More strides for the faculty mentoring program

Associate teaching professor Claudia Lemper-Manahl, plant pathology and microbiology, signed on as a college peer mentor earlier this month for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She's one of about 18 appointed last spring to a new structure designed to assure some consistency across colleges in the faculty mentoring experience. Not by accident, about 25% of the peer mentors are term faculty like Lemper-Manahl.

Nominate a mentor

Through Feb. 28, the office of the senior vice president and provost is accepting nominations for the Exemplary Faculty Mentor Award, which recognizes excellent mentors who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the success of their mentee(s). Colleagues who want to nominate their faculty mentor should complete the nomination form (PDF) and email it to

Expectations -- and options -- for term faculty is one of assistant provost for faculty development Tera Jordan's goals for the university's faculty mentoring program. Because mentoring relationships are assigned at the department level and some departments have so few term faculty, one model might not cover it, but Jordan said the colleges were asked for "a concerted effort into options for term faculty" in the next (2022-23) academic year. Those options could be something other than a 1:1 pairing, she noted, and might cross department lines. For example, an Iowa State team led by Jordan this spring is evaluating how other universities have adopted a term faculty learning community model developed at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education.

"Our term faculty are such a diverse group, so we're looking at this model for its usefulness to units with one or two term faculty," she said. "If we adopted it at Iowa State, we would need to be careful and intentional about how we might structure it."

Claudia Lemper-Manahl head shot


Lemper-Manahl self-identifies as "a unicorn," one of just two term faculty members in her department. If not for the pandemic's impact on the lab courses she leads, she said she wouldn't have had time to participate in a November 2020 workshop hosted by the provost's office, "Advancing Your Term Career at ISU." Seven years into her faculty teaching position, she first learned about assembling an advancement packet and receiving guidance from a peer. Within a month, the interim department chair had assigned a faculty mentor to her, professor Leanor Leandro. With her insight and guidance, within another month, Lemper-Manahl's packet for advancement to associate teaching professor was on its way for review, and in April she got the good news.

"I want to learn and be part of the change," Lemper-Manahl said about adding the college peer mentor role. "I'm here to help others, and when the college hires more term faculty, I'm going to be right there with them."

Jordan said peer mentors will work with their college administrators to both plan activities for mentored faculty and faculty mentors and, over time, create a more consistent vision for mentoring among the colleges.

"There's work to do, but the goal is it wouldn't matter what college you're in for the ways you're supported and how faculty mentoring operates," she said. "Faculty mentoring provides a check on your scholarship. But it also provides a check on your well-being."

Guidance through the third-year review

The university's recent mentoring model asks academic departments to provide a mentor to new tenure-track faculty for at least the first year of their Iowa State career, and preferably through the junior member's third-year review in the promotion and tenure timeline. Each year, department chairs and school directors match their tenured faculty with incoming tenure-track faculty, and the pairs identify their mutual goals in a mentoring agreement they submit to their college administration office.

The primary goals of faculty mentoring are to increase faculty retention and success, and promote collegiality and inclusion among faculty.

Peter Ralston head shot


Professor of supply chain management Frank Montabon has mentored assistant professor Peter Ralston since Ralston arrived at Iowa State in the fall of 2018, following four years on the faculty at University of West Florida, Pensacola. Ralston earned his Ph.D. in supply chain management from Iowa State in 2014, so he wasn't a stranger to campus. Montabon's biggest gift? Time. Every month, he makes an appointment to come to Ralston's office and talk with him there.

"I'm so thankful for his time and that he made this a priority during the academic school years. It's been invaluable," Ralston said. "Frank has been a fantastic contact and reference to guide me through the institutional policies, but also to just check in on how life is working out."

Over Ralston's three-plus years in the Ivy College of Business, he said the mentoring relationship morphed with his development as a faculty member.

"I appreciate how the relationship has transitioned from getting my feet wet as an Iowa State faculty member and what Iowa State offers to help me be successful, to more of a focus on a long-term successful career," Ralston said. "He's provided insight on what's valued in this department and this college."

Adding value to a Midwest career

Tera Jordan head shot


At Jordan's direction, Iowa State made strides in the last year to expand the support structure and clarify expectations for mentoring new faculty. In addition to the peer mentor network, those include a three-workshop series that concluded this week, titled Dear Faculty Mentor, and a comprehensive online faculty mentor guide Jordan developed last summer and continues to update.

"We're trying to raise the bar on faculty mentoring at Iowa State," Jordan said. "Across higher education, we know it's not just about the job, but the quality of the experience."

Supporting faculty, especially early in their careers, is part of Iowa State's "value added," she said.

"We have to be intentional about it. And if it's not happening inside our university, if our faculty receive their best mentoring from outside, that's a risk factor for us as a university," she said.

Honesty is the gift

She might not have fully realized it at the time, but assistant professor of marketing Ashley Goreczny's mentoring relationship with associate professor Samantha Cross began before she got to campus in August 2018. Cross, an initial virtual interviewer in the recruiting process, found Goreczny at a conference after she was hired but before she moved to Ames. During Goreczny's family leave in the pandemic, Cross stayed in touch, sometimes a cup of tea and physically-distanced conversation on her front porch.

Ashley Goreczny head shot


Goreczny receives mentoring from another faculty member whose research better matches hers, but her relationship with Cross continues. For example, following a "highly engaging" department meeting, Cross may ask her if she has questions or wants to talk about anything from the discussion. Goreczny, whose nature is to jump into every opportunity, said Cross also helps keep her focused on priorities: her research, department commitments and how much time to give different ones, and even when it's OK to say "no."

"She really supports me, but the most important thing I appreciate is her honesty with me. Because of that trust, I know I can ask her anything," Goreczny said. "She'll tell me as it is, when I need to hear it.

"I think that's one of the most valuable things a good mentor can do."