It’s Not Magic It’s Mentoring; Discussion Questions 1. What is the role of university leaders in matters of diversity and inclusive excellence? 2. Why is it important for universities to focus on inclusive excellence rather than only diversity? 3. How do you handle conflict within a group to determine strategies to move forward with a single focus? 4. Provided University X implements a relational mentoring program what elements should be included and how should the program be evaluated? In your answer include whether or not participation in the program should be mandatory for all new tenure track faculty or for all faculty of Color at University X. 5. Who should be the mentors for the program and why? Include in your answer the importance of having competent mentors. Also establish the criteria for participation as a mentor. 6. Aside from using a mentoring model what other strategies could University X use to retain faculty of Color?
Mentoring is credited as a key component contributing to the continuance of several contemporary professions (Murray & Owen 1991). However it was the pioneering work of Kram (1980 1988) that set the stage for mentoring in organizations and continues to serve as the foundational backdrop for the mentor’s behaviors. Kram’s (1980 1988) trailblazing work identified and categorized the mentors’ behaviors as career and psychosocial. In an ideal work setting where a traditional mentoring model is implemented the experienced mentor competently exhibits career and psychosocial behaviors in order to support the aspiring protégé’s career. Although current definitions of traditional mentoring reflect this purpose the traditional mentoring model can lead to less than ideal results and impact (Ragins 2016). As such an encouraged alternative to traditional mentoring is relational mentoring (Ragins 2016). The relational mentoring model is distinguished from the traditional mentoring model in that it embraces and thrives on the idea that both mentors and protégés learn and grow as a result of the relationship (Ragins, 2016). The mentor’s perspective is also different, as he or she feels comfortable sharing his or her insights, experiences, and challenges. A further distinction between traditional and relational mentoring models is that traditional mentoring focuses primarily on how mentors can assist protégés. Whereas with relational mentoring, mentors and protégés seek to learn and grow from each other and the mutual support is provided based on need (Ragins, 2016). Moreover, relational mentoring may be further enhanced by diversifying the mentoring dyad.
This is due in part because mentors in diverse mentoring relationships have a distinct opportunity to obtain more knowledge, empathy, and skills to interact with others from different power-related groups (Ragins, 1997). Institutional Setting and Background University X is a large public research one university located in the northeastern part of the United States with an undergraduate, graduate, and professional student population of 30,000. University X is the largest employer in the rural community in which it is located and is an economic powerhouse for the region (particularly due to STEM and athletics). One thousand, four hundred fifteen (1,415) employees are full-time faculty. Of these, 950 are tenured/tenure track and 465 faculty have fixed term appointments (not including adjunct faculty). With regard to diversity, 103 (7%) are African American, 79 (6%) are Hispanic, 20 (1.4%) are Pacific Islanders, and 10 (0.7%) are American Indian. Additionally, 354 (25%) of the total faculty are female. As University X is ranked among the nation’s top universities because of its excellence in teaching, research, public service, and global initiatives, large numbers of students and faculty from all over the world seek to join the prestigious University X. Many of the faculty are Fulbright Scholars and University X prides itself on its stellar reputation and high rankings on multiple best lists. The university has just completed a 14-month process to develop and adopt its new 5- year strategic plan. While some of the goals are not new and are essentially a continuation from the previous strategic plan, University X has a new goal that focuses on faculty diversity and inclusion. In previous strategic plans, diversity (not inclusion) was addressed in regards to students. A diverse, inclusive faculty is a new area requiring attention at the highest levels. Several alumni from underrepresented groups have stressed the need for additional faculty of Color, and have recently brought their collective concerns to University X’s board of directors and president. Although the university has hired faculty of Color in the past, no specific, unified effort has existed to recruit and retain them. In the past, some deans may have encouraged their department chairs to advertise faculty vacancies on recruiting websites that attract potential candidates from minoritized communities and through minoritized professional organizations. However, this was not the norm. Additionally, there was no clear strategy in place at University X to help retain faculty or staff. Key Characters Dr. Norelle Lopez-Johnson, a Latina recently hired as the new Executive Director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Prior to working at University X, she was an associate professor and director of diversity and inclusion at a university in southern California. Dr. Lopez-Johnson also has 15 years of experience as a senior director of diversity at a Fortune 500 company. She received an excellence in leadership award from her previous institution, due to her history of engaging and partnering with alumni and community leaders to create a culture of inclusive excellence on campus and in the community. Serving as the president’s lead strategist for diversity and inclusive excellence, her responsibilities include developing policies, executing strategies, promoting best practices, and monitoring university compliance with related federal laws and policies to build and sustain a diverse workforce and culture of inclusive excellence. Dr. Thomas Buchanan, a White male and current President of University X. Dr. Buchanan is anxious about the recent departure of another tenured/tenure track faculty member of Color and having to engage in discussions with esteemed alumni. He has tasked Dr. Lopez- Johnson to use her magic to increase retention of faculty of Color and to make University X’s community more inclusive. James Smith, JD, a White male, and current Vice President of Administration for the past 5 years. He is an alumnus and former law professor of University X’s law school. Dr. Meredith Nordstrom, a White female tenured Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and president of the faculty senate. Dr. Nordstrom has strong views about the new strategic plan. She thinks the university should strictly focus on adding and promoting more women faculty, rather than adding more faculty of Color to the institution at this time. Dr. Nordstrom applied for the Director of Diversity and Inclusion position; however, she was not selected. Benjamin Wellesley, III, a White male senior political science major and student government association representative. Five generations of the Wellesley family have attended the institution and the student union building is named after Benjamin’s great-grandfather. Kayla Treme’, an African American female sophomore pre-med major, and student government association (SGA) representative with aspirations of becoming SGA president in the future. Several National Panhellenic Conference member organizations and multi-cultural groups on campus have voiced their concerns to Kayla about the dismal number of faculty of Color on campus. The Case Dr. Lopez-Johnson is quickly disappointed as she reads her email and becomes aware that another faculty of Color has resigned from their tenure track assistant professor role at the university. This is the third resignation this spring informing University X that a faculty member, but more specifically a faculty member from an underrepresented group, would not return for the fall term. Not only is Dr. Lopez-Johnson disappointed because there are already so few tenure track faculty of Color, she is equally frustrated because she has not had a chance to implement any new policies or practices that she found successful at her previous institution, such as the relational mentoring model, to address University X’s great faculty diversity divide. Before Dr. Lopez-Johnson has an opportunity to take the second sip of her morning cup of coffee, her phone rings–it’s President Buchanan. With a deep sigh and roll of the eyes, Dr. Lopez-Johnson quickly gathers herself and answers the phone in her most polished professional voice. Without a proper return salutation, President Buchanan immediately dives in and insists that Dr. Lopez-Johnson do something now to “stop the bleeding” of faculty of Color leaving the institution. “This is just not going to cut it; we need a solution now…no yesterday,” says President Buchanan.
Dr. Lopez-Johnson could not get a word in edgewise, as President Buchanan frantically talked for five minutes about how he would have to explain to the African American alumni who were leading the discussions and insisting to the board that more faculty of Color be hired and retained by the university. It was no secret that University X had numerous distinguished African American alumni, many of whom were known nationally for their success in their respective fields. These alumni had also made some of the largest donations to University X in support of academic scholarships for students of Color in STEM majors and professional programs. “Norelle, I need you to work the same magic you used on all those companies you helped diversify their workforce,” said President Buchanan. “Magic–that was blood, sweat, and tears President Buchanan. It’s called work,” Dr. Lopez-Johnson said to herself. Dr. Lopez-Johnson knew that only hard work or sweat equity, which involved building a diverse, inclusive coalition was what helped her have the success she experienced in corporate America and in higher education. So instead of saying what she previously said to herself, Dr. Lopez-Johnson remained professionally poised and responded with a calm and cool voice and said, “President Buchanan, I too am deeply disappointed that another faculty of Color has resigned. This is by no means a coincidence and you hired me to address the root cause of these issues. I must inform you, there will be resistance as we move forward. However, I must also reassure you. This is not new to me and I have competently helped organizations successfully address these matters in the past.” With those words came a huge sigh of relief from President Buchanan and the satisfaction of knowing he had made the best hiring decision. The next day in executive staff meeting, President Buchanan shares the staggering statistics of the latest numbers of faculty of Color at University X. Before he has an opportunity to share his thoughts about the matter, the VP of Administration, who oversees human resources, interrupts. “James, you interrupted me. However, since you seem to be in a position to enlighten us, and quite eager to do so I might add, please go ahead and share what’s so important,” President Buchanan stated in a slightly irritated tone. “I just wanted to let everyone know that I just received the quarterly turnover reports from HR; believe it or not, we actually received some feedback from employees in the exit interview that is germane to this very topic.” Dr. Lopez-Johnson leaned in and moved to the edge of her seat. Ever since she started at University X she has requested that her colleague share exit interview feedback from HR, as simply forwarding her monthly employee counts was not helping her at all. Of course, the VP of Administration always had a very poor excuse as to why the exit interview data was not available each time she requested it. As silence fell upon the room, all eyes were on the VP of Administration. Dr. Lopez-Johnson was most eager to hear and had an eagle’s eye stare on the VP of Administration. Finally, the VP of Administration spoke up, “Well, you know we have been tracking exit interview data for some time now…we actually started five years ago when the exit interview was implemented for voluntary separations.” Dr. Lopez-Johnson was not amused by the fact that the VP of Administration had been holding on to this information. James expressed that the top three reasons tenure track assistant professors from underrepresented groups leave the university within two years are: 1) lack of support and professional development opportunities, 2) overwhelming amounts of service, and 3) microaggressions from colleagues. There were five years of data which highlighted the experiences of underrepresented tenure track faculty that had just been sitting in an Excel file on someone’s hard drive. Dr. Lopez-Johnson made a verbal request for the data and to be added to the list of recipients of the quarterly turnover reports. President Buchanan looked puzzled, yet opened his mouth and spoke with great authority and said, “James, I want Norelle to receive every report from HR related to separations, including voluntary and involuntary. I also want you and the HR Director to schedule regular meetings with Norelle to discuss our retention efforts and whatever else that might help us. Actually, I thought this sort of thing was already happening…” After hearing President Buchanan’s statement, Dr. Lopez-Johnson shook their head from right to left signaling no and stated aloud, “I will be sure to follow-up and coordinate with James to regularly meet.” To make sure she would not forget, Norelle wrote herself a note to contact her colleague later that afternoon. However when she did so, the VP of Administration’s administrative assistant informed her that he would be busy for the next few weeks and could not meet with her but was willing to provide the raw data for her to decipher on her own. How ironic was this? Especially since she had recently been told that James Smith was the only search committee member who did not vote for her to be offered the position because he preferred Dr. Meredith Nordstrom, a longtime family friend. The following day, Dr. Lopez-Johnson was scheduled to attend the faculty senate meeting. As her previous meeting lasted longer than expected, she dashed across campus and made it to the faculty senate meeting shortly after it had been called to order. “Colleagues, the meeting has been called to order. Please adhere to our established parliamentary procedures if you wish to address the faculty senate,” said Dr. Meredith Nordstrom. The two students in attendance were somewhat nervous, because they had never attended a faculty senate meeting before and were uncertain about what to expect. Student success was the last item on the agenda. While Kayla Treme’ knew she was in attendance to listen to the discussion on student success, she was unsure why Benjamin Wellesley was attending the meeting. They were acquaintances through their work with the SGA. As the president of the faculty senate moved swiftly through the agenda, it was finally clear why Benjamin Wellesley was present. He was there to accept an alumni award on behalf of his father, who was unable to attend due to a previously scheduled business trip out of the country. “Thank you, thank you, and thank you. I am honored to accept the alumni partner award on behalf of my father. He sends his regrets and says he knows that the faculty are the greatest asset to the students and he will continue support faculty growth and development in any way he can. As a 5th generation Wellesley, I’m honored to be a student here and look forward to following in the steps of my forefathers as being an active alum and great supporter of University X. Thank you all again,” said Benjamin Wellesley. Kayla had so much to ponder. She had no idea Benjamin’s family had been affiliated with the university for five generations. It was also now clear to her that the Wellesley name on the student union was also a relative of Benjamin’s. She had hoped to discuss the concerns that the students of Color had brought to her attention with Benjamin. She needed an ally in the SGA. Originally, she thought that could be Benjamin Wellesley. However, since his family is such a great part of the university’s history and his family’s legacy is so connected with University X’s past and present, Benjamin may not understand or empathize with the needs of the students of Color. He probably thinks all is great with University X and no change is necessary in any area. It had been a week since Dr. Lopez-Johnson had attended the executive staff and faculty senate meetings, during which time she poured over the data from HR. From her executive staff meeting notes, she already knew that the top 3 reasons faculty of Color left University X were: 1) lack of support and professional development opportunities, 2) overwhelming amounts of service, and 3) microaggressions from colleagues. Consequently, after closely reviewing the data from the exit interviews she also noted multiple instances where faculty of Color reported a lack of resources to support research and teaching, not feeling valued by colleagues, a lack of trust, and feelings of alienation. Dr. Lopez-Johnson began to see the bigger picture. She knew she needed to get input and insight from those who interacted more closely with the faculty of Color and stakeholders who had a strong, positive connection to the university.
Therefore, she decided conduct focus groups. To begin, she invited two SGA representatives (students), two tenured faculty members, two alumni, and the president of the faculty senate (Dr. Meredith Nordstrom) to participate in a focus group. She wanted to learn more about the perceptions that individuals affiliated with the university had towards faculty of Color. She had facilitated countless numbers of these sessions and considered herself to be competent at the task. To start the meeting, Dr. Lopez-Johnson introduced herself, expressed appreciation to the participants, and reinforced why they were gathered. Additionally, she reminded them of the confidentiality statement they signed at the outset and that their identities would remain anonymous. All participants seemed pleased to participate in such an important discussion. The two alumni were the first to speak up and shared that when they were students they did not have any faculty of Color as professors. One White alumnus acknowledged he thinks he could have benefitted tremendously if he had been taught by a faculty of Color because his first boss when he graduated was a Black man that he greatly admires and respects. The alumnus further stated that his first boss was his mentor for many years and that their friendship had ended a few years ago due to his death. Thirty minutes passed. Although the time lapsed was filled with rich discussion and vivid memories, the alumni had done most of the talking. Dr. Lopez-Johnson knew she had to engage the other participants. “Mr. Wellesley, as a current student, what are you perceptions of faculty of Color,” asked Dr. Lopez-Johnson. Before Benjamin could respond, Dr. Meredith Nordstrom chimed in, “Before he can answer that, it should probably be noted that Benjamin is a political science major and there are no faculty of Color in that department for him to experience being taught or advised by a faculty member of Color. Most of those people teach in the criminology department.” “No estaba hablando contigo,” Dr. Lopez-Johnson said to herself. However, instead of stating aloud what she said to herself, Dr. Lopez-Johnson smiled and said, “Benjamin, if there are no faculty of Color in your department, how do you feel about that? Additionally, after you respond, I’d still like you to respond to my original question. You don’t have to be taught by a faculty member of Color in order to share your perception of them. Please share your point of view. Thank you.” Benjamin wanted to make sure he answered in a way that would best represent his family. After all, his great grandfather’s name was on the student union building. Benjamin proceeded to say, “Actually, I love University X. I enjoy my classes and my professors. I think it would be good to add more faculty of Color to the university but I never really thought about it. Maybe it’s because I have really good relationships with my current professors. I can talk with them whenever I need to and several of them treat me like I’m their son. So maybe we should keep things like they are now, at least in my department. Regarding my perception of faculty of Color, if the university hires them I just assume they are qualified to teach here.” Kayla could not believe what she heard. Benjamin’s experience was so different from the students who had voiced their concerns to her. In so many instances things were quite opposite. The students of Color did not feel the same level of comfort and ease that Benjamin experienced with the professors. Kayla knew she had to share her own experiences and those who had voiced their concerns to her. She took a deep breath, pulled the notes she had taken during all the discussions she had with the students out of her backpack, and voiced the concerns of her fellow students. Many in the focus group were surprised to learn that many of the students of Color felt disconnected to the university; were seriously contemplating leaving; wanted more faculty of Color; and wanted access to more professional organizations for people of Color (e.g., American Indian Science and Engineering Society, National Society of Black Engineers, etc.). After listening to the students, Dr. Nordstrom knew something needed to be done to address the students’ issues. However, she still felt the gender divide and pay gap should be the focus of the university’s strategic plan. The two tenured faculty members expressed that prior to the meeting, they had loosely discussed mentoring and how it was growing in usage with regard to helping universities retain and support tenure track faculty. Both faculty participants admitted that colleges and universities typically implement mentoring programs to support students. However, they did not see why it could not be used to support and retain faculty. Dr. LopezJohnson knew the information from the focus group was useful; therefore, she decided to conduct three additional focus groups with students, tenured faculty, and alumni. After several weeks of conducting the focus groups, Dr. Lopez-Johnson reviewed her detailed notes and the transcribed recordings in order to begin preparing a proposal for a faculty mentoring program based on the relational mentoring model. She justified the need for the program by sharing the exit interview data, accounts from the focus group participants, current workforce data, and turnover data. It was clear to her that the program needed to address a cultural shift that would foster a welcoming, inclusive academic community for faculty of Color. Measurable outcomes would be a necessary component to provide evidence of the success of the relational mentoring program. Therefore, she focused on retention of faculty of Color, achievement of tenure, and their level of commitment to the institution as potential program measures. She also thought it would be good to have the mentors and protégés report information on their experience on a regular basis. Regular check-ins such as this could help ensure that meetings were occurring regularly and that mentors and protégés were fully engaged. Even though she realized student success was linked to the faculty, she needed to give more thought as to how she could make the connection between the faculty relational mentoring program and student success. Dr. Lopez-Johnson felt she was on the right track by proposing a relational mentoring program for faculty. Likewise, she realized that President Buchanan would think it was her magic that would turn things around for University X. Be that as it may, she knew it was really relational mentoring, not magic, that would make the difference. Summary As a new administrator responsible for diversity and inclusion in higher education, Dr. Lopez-Johnson is faced with high turnover of faculty of Color at a predominately White institution. Student organizations, as well as esteemed alumni, are not satisfied with the current number of faculty of Color at University X. The number of tenure-track faculty of Color is dismal to say the least at the institution. The new administrator answers the charge to seek shortterm and long-term solutions to address the issue through mentoring. Dr. Lopez-Johnson proposes to develop and implement a faculty mentoring program that aligns with the university’s mission and goals by building a diverse, inclusive coalition to design and develop the program. She expects her proposal to be met with speculation, resistance, and harsh criticism from Dr. Meredith Nordstrom, faculty senate president, some faculty as well as a few administrators. Dr. Lopez-Johnson realizes the difficulty of measuring a mentoring program’s success; however, she is confident that building in measureable outcomes will ultimately help University X to reach its strategic goal of having an inclusive campus community.