The ACES mentoring initiative was created to provide a mechanism for junior women faculty to obtain field specific and institution specific career guidance. Mentoring committees are charged with assisting and advising junior faculty regarding grants, publications, pre-tenure leave, committee service, student advising duties, and departmental promotion and tenure expectations. Mentors take a personal interest in the career development of the mentee, opening doors for the mentee by championing, sponsoring, and including the mentee with regard to new opportunities, contacts, and resources.

In addition to the mentoring of junior women faculty, development committees are being created specifically to address the needs of women faculty at the full professor level.

Below, previous participants discuss what the experience was like for them.

What's It Like?

M. Cather Simpson

M. Cather Simpson is an assistant professor of chemistry and was one of the first participants in the mentoring program.

What did you expect when the ACES mentoring program was explained to you?

Prof. Simpson: "I didn't know what to expect, to be honest. My hope for my external mentor was to make a valuable contact outside the university who could help me network directly in my field. I switched fields when I took my academic job, and my network is thin. Also, I was looking to form a relationship with a leader in my field that was not competitive in nature. For my internal mentors, I was hoping for guidance in finding support for the Center for Chemical Dynamics that I created, along with another colleague."

What was it like (or is this really worth my time)?

Prof. Simpson: "The external mentor exceeded my expectations significantly. He invited me for seminars, spent time with me at international meetings, and introduced me about. He also read my latest NSF proposal and helped me think about more directly addressing the application side of my research; I'm sure this helped me recently to convert a hitherto unfunded proposal to funded status. My internal mentors helped me navigate the tenure waters, and provided excellent advice along those lines. I suspect they were underutilized."

How does it work? I've never heard of a mentoring committee.

Prof. Simpson: "I initiated all of the contact and began my first meeting by sending each mentor an updated CV and an agenda. The agenda covered things I was hoping to get help with. I was completely honest with my mentors - if I thought there was a weakness I needed to work on, I figured it wouldn't help if I tried to cover it over. That worked well. I chose trustworthy mentors! That was a big step for me, actually, as I had been burned in the past.

"I never got my mentors together as a team. Nonetheless, I think of them that way. Each helped me to accomplish career goals but in different ways and directions. What worked with my external mentor (spontaneous questions through email, the occasional phone call) did not work so well for my internal mentors. I found I could communicate better with my internal mentors in somewhat longer, 'called' meetings in which I had an agenda for us to get through."

Was there any positive outcome?

Prof. Simpson: "Well, the tenure decision was positive, my two latest NSF grants were funded, and I've been publishing more papers. I'm also getting invited to meetings to give talks and to an NSF workshop, I'm reviewing papers and grants very regularly, and experiencing success in other benchmark areas of the a successful scientific career. My mentors certainly helped me to focus and implement a strategy that seems, so far, to be working well. I've also learned how important mentors can be, and some lessons about what to do (and not to do!) when one is a mentor. I hopefully can apply these lessons to help out those who might need it."

Irene Lee

Irene Lee is assistant professor of chemistry, is also involved with the mentoring program.

What did you expect from the mentoring program when you started?

Prof. Lee: "I did not have any expectation at all as I had never been exposed to this kind of program."

What was your experience like?

Prof. Lee: "The experience was very positive and productive. I had received very helpful suggestions on developing my research career as well as preparation of my tenure package."

How did your mentoring/career advising team function?

Prof. Lee: "I emailed my mentors in advance and then had regular conference calls. Each conference lasted about one hour. All my three mentors and I typically discussed issues I sent them by email during these conference calls."

What did you find useful or successful about your participation in the program?

Prof. Lee: "I now have a good networking system developed for my research career and I have gotten tenure with the help of my mentors' suggestions."

Ann-Marie Broome

Ann-Marie Broome is an instructor in the department of physiology and biophysics, also provided feedback about her experience with the mentoring program.

What did you expect from the mentoring program when you started?

Instructor Broome: "Although I did not know exactly what to expect from the mentor/mentee relationship and coaching, I was looking for guidance and assistance with career advancement, grant writing, publishing, enhancement of my professional visibility, and management of my dual roles in research and teaching in an academic research environment. I was also looking for information and suggestions from other colleagues in similar circumstances and from those who had successful navigated the academic research minefield."

What was your experience like?

Instructor Broome: "I began my experience with the professional coaching portion of the exercise first. I attribute the success of my mentoring/career advising team to this initial step of origination and organization. My coach helped me clarify my goals and expectations and prepare a logical, cohesive itinerary for my career advancement. By introducing alternative perspectives and potential agendas, my coach, and subsequent discussions with ACES preceptors and other ACES participants, helped me shape a dynamic mentoring/career advising team. Often the experience was trial and error, but the exposure and networking skills were essential for me to learn and create the qualities of stewardship and responsibility with regard for my career. Each member of my team was receptive and concerned about integral issues affecting my advancement. I actively sought advice and feedback about grants and publications during this process. Ultimately, how I chose to utilize the suggestions and materials was up to me."

How did your mentoring/career advising team function?

Instructor Broome: "My mentoring/career advising team was chosen primarily as a vehicle for advancement in research areas in which I was weak or interested in developing. However, over time, the research area became less important and the skills required to navigate professional relationships became more important. My team operated through several classical interaction modes; email, phone conversations, postal letters, and facsimile. Each member was approachable to my queries for time and input. As a result of our previous contacts, I was also able to meet with members of my team at national conferences and international meetings. These meetings were pre-arranged during impromptu discussions and aided by the NSF ACES Opportunity Fund. Further introductions were made to influential and seasoned researchers and have increased my networking environment."

What did you find useful or successful about your participation in the program?

Instructor Broome: "I learned three useful attributes for career development from my mentoring/advising team: (1) Take control of your expectations and development; (2) Utilize external contacts and networks, as well as internal contacts; and (3) Actively pursue critical analysis, suggestions and feedback to enable positive, progressive professional growth. In a broader sense, and in addition to my mentoring committee, other internal ACES participants were readily available to discuss ideas and suggestions. The networking within the group addressed several salient issues unique to Case. Overall, the program has been very helpful and continues to provide me with action steps and support during my career development."