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Faculty Mentoring Through Engagement: The JCSU Story


Advancing Women and the Underrepresented in the Academy
A National Symposium
November 16-17, 2007
Johnson C. Smith University
Charlotte, North Carolina


Marilyn Sutton-Haywood, Professor of Biology, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bethune-Cookman University
Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor of Health and Human Performance, Dean of the College of Professional Studies, Director of Faculty Development, Johnson C. Smith University

Harriette Richard, Associate Professor of Psychology, Interim Director of Faculty Development,Johnson C. Smith University

In institutions where the primary mission is teaching, newly hired and/or junior faculty with the best intentions may lose their way in the midst of a heavy teaching load, advising and mentoring, committee work, and other University service. Research in student retention shows that students who feel connected and integrated into the campus community tend to remain at their institutions.  They persist. Tinto (1993) states that engagement includes  both social and academic engagement. Colleges and Universities must view faculty retention in the very same way and must do more to engage faculty such that they become integrated and acclimated to their University environment.

Using student retention models as a guide, Johnson C. Smith University has established programs that have high expectations, provide faculty involvement, support, feedback, and many opportunities for learning. The programs are built on the premise that if faculty are engaged and connected, they will remain. The activities of the programs assist faculty with acculturation, and include a common thread, engagement.  Faculty are viewed as valued members of the institution and given academic and social support through individual and group activities. Program activities have developed into faculty “learning communities”.

Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) is a private, historically black college that offers a liberal education to its students. The school, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, was founded in 1867.  The University exists as a coeducational undergraduate institution of higher learning, offering varied fields of study within the context of the small university.  The average annual enrollment is approximately 1,500 students.

The University delivers a multifaceted curriculum for its twenty seven majors distributed among the College of Arts and Science, the College of Professional Studies, and their eleven academic units.  Programs offered lead to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Social Work.  The University stresses interdisciplinary approaches and faculty development.

The History of Faculty Development
According to the JCSU Faculty Handbook, faculty are evaluated in the areas of teaching effectiveness, professional development, research and grantsmanship, and service. The Faculty Development (FD) Program serves to support faculty in each of these areas by engaging them in professional development activities that lead to their success in the classroom and in scholarship.  In the area of teaching effectiveness, the Program offers pedagogical (teaching strategies, assessment, grading, evaluation) and active learning (cooperative learning, instructional technology, etc.) workshops.  As for the area of professional development, the program offers opportunities to present at or participate in on and off campus workshops, conferences, summer institutes and retreats.

The University has had four distinct FD Programs, one funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) that served selected new and recently hired faculty; another funded by the Mellon Foundation that supported new and recently hired selected faculty; one that is endowed with funding from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and open to all faculty in the Arts and Humanities; and the other funded by the University and open to all University faculty.   These programs have worked in synergy and have afforded JCSU with the ability to develop exemplary Faculty Development opportunities.

The goals of both the UNCF/Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement and the Mellon Presidential Faculty Career Enhancement programs were to enhance the already operating Faculty Development Program, strengthen the University’s New Faculty Orientation Program which was already in operation, increase support for research and publications of several select faculty, and strengthen their leadership potential.

New Faculty Orientation
New Faculty Orientation, a major component of the larger Faculty Development Program, is funded by the University and is required of newly hired faculty. This once-a- month series covers a wide array of topics including classroom management, campus resources, tenure and promotion, and professional development and funding opportunities. University and grant funding are available to support junior faculty and recently hired faculty the opportunity for release time from courses and committee assignments, as well as, funds to support research.

Academic Preparation
The academic year begins with a Retreat for New Faculty.  This provides an orientation to the University and its Programs. After the day-long retreat, new faculty participate in the first semester workshops focused on Academic Preparation. The second semester’s topics concentrate on professional development and continue to build upon their skills and talents in the academy.

The Academic Preparation component of New Faculty Orientation consists of several workshops held in the fall of the first year. These workshops are to ensure that faculty members have the tools necessary to perform well in the classroom. The first two workshops for new faculty concern Course Syllabus Development with the setting of classroom rules and regulations being clearly delineated. Several items such as Disability Services (Soodak, 2003), last drop/add day, as well as, university holidays and testing dates are stressed. Classroom management also includes detailing the regulations for documenting the roll book since it is used in the final arbitration when a student appeals a grade or unfair treatment in the classroom. For matters such as this good record keeping is of the utmost importance.

Classroom Management workshops are becoming very popular (Weinstein, Curran, & Tomlinson-Clarke, 2003). Workshops of this type allow faculty to understand and anticipate classroom issues before they become a major concern. Knowing how to handle difficult situations and troubled students is unfortunately a skill we must teach (Hirsch, 2001).

Emphasis in one workshop is placed on individualized learning.  JCSU faculty are familiarized with using Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory which serves to help organize students into learning communities. As Kolb (1984) states, this enhances student learning which ultimately can result in increased learning.

Lastly, the Instructional Technology component includes workshops centered on tools such as Gradekeeper, Course Management Tools (Moodle, Jenzabar, etc.) and Microsoft Office Suite. These are the tools faculty and students will use everyday to assist them in the completion, storage and retrieval of important information. These are also some of the tools that allow for enhanced participation and increase student learning (Newlin & Wang, 1996). This is especially true in the case of the Course Management system, for professors can respond to any student questions within a few minutes or hours. No longer must one wait to get back to class to have the student question answered.

Professional Preparation
Research and grantsmanship skills are not only developed in workshops, but through the Faculty and Student Learning Communities Program.  The Faculty Learning Communities programs recruit six to eight faculty from different disciplines to create interest or cohort groups around a research problem or grant topic (Cox & Richlin, 2004).  JCSU established Faculty Learning Community operations as a part of the Freshman Student Learning Community, the Freshman Academy (Dawkins, 2006; Dawkins, Sutton-Haywood, Froneberger, and Jeter, 2007).  Teams of faculty engage in year-long activities which culminate in the annual Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Research Retreat.  In the retreat, faculty are provided a week of uninterrupted time in the library to begin or to polish a publishable project. They utilize the remainder of the summer to work with colleagues and a consultant to complete and submit the article for publication.

Faculty are exposed to professional development activities in leadership development to enhance their ability to provide service to the University and the neighboring communities. The leadership activities prepare faculty to mentor, present and lead other colleagues and students in and out of the classroom.  Participation in the leadership and research and grantsmanship activities positively impact evaluation, promotion and tenure.

Participation in several on campus Faculty Development components comes with a requirement of being assigned a Faculty Mentor.  The role of the Mentor is to provide support for the new or recently hired faculty in the development of his/her Professional Development Plan (PDP), provide feedback on a variety of things to include classroom visits and portfolio development, and allow for a shadowing experience of the mentor in his/her committee work.

Criteria for Mentors included tenure and senior faculty status with exemplary success as teachers, researchers, and faculty leaders.  More specific responsibilities included participation in workshops on faculty peer-mentoring with the Mentee, serving as a resource person to help Mentees navigate through University policies and procedures, providing support for meeting day-to-day challenges of teaching, participating in program evaluation surveys, and submitting a reflective paper on his/her experience with the Mentoring program.

The New Faculty Orientation and the Mellon Foundation funded Presidential Scholars and the UNCF/Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Programs engaged faculty mentors.  The JCSU Faculty Mentoring programs were developed based on work done by Beverly Amick in the Office for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship at Kean University.

Program Management
The programs to promote faculty mentoring through engagement are managed in three ways.  First, the Faculty Development Program is managed by a Faculty Development Steering Committee, which includes faculty representation from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Professional Studies and the Honors College.  The program offers workshops under the following five major strands that are coordinated by members of the Committee.

  • Pedagogical/Active Learning
  • Instructional Technology
  • New Faculty Workshops
  • Discussion Series
  • Faculty Learning Communities

The Faculty Development Program quite often manages the delivery of program initiatives through mini grants that support the engagement of faculty in the following:

  • Learning Communities
  • Department Technology Plans
  • Individual Technology Plans
  • UNCF/FAPT Technology Mini Grants
  • Degree Program Assessment
  • Faculty Learning Communities on Technology

The second program on campus is managed through the use of endowed funds from Andrew Mellon Foundation and a Faculty Development Grants Committee with similar representation as the Faculty Development Steering Committee.  This program supports the following areas to engage faculty (Dawkins, 2006):

  • Travel
  • Research
  • Curriculum Development
  • Graduate School

The final source of support for faculty development programs is through a series of grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and UNCF.  Oversight for these grants is the responsibility of the:

  • Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Director of Faculty Development

This Committee of three coordinated the Presidential and Teaching Faculty Career Enhancement programs.  Yearly, components of all programs are assessed and evaluated by members of the committees.

Assessment and Evaluation
Assessment for the Mellon Presidential and the UNCF/Mellon Faculty Enhancement Grants programs was based on the productivity of the faculty as indicated by their Faculty Portfolio that included their presentations, publications, and their participation in leadership activities.  Faculty were also assessed using classroom observations, a faculty satisfaction survey, and their Student Instructional Reports (SIR II), and feedback from their Mentors.

Data analysis of the two Mellon programs suggests that the faculty were engaged, and satisfied with their careers and the University.  One-hundred percent attended leadership development workshops. One-hundred percent served on departmental or University-wide committees after one year.  When participating faculty were survey about their satisfaction at JCSU, one-hundred percent reported above average satisfaction with the University (8.25/10), their career (8.57/10), their faculty mentor (7.50/10), and the Mellon Program (9.25/10).

The JCSU Faculty Development Program conducts workshop evaluations and maintains an extensive Access database of faculty participants.  Since 1987, the programs maintain an annual participation rate above 80% with workshop ratings ranging from 4-5 on a 5 point scale.

These programs have provided JCSU with a model for recruitment and hiring.  They have allowed the University to build a faculty partnership which has encouraged junior faculty to engage in scholarship more than ever before. The programs have promoted engagement by faculty over a period of time leading to a highly qualified faculty who are knowledgeable about teaching and scholarship.


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Dawkins, P. W. Froneberger, B., Sutton-Haywood, M., & Jeter, P. (2007). “Engaging faculty in a freshman academy learning community.”  Journal of Learning Communities, 2, (1), 1-119.

Dawkins, P. W. (2006).  Faculty Development Opportunities and Learning Communities.  In N. Simpson & J. Layne (Eds.), Student learning communities, faculty learning communities, & faculty development. Stillwater, OK:  New Forums Press Inc., 63-80.

Hirsch, G. (2001). Helping College students succeed: A model for effective intervention. Philadelphia, PA: Routledge.

Kolb D.A. (1984).  Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Newlin, M., & Wang, A. (1996). “Integrating technology and pedagogy: Web instruction and seven principles of undergraduate education.” Teaching of Psychology, 29(4), 325-330

Price, D.V.  (2005, December).  Learning communities and student success in   postsecondary education: A background paper by MDRC: Building knowledge to  improve social policy. New York, NY:  MDRC.

Soodak, L. C. (2003). “Classroom management in inclusive settings.” Theory Into Practice, 42 (4), pp. 327-333.

Tinto, V. (1993).  Leaving college:  Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd edition). Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2000).  What we have learned about the impact of learning communities on students?  Assessment Update, 12(2), 1-2.

Weinstein, C., Curran, M., & Tomlinson-Clarke, S. (2003). “Culturally responsive classroom management: Awareness into action.” Theory Into Practice, 42(4), 269-276.