teach, faculty have to learn the written and unwritten rules of La Crosse, a process that takes time by connecting and talking to others.”
The program, specific to the SOE, kicked off during the 2021-22 academic year and included eight workshops on various issues related to faculty development, mentorship and career progression.
Faculty who participated left with personalized guidance on the promotion and tenure process, allowing them to work toward the ranks of associate and full professor.
Based on feedback from a faculty survey, Hippert developed two new mentoring initiatives for the 2022-23 academic year.
First, new faculty hires will be paired with senior faculty members in the Department of Educational Studies.
Second, SOE faculty with two to six years of experience at UWL will be paired with former members of the Joint Promotion Committee, the group responsible for evaluating promotion files.
Supporting new faculty in the promotion process is particularly important in the wake of COVID-19, which limited social connections between new and senior faculty.
This also made it difficult to teach, as new faculty were expected to teach online without having any firsthand experience with the student body.
“The vision and support behind our mentoring program are about investing in the SOE faculty, staff and students,” Dean Marcie Wycoff-Horn says. “Through mentoring programs like this one, research results indicate an improvement in confidence, career satisfaction, growth without fear of judgment and ultimately success for faculty, staff and students. By offering support through mentoring, everyone benefits.”
Hippert hopes the program will not only help new faculty in the short term — but improve morale and faculty retention in the long term.
Senior faculty participating in the programs will benefit, too, receiving a stipend as well as closer connections with their colleagues.
“Literature shows that if faculty don’t feel connected to people, they are less apt to want to stay at their institutions,” Hippert says. “As a member of the senior faculty at UWL, I am so grateful that Dean Wycoff-Horn is prioritizing faculty development and funding a program like this.”