The Role of a PFF Mentor

An essential element of a successful PFF program is providing individualized mentoring to participants. Mentors are not the participants’ major professors, but rather other faculty from either the students’ university or a partner institution. The mentoring relationship can be a beneficial and rewarding experience for both parties.

“The most useful part of the whole semester was the faculty mentoring. Through this experience I found that what students need the most is not to have a lecturer feed them information, but to have someone to help them learn, and to encourage them once in awhile. This is what my faculty mentor has done for me during our mentoring sessions, and this is what I tried to do for the student that I taught.”

Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering, ISU

Expectations of Faculty Mentors

Faculty mentors who choose to participate in the PFF program will be paired with a participating student mentee. Over the course of the semester, the mentor and mentee meet at least twice per month to discuss issues of faculty life, teaching, and PFF events, or to participate in teaching or service opportunities.

Mentees are asked to initiate a Mentor-Mentee Agreement Form on PD@ISU, which will send a link to the mentor for them to electronically sign the form. This form outlines the mentor-mentee’s responsibilities to one another. The purpose of this document is to serve as a tool for establishing a good working relationship. This form can be revisited and altered by mentors and mentees throughout the mentoring experience.

At the end of each semester of participation, mentees are asked to submit written feedback to PFF concerning the mentoring process. At the end of the second and subsequent semesters, faculty mentors are asked to submit written feedback to mentees on their preparation for faculty careers (usually in the form of comments and critiques on job application materials). Mentors are encouraged to provide PFF with a copy of the feedback provided to student mentees.

To volunteer for mentoring (or to get involved with the PFF program in other ways) please complete the Faculty Interest form (GoogleDoc). For more information email or call 515-294-4065.

"All along, I thought I knew what it takes to be a successful faculty professor. But I had it all wrong. PFF has enabled me to understand [faculty life] much better and is equipping me with a litany of skills to make my faculty life more manageable."

Master’s student in Family and Consumer Science, ISU

Building the Mentor-Mentee Relationship

Each mentor-mentee pairing is a unique professional relationship. Scheduling regular meetings and identifying mutual areas of interest are essential to develop a positive and beneficial relationship. The list of conversation starters and activities below are designed to support the mentoring relationship.

Suggested Agenda Items For First Meeting

It is important to schedule the first mentoring meeting early in the semester in order to accommodate the requirement for two meetings per month.

  • Share academic histories.
    • A. Describe your educational background, including teaching and research experience. Share information about your professional goals and why you entered the PFF program.
    • B. Have your mentor tell you about his or her teaching and research responsibilities and interests. Find out about your mentor’s professional goals and why he or she agreed to serve as a PFF mentor.
  • Discuss and prioritize useful activities in which you might participate.
  • Complete the PFF Mentor-Mentee Agreement Form on PD@ISU.
  • Exchange telephone numbers, email addresses, teaching schedules, office hours, etc.
  • Set a firm time for the next meeting. (Adapted from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln PFF Handbook)

Conversation Starters About Teaching…

  • What types of classes do you teach?
  • What can you tell me about your pedagogical philosophy and your classroom strategies?
  • What role does technology play in your teaching?
  • How do you approach grading/evaluation?
  • What skills should I develop now to prepare for my own teaching career?
  • What opportunities are there for me to observe some aspects of your teaching?
  • Are there opportunities for me to assist you with some aspect of your teaching?

Conversation Starters About Research…

  • What is your research agenda and how did you develop it?
  • How is your research funded? What did you do to secure this funding?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face in research and how do you overcome them?
  • What skills should I develop now to prepare for my own research as a junior faculty member?
  • Do you incorporate undergraduate and graduate students into your research program? If so, how?
  • What opportunities are there for me to observe some aspect of your research process?

Conversation Starters About Service…

  • What kind of service responsibilities do you have (departmental, university, professional society or discipline)?
  • What types of service are most valued by the institution and the discipline?
  • What skills should I develop now to prepare me for my own service responsibilities as a junior faculty member?
  • What opportunities are there for me to observe or assist you with some aspect of your service responsibilities?

Conversation Starters About the Job Search…

  • What was your process for finding and applying for your faculty position?
  • How did you prepare for interviews and presentations related to the job search?
  • What was the biggest challenge you faced during the job search process?
  • What should I be doing now to prepare for my own job search?
  • What opportunities are there for me to work with you or another qualified faculty member in preparing my job application materials and/or presentations?

Conversation Starters About the Institution…

  • Why did you choose to come to this institution?
  • What are the biggest challenges and rewards from being here?
  • What can you tell me about the tenure and promotion process at this institution? What types of activities are most valued?
  • What type of person do you think is most suited to a faculty position at this institution?

Conversation Starters About Professional Life…

  • How do you maintain balance between research, teaching, and service?
  • How do you make time for a personal life?
  • How far ahead do you plan your career? Are you making plans for your next tenure and promotion review? For retirement?
  • What can I do to make this semester productive for you as well as for me?


    “The PFF mentoring experience was quite gratifying. It was both a pleasure and useful experience to discuss in detail with a keen, up-and-coming academic the various aspects of being a professor (i.e., teaching, research, administration, and professional activities).”

    Associate Professor of Material Science & Engineering, ISU

    Below is a list of the activities that mentors have found useful in the past:


    • Mentee assists mentor with grading—mentor talks about the grading process and criteria
    • Mentee attends the mentor’s classes (or vice versa) followed by discussion
    • Mentee teaches a unit or works with small groups in the mentor’s class
    • Mentor assists the mentee with developing teaching documents, such as a syllabus, course policy sheet, assignments etc.
    • Mentor arranges a practice lecture for mentee
    • Mentor and mentee attend CELT seminars together
    • Mentor and mentee explore technology issues related to teaching
    • Mentor and mentee teach an honors seminar together


    • Mentee attends meetings—Faculty Senate, departmental committees, etc—with mentor
    • Mentee participates in university extension activities with mentor


    • Mentee and mentor work on a grant together
    • Mentor provides an article for the mentee to read and then discuss
    • Mentor and mentee discuss the process of setting up research projects
    • Mentee assists mentor with research-writing
    • Mentee completes teaching-related research, assisted by mentor
    • Mentor assists mentee in preparing a presentation or presentation proposal for upcoming conferences in the field

    Job-Search Related

    • Mentor arranges a mock job interview for mentee
    • Mentor and mentee discuss strategies on how to network
    • Mentor reviews the mentee’s job portfolio (vita, cover letter, research agenda, and philosophy of teaching)


    • Mentor and mentee discuss the unique concerns of faculty of color, international faculty, and/or women faculty in the field
    • Mentor and mentee discuss current graduate student concerns
    • Mentee job shadows mentor for a day
    • Mentor participates in one or more PFF seminars with mentee and discuss