Janice Patterson, Ph.D.
Karen Dahle, Ed.D.
Mary Nix, Ph.D.
Loucrecia Collins, Ed.D.
Gypsy Abbott, Ph.D.
PATTERSON, DAHLE, NIX, COLLINS, & ABBOTT,
SPECIAL RWE ISSUE, FALL, 2002
If I wish to define myself, I must first of
all say: 'I am a woman'; on this truth must be based all further
discussion. (de Beauvior, l952 p. xv.).
Whether we see through the lens of gender or ethnicity, the perception
of self defines our work. The loss of women and people of color from
tenure earning positions in higher education argues for more productive
initiatives if we are to attract, retain, and promote female and minority
faculty (Howard-Vital & Morgan, 1993). The literature overwhelmingly
supports the benefits of mentoring in easing the loneliness and confusion
that can derail women and people of color in higher education (Howard-Vital
Descriptions of mentoring in professional literature suggest that
the relationships between individuals that perpetuate traditional
academic culture. Professional guidance includes assistance with
research and writing, teaching, service, and grant writing. Social
support includes shared outings and recreational activities. Few
empirical studies exist on mentoring among faculty in academic settings.
Qualitative research offers thick descriptions of some programs,
e.g., the work in Colorado that investigated faculty mentoring in
schools, colleges, and departments of education (Goodwin, Stevens,
& Bellamy, 1998) and the faculty-mentoring program at Montclair
State University (Pierce, 1998).
Yet, research documents that the experiences of female and minority
professors has been reported to be markedly different than their
colleagues in terms of scholarship, advising assignments, teaching
loads, as well as service to the community, profession, and institution.
These professionals feel their load is skewed disproportionately
toward advising, teaching, and service while the institution rewards
research and publishing. Several researchers (Bensimon, Ward, &
Tierney, 1994; Granger, 1993; Spann, 1990) report that faculty of
color often have heavier loads of service and committee work than
their colleagues. Too often, faculty of color feel they cannot refuse
an invitation to serve on a committee or to work in the local community
for fear of reprisals from other faculty. Time spent in committees
and other service activities are highly valued by many members of
the faculty, particularly if the committee purpose is to address
minority issues. However, the reality is that the time consumed
subtracts from that available for research and publishing, the road
For women of color, the path is unusually thorny as they often
find themselves outside the informal networks that may exist for
other women. This isolation is particularly limiting, considering
that association with senior colleagues is a major factor in junior
faculty's success and tenure. For instance, Bjork and Thompson (1989,
p. 350) affirmed the critical nature of establishing relationships
with senior faculty recognized for excellence in teaching,
research, publishing, and service. Further, Granger (1993)
reminded the reader that those who are mentored frequently gain
access to resources and, indeed, even secure faculty positions.
Successful women establish mentoring relationships with both female
and male mentors. Research by Ibarra (2000) of the Harvard Business
School highlighted that many women were receiving concrete,
gender-related career advice from more experienced women then
they could get from men. Two factors appear important for success:
(a) consistently exceeding performance expectations, and (b) developing
a style with which males are comfortable (Duff, 1999; Garner, 1994).
In the quest to understand organizations, Burrell and Hearn (1989)
argued the postmodernist perspective on a science that emphasizes
logic, data, and other facets of a production model that are no
longer relevant. Instead, postmodernism places emphasis on lived
and "deconstructed" experiences, stressing a cooperative
network and developing sources of data from nontraditional venues
including metaphor, description, explanations, and action research.
The postmodernism stresses sense making; thus, requiring cooperative
work between two or more people. Gergen (1993, p. 214) argued to
control our own defining of what is truth, we must look to the practice
of action research in which subjects speak for themselves and control
their voices so that others do not manipulate them.
Using postmodernist theory as a starting point, the junior faculty
involved in the mentoring program at the University of Alabama at
Birmingham (UAB) School of Education (SOE) began an action research
project to investigate the perceptions of mentors and mentees in
a sanctioned mentoring program. This paper presents a brief examination
of those perceptions with a particular emphasis on mentees
experiences on relationship, gender, and race. The most unique feature
of the program is that these new faculty members were mentored by
a tenured faculty member through the publication process using their
own experiences as mentees as the focus of the research.
Bolman and Deal (1997) discuss the value of using new frames
and lenses as we stretch to see organizations in new
and different ways. The more perspectives available, the more likely
it is that a rich, complex picture will emerge. Bolman and Deal
proposed four frames that people rely on when viewing organizational
behavior: human resource, structural, political, and symbolic.
The human resource frame emphasizes the needs of individuals and
the importance of a trusting, caring environment. Those who see
through a structural frame stress a linear process - goals, efficiency,
policies, a clear chain of command, and results. The political frame
makes clear that the world has scarce resources and is composed
of power and control; skills in conflict, negotiations, and compromise
are key. Finally, the symbolic frame highlights meaning and symbols,
rituals, stories, ceremonies, or other ways that faith, hope, and
meaning are communicated (Deal & Peterson, 1999).
Mentees may only see the higher education institution through one
frame unless encouraged to look more broadly. For instance, some
mentors may advise mentees to approach tenure as though following
a policy that establishes goals, standards, and other specifics
in teaching, research, and service. Some may advise that junior
faculty's work should revolve around individual needs, what can
be contributed to the organization and to creating a caring, trusting
environment. Still others may see the route to tenure as a political
process based on the power and control exercised behind the scenes.
Finally, some mentors and mentees may see the cultural or symbolic
side of seeking tenure and emphasize actions that are meaningful
to others, e.g., visibility in service or scholarship. Therefore,
it is suggested that successful mentor/mentee pair could use the
Bolman and Deal (1997) model as a framework for describing their
experiences. This model is comprised of four frames: (a) human resource,
(b) structural, (c) political, and (d) symbolic.Methodology
The School of Education (SOE) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
(UAB) is located in an urban setting. University faculty and administrative
turnover in recent years has been high because of the large number
of individuals who have either been fired or retired. These events
have created a greater than usual amount of uncertainty for faculty
members seeking tenure and promotion. The SOE has undergone considerable
scrutiny by the UAB President; thus, forcing a mandated increase
in undergraduate enrollment. The State of Alabama significantly
reduced funds for education and the impact on faculty is no raises
and insufficient faculty to cover required courses.
In addition, as is often the case in university settings, tenured
faculty were engaged in their own activities and directed little
energy toward the acculturation of new faculty. This resulted in
many new faculty describing themselves as feeling alone
and unsure how to become part of the SOE.
Although one department routinely assigned mentors to new faculty,
new faculty was, generally, left to their own devices in establishing
themselves. Although the university has been designated as a minority
serving institution, few faculty in the SOE are of minority background.
Retention of qualified minority faculty has been extremely difficult.
Within this context, the SOE Faculty Development Committee began
developing a mentoring program in fall 2000.
As a starting point, using postmodernist theory and the four frames
as described by Bolman and Deal (1997), those involved in the mentoring
program at the UAB SOE began an action research project to investigate
the perceptions of mentors and mentees in this administratively-
sanctioned mentoring program. This paper presents an examination
of those perceptions with a particular emphasis on mentees
reports relative to relationship, race, and gender.
Population and Sample
All 14 nontenured faculty who had begun teaching in the UAB SOE
during the 1999-2000 academic year were invited to join the mentoring
program. There were five females and two males who chose to participate
and they comprised the sample described in this study. The mentors
included five males and one female.
There were four sources of qualitative data collected. First, mentors
and mentees developed descriptions of their personal expectations
of the mentoring process. Second, mentors and mentees maintained
field notes on activities, assistance, and experiences that described
the mentoring process. Third, detailed group meeting notes provided
rich descriptions of confidential issues and concerns
not revealed in the other data sources. Fourth, written survey instruments,
developed based on the theory of Bolman and Deal (1997), were developed
for data collection (see Appendix A). Specific items on the surveys
were created from a collective review of the field notes of the
mentees. Questions about the mentoring experience were designed
to capture the thoughts, perceptions, and feelings of both mentors
Data Analysis Procedures
Qualitative data from the responses of both mentors and mentees
were analyzed using a phenomenological approach. Actual analysis
of data was conducted using the matrix approach recommended by Miles
and Huberman (1994). This method provided a structure for analyses
within the two groups as well as across the groups.
Initially, all data was put in the matrix format with the four
dimensions of the theoretical framework across the top of the matrix
and the concepts of relationship, gender, and race on the vertical
axis of the matrix. Responses to items in each of the categories
were recorded for use in content analysis. The purpose of the content
analysis was to examine the data for emerging themes.
The results of this study confirm the position of Bolman and Deal
(1997) that rich, diverse points of view emerge when multiple lenses
are used to view organizational behavior. The co-mingling present
in the findings confirms the efficacy of viewing the tenure earning
process through all lenses available. Three of the themes that emerged
were (a) relationships, (b) race, and (c) gender.
Relationships. The mentor/mentee relationships were based on prior
research; therefore, the mentees selected mentors using expert status
and prior relationships as the primary criteria. Two of the mentees
were assigned a mentor within their department. These mentees were
pleased with the mentor assigned and they maintained that mentor
for this study. Four of the mentees approached the selection of
an expert mentor based on the structural lens and their perspectives
of what it would take to achieve tenure. One mentee reported, I
knew that I needed to publish nationally to get tenure. I wanted
a mentor who could guide me effectively in conducting research and
getting published quickly. I also wanted someone who was active
in national and international organizations. One of the mentees
selected a mentor based on shared professional interests.
Mentees used the human resource (HR) lens to guide their selection
as reflected in the importance they assigned trust and confidentiality.
The HR lens manifested a trust that the mentor would be emotionally
and physically available and conversations between the mentor and
Because of the newness of some of these relationships, there was
a natural wariness in some cases that changed as the relationship
matured. Several mentees echoed the voice of one who said, I
wanted someone who would become a colleague, whom I could trust
with any issue
Confidentiality, lack of gossip and politics
is important to me. In some cases, confidentiality was not
addressed directly but was assumed, as with the mentee who said,
We never really addressed it. I just have trust and honor
in my mentor and it's never been an issue for me. I would not hesitate
to raise the issue if a question ever arose that brought that trust
Other mentees reported a more direct approach; Initial promises
were made on both sides that our conversations are held in confidence.
I absolutely believe that is the case. Another mentee said,
[Confidentiality was] addressed at the beginning
before this process began. I have full confidence in our agreement.
An unanticipated dimension of trust was expressed by one mentee
who addressed the research component of the mentoring program, Because
of the emphasis in the mentor project on research, I also wanted
someone who would keep commitments and be interested and supportive
of the research component [of the mentoring project].
At the symbolic level, mentees reported the financial and political
commitment provided to the group. The Dean provided funding for
lunches for group meetings and transportation for mentees to present
the findings of this project at the Mid-South Educational Research
The symbolic aspect of the mentor/mentee relationships reflected
trust in a different sense. The mentees saw symbolic value in the
mentors being available or communicating faith in their abilities
(Deal & Peterson, 1999). Because each of the mentors was professionally
active and engaged, mentees recognize that time was a precious commodity
and, when shared, symbolized the value placed by the mentor on the
relationship. One mentee was very explicit about the symbolic message
she received from her male mentor: My mentor said that women
professors couldbecomenomads wandering from university to university.
My mentor is taking careful steps to guide me so that I will not
become a nomad.
Without exception, mentees' reported successes as a result of the
mentor's guidance. Responses included improved writing skills, grant
work, publications, as well as presentations at regional and national
meetings. Another mentee pointed to specific acts by the mentor,
two quick publications (single authorship) and another
article that we're currently doing together
to key players at national meetings, a safety net from getting involved
in internal politics, wise counsel about the steps necessary to
get tenure. One respondent pointed to the value of the mentor's
activities in assisting the mentee progress toward tenure, I
have written two chapters for a book he is editing for spring release
in our field; assisted with additional writing contract and suggestions
for journal articles; provided a sample of his own resume; very
articulate regarding the tenure process. Other examples included
a mentor who connected a mentee with a publishing company
for a proposed book contract. One of the mentor/mentee pairs focused
on teaching and the use of technology in higher education. Finally,
mentees reported that their feelings of isolation were being suppressed
and friendships were forming as a result of the mentees connections
with their mentors as well as other mentees.
Race. Race, a theme that emerged from these data, has been described
as issues for minority faculty across the United States (Alger,
2000). Too often, we educators examine dominance and social injustices
in history and fail to consider current inequities that may be perpetuated
in our own institutions. Those of us from dominant racial groups
must look inside ourselves and our workplaces and be aware that
these processes are not always comfortable.
Of the 10 mentors/mentees members who answered questions about
race, nine were White and one was Black; therefore, we believe that
a discussion of White privilege is merited. Fox (2000) defines White
privilege as pervasive and systemic ways that being white
confers unearned advantage in U.S. society, and she argues,
white privilege is often blatantly obvious to targeted groups
but nearly invisible to whites until its various manifestations
are pointed out (p. 47). Examples of White privilege mentioned
in our data were the freedom from being used as a token on committees
and the privilege of publishing comfortably in a broad array of
journals. A mentee wrote, My colleagues of color at other
institutions tell me that theyre often placed on committees
as token minorities. They feel particularly overwhelmed with committee
work. As a White woman, that is not a dilemma that I face.
She also wrote, While I have published in several African
American studies journals and not had anyone question the quality
of that scholarship, one of my Black colleagues says that she has
to limit the number of African American journals that she publishes
in so critics (largely Whites) wont say that shes not
a true scholar. Biased faculty members may cloak their biases
by criticizing minorities who publish in minority journals for lack
of rigor. Consequently, minority professors may feel constrained
in the area of publishing. Alger (2000) espouses that the traditional
criteria applied in evaluations for promotion and tenure often appear
to be neutral, but in practice they can have disparate effects on
minority scholars. He argues, In analyzing research, reliance
on narrow definitions of merit that emphasize publication
in traditional journals may limit new or emerging areas of scholarship
or practical applications of theory to real-life problems
(p. 160). Similarly, Garza (1993) maintains that institutions need
to assess what constitutes rigorous and legitimate scholarship,
and its relationship to institutional barriers that may help maintain
ethnic division (p. 40).
The nature as well as the extent of committee work may also be
called into question. All committee work may not be valued equally
when tenure and promotion decisions are made. In their book chapter
entitled Developmental Relationships of Black Americans in
the Academy, Bowman, Kite, Branscombe, and Williams (1993)
Service on minority-related committees is often pushed on minority
faculty, yet those activities are often not as valued as other
activities in tenure decisions. Untenured faculty may well receive
a mixed message if senior faculty encourage them to fulfill certain
roles but later do not reward them for those efforts. (p. 36)
Bowman and colleagues conclude their chapter with the following
words of caution. Mentors should understand that the adjustment
issues of the typical new faculty member will probably be exacerbated
for new Black American faculty members (p. 41).
Recognizing the issue of white privileges for the first
time can generate emotional responses such as guilt or sadness on
the part of Whites. When analyzing our data on race and discussing
privileges, one White woman expressed her regret saying, I
never thought about these things before. Thus, participation
in the mentor/mentee study served to highlight ways in which minorities
in academia are sometimes regarded.
Our research supports the findings of Gregory (1995) who concludes
it is evident that we still have much work to do to encourage
the permanence of Black women scholars. Regardless of their talent,
a faculty member cannot reasonably function in an inhospitable academic
environment (p. 96). He also purports that departments can
promote the careers of African American females by (a) encouraging
service activities with system wide visibility and providing faculty
incentives and rewards for service overload; (b) accepting differences
in teaching styles and research emphasis; and (c) encouraging collaborative
projects by providing resources and funding.
Gender.The literature consistently highlights the differences in
the mentoring process for females and males (Duff, 1999; West, 2001).
However,in this study, gender was not identified as a salient issue
across any of the conceptual areas.
The composition of the SOE programs and departments was either
predominantly male or had only one full female professor in a tenure
earning track. Because the ultimate goal of the mentoring program
is to achieve tenure and promotion, it is not surprising that with
the single exception, all mentees selected a male mentor because
of their availability, proven track record, and tenured status.
McGuire (1993) identifies instrumental and socioemotional support
as two types of support which mentors can offer their mentees. Examples
of socioemotional support include challenging assignments, increased
exposure, and leadership opportunities. Typically, women receive
more socioemotional support in the mentoring process than do their
male colleagues (McGuire). Once again, gender differences were not
demonstrated by the responses illustrated in these examples. Every
mentee reported increased opportunities for publishing, presentations
at national and international conferences, and recommendations for
appointments to national organizations.
McGuire (1993) noted that males typically receive more instrumental
support as defined by the political construct in this study. However,
respondents reported no difference in female and male mentees level
of instrumental support. Their mentors were described generally
as both powerful and nurturing, depending on the circumstance.
Mentees believed that mentors used their power and influence to
protect them. In addition, mentees stated that their mentors showed
confidence in them by extending formal praise, both publicly and
privately, and asking for [my] perspective on issues.
Finally, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the administrative
and final support for this project that the mentoring program has
received from the male Deans office.
We did not anticipate the extent to which the mentoring program
would provide a forum for connections among the mentees and with
other faculty members that led to new opportunities. We were particularly
surprised by the productive relationships developed among five of
the mentees, all females. They reported protecting each other, including
their mentee colleagues in presentations, writings and publications,
and teaching experiences. Because the mentees are based in different
departments, the relationships would have been unlikely without
the mentoring program. This yields further evidence for Bolman and
Deals (1997) argument that multiple lenses are needed; the
group now looks through multiple frames during their monthly social
meetings. The leader of the mentoring program, a tenured full professor,
is included in the monthly social meetings. Finally, other faculty
in the SOE has offered unsolicited support for the mentoring program
whether they are tenured professors or new faculty. Several said,
I wish I had a mentoring program.
Mentees reported that they gained significant tacit knowledge that
helped them understand and negotiate the particular culture of the
university through the four lenses posited by Bolin and Deal (1997).
These lessons came from both direct instruction and modeling. They
included specific knowledge about research, teaching, and service,
as well as the more elusive aspects of professionalism, integrity,
and the ability to get along with other colleagues and professionals.
Of course, the ultimate result will be the number of
mentees who are retained and obtain tenure at the university. To
date, two of the five mentees have submitted their professional
portfolios for the mid-tenure review process. Both mentees have
received positive feedback and encouragement from their department
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University of Alabama at Birmingham
School of Education
Faculty Professional Development Committee
Instructions: Please respond to the questions below in narrative
form. If you do not wish to respond to a particular question or
the question is not applicable to your mentor/mentee relationship,
please record NA. Your confidentiality will be guaranteed by Dr.
Abbott who will be assigning ID numbers before analysis begins.
Please return the survey to Dr. Gypsy Abbott by 5 p.m. Wednesday,
October 10, 2001. Your response can be done by either e-mailing
it to email@example.com or printing and completing the response and
placing it under the door in EB230. You can look forward to a review
of our findings at an upcoming faculty meeting. Thank you for your
1. How was your mentor/mentee relationship structured?
2. How were meetings structured (both formal and informal)?
3. What expectations did you have for the mentoring experiences?
4. In what ways were the needs of the mentee met? Give specific
examples, e.g. progression toward tenure.
5. In what ways were the needs of the mentor met? Give specific
examples, e.g. additional travel funds awarded from SOE.
6. How did your mentee convey appropriate gratitude or disappointment
with the relationship?
7. Did your mentee demonstrate any feelings of vulnerability or
insecurity? Please explain.
8. How was the issue of confidentiality addressed and how confidant
did you feel about it?
9. How did you feel that the relationship was valued by your mentee
(importance as measured by things such as attendance at group meetings,
keeping scheduled meetings, etc.)?
10. What message about your mentoring did you receive from your
11. In what ways did your mentoring relationship reach beyond the
formal mentoring relationship?
12. In what ways were meetings structured to create equal/unequal
13. How powerful do your anticipate your mentee becoming and did
that influence your agreement to mentor the mentee?
14. How was failure addressed and/or success celebrated?
15. How did having a mentee impact your relationship with other
16. Was there ever competition between you and your mentor? If yes,
17. Was there sexual tension in the relationship between mentor/mentee?
18. What actions has your mentee taken to demonstrate confidence
in you to others?
19. Was race a factor in your agreement to become a mentor?
20. Did race influence the power relationship between you and the
21. Did the mentoring program create a culture of acceptance for
ethnic minorities? If so, describe the process.
22. Did the mentoring program influence minority faculty retention?
23. Does the mentoring program provide guidance toward tenure and
promotion for ethnic-minority faculty members? If yes, please explain.
24. Have you taken any steps to network an ethnic-minority mentee
with other ethnic minorities in your profession?
25. As an ethnic faculty member, did participating in this program
impact your relationship with other staff members?
26. Did you and the mentee discuss issues of diversity regarding
the tenure promotion process?
27. Was race a source of conflict between you and the mentee?
28. Was race a source of conflict between the mentee and other mentees
of the mentoring group?
29. Did the mentoring process provide support for exploring minority
Dr. Janice Patterson is an Assistant Professor in the School
of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Karen Dahle is an Assistant Professor in the School
of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Mary Nix is an Assistant Professor in the School of
Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Loucrecia Collins is an Assistant Professor in the School
of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Gypsy Abbott is a Professor of Education at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham.