Mentors as Friends and Friends as Mentors: Establishing a Large Constellation

Friends are critical to career success and should make up an important part of our constellation of support.

Kristen McCauliff

Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professional Development

Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Ball State University

In February 2023, I read a heart-warming article about six Stanford faculty members who became close friends when they were newly hired assistant professors.  As the article relays- “they all began as junior faculty between 2013 and 2015. All are women, and when they started at Stanford, none had children. In the years since they met, they have supported each other through awards, grants, papers, tenure, relationship ups and downs, pregnancies, miscarriages, births, home buying, wildfires, heat waves, power outages, and of course, a pandemic – among many other life events.” As I nodded along to the wise and sentimental words in the article, my mind ultimately wandered to my own experience climbing through the faculty ranks and into my administrative role. My thirteen years at my institution has been filled with incredibly generous mentors and sponsors. But something I often overlook is that my time has also been filled with incredibly generous friends. And, often, the line between the two is blurred. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey in higher education or already well on your way, I invite you to reflect on the friendships you have already cultivated and the ones you may still need to develop. Perhaps this reflection will also motivate you to be this type of friend for someone else.


The friend in the same stage as life and career as you: This person seems to experience the same ups and downs as you—and even at the same time! They understand when your career gets in the way of your life and your life in the way of your career. They don’t take your ghosting personally. And while they may not have a lot of bandwidth to provide hours and hours of support given that they are being tormented by the same things, they make you feel seen and heard. I had a dear friend who had her first baby around the time I had my second child. We were both midway through the tenure track and trying to make it work. We started to schedule monthly breakfasts at a local diner. We’d drop our kids off at daycare, gather in what would become “our” booth, cry into our diner coffee. We’d reassure each other we were doing a good job and then laugh because, of course, neither of us had any idea if we were. Now that our kids are older and we’re both in administrative roles, the breakfasts are fewer and further between. When they occur we still laugh and cry. But we also celebrate the hurdles we’ve cleared and the ones left to come.


The friend outside the academy: This person will be your biggest hype-person because they have no idea what your job entails! They just know that they love you and that they are sure you are doing a good job. They’ll also be the first to name and discuss the wildness of higher education just in case you are too insulated to see it. I have a wonderful friend who is a nurse practitioner and I think I was her first good friend in higher ed. When I tell her stories about students, colleagues, budgets, or anything else plaguing (pun intended) my work life, I never feel judged or like she is thinking that she’d handle the situation better. I never felt like she was curious about my P&T materials, though, I always knew she was pulling for me. The lack of intimate knowledge of higher ed allows me to relax around her and tell her what is going on.


The friend who will keep it real: Sometimes I just need a friend who will say “why are you doing this?” or “Do you have too much on your plate?” Or, even better, “Girl, you are spiraling.” I need my friend on campus who has a pretty good understanding of my role, my struggles, and the context of our institution. For me, this is my friend Molly. She’s the first to say “I love you but I don’t see this situation in the same way…have you considered {this other really wise thing}?” She’s also the first to encourage me to reassess my work-life balance and remind me to chill out without minimizing my stress. She sends funny memes, interesting articles, and perfectly direct advice. It is hard to admit but sometimes friendship and support looks a little critical.


The friend who you look forward to sitting beside in meetings: This is a minor but oft overlooked role in your life. If you do not have a friend who makes work meetings better, then get yourself one! In fact, get yourself several so that you have all your bases covered. There is perhaps very little that is as reassuring as someone who will be “saving you a spot” and can understand your feelings toward a specific subject with a simple eyebrow raise.


In our quest to ensure we have mentors, are mentors, and find mentors for others, I want to remind us to also look for and cultivate friendships. These friendships often serve different roles. But just as often they serve the same roles as mentors. Friends are critical to career success and should make up an important part of our constellation of support.



The Power of Mentoring from a Leadership Position

Administrators have the ability to change the direction and culture of organizations. Too often we forget that this too has mentoring consequences. 

Valerio Ferme

Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Provost

Professor of Comparative Literature

University of Cincinnati


I am a lucky and privileged, white man. I came to an academic career from the expectation that I would receive a college degree. So did my eight siblings. My mom is a Barnard graduate with an ABD from Fordham; my father received his History degree from the University of Roma, Sapienza. Each of my siblings has a college degree, whether in Italy or the States, and three have advanced degrees.


For all of that, I never received formal mentoring on the job or before it. My advisor died the summer before I was hired in my first tenure-track job. I was the only representative in the department from my area of study and was left to manage my own career. I am also gay, and a single adoptive parent of first one, then another older child. Together with my ‘cultural’ difference of being raised in Italy, in a multilingual household where three languages were spoken, I grew up being aware of difference, but not enough to understand the systemic discrimination that the American educational environment imparts on its participants.


Like other MEME mentors, mentees and organizers, my mentoring grew organically via conversations I had with others and because I threw myself into service activities outside my department, which put me in touch with some of the most wonderful mentors and ideators I could have imagined.


They fuel my mentoring today. As I have ascended to more prominent positions in the administrative ranks of academia (I am now a provost), I have grown to appreciate how, as an ally, I can make a difference both directly and indirectly in the careers of others. This is both empowering and incredibly rewarding. And it all starts with trust (as Melinda Messineo mentioned in her blog); trust that is harder to earn when you sit in a position of power that often intimidates administrative and faculty colleagues at various stages of their career pathways. In fact, it is easier to mentor undergraduate students, because they don’t usually understand what I do every day (LOL).


So how does a provost build trust in faculty who come from different realities than one’s own and who know that you, ultimately, have the power to approve their promotion and tenure, as well as the scope of their career activities? S/he listens and listens more; and proactively seeks to engage individual faculty in conversations, as well as promotes mentoring activities across one’s units to support faculty’s success at different stages of their careers.


One of the essential moments of my listening occurs every August and January at the New Faculty Orientation events. I make it a priority to speak at these events and, when a social component is added, to mingle with faculty and distribute my business card. I emphasize that mentoring is an organic activity that requires engagement from both mentor and mentee, and that mentees need to find a fit (I also say that there is no shame in changing mentors when they don’t match our needs, and that there should never be fear of retaliation for ‘disappointing’ those above us). I also invite faculty to set up appointments to see and talk with me, whether I meet them on my walks, or if I am talking at Faculty Senate (few take me up on it). I show a keen interest in discussing their choices in research, teaching and service pathways; and, as much as I can, I follow up with their deans to ask questions about their progress.


My real power as a ‘mentor,’ however, comes from the policies and processes I can implement to create systemic mentoring. When I became Provost, my office had a ‘generic’ Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs. I felt that was not enough, so I created the position of Vice-Provost for Faculty Advancement and Academic Inclusion, which in its title condenses our focus on faculty mentoring and success. This position oversees the Faculty Enrichment Center, our Strategic Hiring Opportunity Program and Dual Career Assistance Program, as well as leads our faculty recruitment and retention efforts aimed at enhancing diversity and inclusion. Through this office we run yearlong programming focused on mentoring; invite our new faculty to mingle with older faculty; and create mentee circles led by expert faculty and administrators (deans, heads, directors), all with the goal of giving as much structured support that empowers the development of partnerships not only inside a younger faculty’s unit, but in a rhizomatic network of connections that aid both interdisciplinary co-mentoring and extra-disciplinary bonds outside of one’s disciplinary foci.


Equally important, for me, is using my position to empower and mentor the leadership growth of those who want to pursue administrative careers in parallel or as an alternative to academic careers. Having had to carve an administrative pathway without support from my departmental colleagues (I literally had a senior colleague once tell me “why are you applying for administrative position X, when we know it’s just a lot of busywork and headaches, and you will never be chosen because my friend has the inside track”); and without nearby models for how, as a gay man, I could aspire to such positions (I am still one of only a few openly gay provosts at a Research 1 institution), I am particularly attentive to encourage and develop the know-how of ambitious, empathetic individuals who are minoritized into administrative positions. When I see the fire burning, we find the time to sit down and talk through the different ways to fulfill their ambitions. I enjoy empowering others to find their voice and sing it proudly in their pursuits; and I use my experiences, mistakes and successes as case studies through which they can chart their choices moving forward. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing them rise and give voice to their own and similar experiences in administrative academic roles.

Navigating Push and Pull Factors: How Mentoring Can Help Connect Colleagues to Support in Time of Doubt

“Trustful” conversations can turn toward the sharing of doubts or concerns our colleagues are experiencing as they navigate their professional and personal roles in new spaces.

Melinda Messineo, PhD

Interim Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence

Professor of Sociology

Ball State University

The role of mentor often involves bridge building. Specifically, mentors work to connect colleagues with resources to help them articulate their goals and to thrive. As the relationship grows over time, trust becomes a critical element for all parties involved and the connections become more impactful and often the conversations become more personal. “Trustful” conversations can turn toward the sharing of doubts or concerns our colleagues are experiencing as they navigate their professional and personal roles in new spaces. It is not unusual for people to question whether or not the position is the right fit for their goals and aspirations. The recent national job transition phenomenon often called “the great resignation” has further amplified these conversations as our peers ask, is this the right place for me?

As MEME mentors we might tune in to what our colleagues are describing and notice that some of what is shared can be described as “pull” factors and others more accurately viewed as “push” factors.

Pull factors are external factors that draw people away from their current institution. Perhaps the individual receives a great offer from elsewhere or perhaps they want to get closer to family, or want to live in a different part of the country. Mentors can help navigate these reflective decisions as conflicting demands and desires may pull people away.

MEME mentors can also explore the push factors that encourage faculty to start experiencing doubt and initiate looking for new positions in the first place. Does our colleague report feeling supported in their unit? Do they have the resources they need to succeed? Do they feel like they are valued and that they are viewed as an equal member? How strong is their sense of belonging? Are they facing barriers that prevent inclusion? As mentors we can help identify if the barriers to inclusion are structural, interpersonal, or intrapersonal.

Structural barriers can literally be physical barriers to access and inclusion like poorly designed pathways, entries, and classrooms. However, they can also take the form of policies or procedures that create barriers which contribute to feelings of being “pushed” out of a space or setting.

Interpersonal barriers are the behaviors and ideas that prevent individuals from successfully engaging with one another. Sometimes these can be language barriers including disciplinary or positional jargon. The barriers may also involve perspective, where people are not in agreement or are not able to connect over shared goals or values.

Lastly, intrapersonal barriers are those barriers within ourselves or within others that prevent belonging. Within ourselves, it can be the feelings of imposter syndrome or self-doubt that create barriers to our ability to fit in. Of course, these are connected to structural and interpersonal barriers like elitism and potentially the implicit and unconscious biases that are within those with whom we are seeking to create community. 

Implicit and unconscious bias in others also represents a form of intrapersonal barrier, because it prevents that individual from engaging with others and reduces the likelihood of there being an inclusive campus community. We all are susceptible to having intrapersonal barriers that prevent inclusion and belonging for others. We must be intentional about identifying and reducing the influence of these barriers.

How do we respond to push and pull?

We often lament our inability to interrupt the power of pull factors. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do to stop outside forces from drawing faculty away. I hear this especially as units are losing STEM faculty. However, efforts to offer competitive salaries, build supportive communities, and create positive regional experiences can help reduce the pull.

Where we tend to feel we have more influence as institutional leaders is with the push factors. To prevent “push” we must ask ourselves, “Are there supports and resources available that can help our colleagues thrive?” Perhaps more importantly, “in what ways can we influence the campus climate and culture to support faculty in times of doubt?” Mentoring relationships that connect faculty and build reflective practice can reduce the potential push that being in new spaces and places may create. But one mentor cannot manifest an inclusive community alone. It takes each and every one of us to build inclusive communities. And this development happens one intentional reciprocity-based relationship at a time, like those fostered through MEME.

Wear My Crown Until You Believe You Deserve Your Own 

My pronouns are she/her/QUEEN. I don’t lease or rent my crown. I own it outright. Ownership allows me to share it with anyone who needs it until they believe they are worthy of their own. My Queen pronoun isn’t based upon anything that I earned or inherited. I didn’t start wearing it until I decided to own it. 

Katrenia Reed Hughes, MS, PsyD, MBA, PMP.

Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership

Purdue School of Engineering & Technology 


My pronouns are she/her/QUEEN. I don’t lease or rent my crown. I own it outright. Ownership allows me to share it with anyone who needs it until they believe they are worthy of their own. My Queen pronoun isn’t based upon anything that I earned or inherited. I didn’t start wearing it until I decided to own it. I have four degrees and I am a certified project management professional. No achievement or status will ever satisfy the drive of an overachiever. Without the understanding that you are worthy of your crown just because you are you – good enough is never good enough, and self-acceptance is elusive. Part of my purpose in life is to “crown” others. Not everyone needs to be crowned but supporting and affirming others provides me with positive energy regardless of the needs of the recipient. 

I am currently a tenure track assistant professor of Organizational Leadership. Over the past five years, my work has focused extensively on project management and organizational development in the context of the Organizational Leadership program in the Department of Technology Leadership and Communication in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. My role is as an educator who intersects in a variety of ways including teaching. Mentoring is an important element of both project management and organizational leadership. I teach Coaching and Mentoring in Organizations, a graduate level course required for our Human Resource Development Certificate. I also teach two courses required for our Project Management Certificate, Advanced Project Management and Integration of Project Management for Leaders. In my project management courses, I provide team culture coaching and mentor team leaders to achieve the projects desired outcomes. In order to provide coaching and mentoring students a more dynamic learning experience, I integrated them into the project management course to mentor and coach the individuals and teams in the project management course to achieve project outcomes. 

My mentorship experiences include being a mentee, mentor, peer mentor, mentor trainer, and being a part of a MEME mentor circle. After having a series of strained mentor relationships in graduate school, primarily with white men in the disciplines of psychology and business, it was clear to me that there was a different approach to mentoring that would have more successful student outcomes, without forcing an individual to leave substantially significant parts of themselves at home. The MEME initiative approach aligns with my own values and desire to make the mentoring experience better for other people of color. I was invited to participate in a podcast series called Opening the Door: Improving Mentoring Through Stories and Science. In this podcast I discuss my experiences as an African American woman dealing with microaggressions in a mentor-mentee relationship. My lived experience as a minoritized and underrepresented person who has often been the only person of color in the room, has given me a point of connection with minoritized and underserved communities.

Mentoring to ensure successful outcomes is a core value and does not always involve formal mentoring. Some students want to talk briefly after class, others send agendas ahead of each meeting. Whether mentoring students, faculty, or staff, informally or formally, I take the same path. I start by being transparent and honest about expectations on both sides, set goals, and discuss desired outcomes. In all relationships, I focus on listening with compassion, building trust, and creating psychological safety. These tools help others feel comfortable enough to speak their truths and allow me to help them put their passion to purpose. The biggest issue I have found with informal mentoring is access. Many people of color may not have access to high-quality mentors due to systemic and structural barriers. For this reason, the MEME initiative is an extremely important component of DEI in higher education. It formalizes the process and provides mentees with trained and engaged mentors.

My journey with to join the MEME initiative started 5 years ago at IUPUI when I was invited to serve on a taskforce to pilot the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) INCLUDES self-assessment, which aimed to diversify STEM faculty at public universities. Part of my role was to collaborate with other leaders in the school to collect and provide information about DEI activities, programs, and initiatives to be aggregated with other departments in Engineering and Technology. With contributions from this taskforce, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a five-year, $10 million NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance grant co-led by the APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), based at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The project’s overarching strategy is to bring about national systemic change for STEM faculty by aligning and reinforcing professional development and hiring practices at institutional, regional, and national levels.

My work as a member of the taskforce that piloted the Aspire Alliance: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty initiative has continued to grow resulting in additional grant support for IUPUI. Aspire's Institutional Change Initiative (IChange) provided catalytic funding to help participating institutions advance practices that address institutional barriers to a more diverse STEM faculty. IUPUI’s funded project, Midwest Experiences in Mentoring Excellence (MEME), created a regional network to provide culturally responsive training to mentors who help develop STEM faculty from underrepresented groups. MEME connects STEM faculty across six institutions, placing emphasis on career-development mentoring opportunities for women of color. I served as a co-Investigator and project manager on this proposal. Because I had gone through the “Faculty Dialogues” mentor training and Aspire’s Facilitator Training at UCLA on Facilitating Entering Mentoring Workshop, during implementation, my role has been subject matter expert for mentoring, MEME committee member, and joy advocate. The MEME team is like a family, and I look forward to our meetings.

MEME circles for women of color continues to have a positive impact on me personally and professionally. I started participating in a MEME circle last year, and it is a place of rejuvenation. It is a circle of queens. We meet once a month on Friday evening, and it helps to level set my week. The other women in the circle are inspirational and supportive. Hearing perspectives from other women of color who are at different points on similar journeys gives me perspective and empowers me to persist and achieve my goals. This circle of queens makes me feel safe and provides me with validation for my lived experience. The leader of the MEME circle is my friend and colleague, Etta Ward. She has described me as “an effective mentor especially in the mentoring circles.” She affirmed this by saying, “Your ability to bring vulnerability and humility to the space is making the experiences – for all, that much more meaningful and sacred. Establishing sacred space is critical in mentoring relationships, and you do this well.” This is a perfect example of Queen Etta crowning me. 

My recommendation to others to who want to become better mentors would be to seek out training. Training gives you tangible tools and resources that will help to ground your interactions with structured expectations and assess how things are going. My clinical psychology background prepared me to connect and listen to others to help them achieve higher levels of functioning, but that’s not mentoring. Mentoring has a different dynamic and power differential. In corporate and higher education settings, your mentor can have a very positive impact on your career success and help you navigate systems and structures based upon experience and their knowledge of your environment. As a therapist, my relationship with clients ended when they walked out of my office. As a mentor, I can provide support and advocacy for my mentee that encourages them regardless of the environment in which our paths cross. The mentor training I received helped me to transition my interactions from blank slate listening to dialogue. Training allows you to practice being vulnerable and building trust that is not one sided, and assess progress based upon appropriate goals and expectations. 

In conclusion, mentoring is a form of service that has an infinite and expansive impact. When I think back to the mentors that I have had in my life, I am grateful for their time and energy. I show my gratitude by pouring my energy and time into others. This is a resource chain with an impact that can’t be quantified. When I hear from former students or colleagues that I have mentored about their success, it refuels my personal reservoir of resilience and gives meaning to my current work. The flow of positive energy is never ending.

Reflections on Mentoring Experiences 

Iowa State University of Science and Technology Dean of the Graduate College William Graves and Assistant Provost for Faculty Development Tera Jordan take a moment to reflect on their lived experiences and what really matters in mentoring. Graves and Jordan are both team members on the "Midwest Experiences in Mentoring Excellence" project.

Bill: I was raised knowing that I was expected to earn a college degree. My parents held bachelor’s degrees, my father earned a master’s, and an uncle is a university professor. My mother, who raised me as a single parent after my father died when I was seven, was my first mentor, and one of my graduate-school advisers introduced me to the path I have taken. Although I am a white, cisgender male, my understanding of outsider status has been heightened by navigating the academy for four decades as gay.

Tera: Similar to you, I also was expected to earn a college degree. But perhaps for a different reason. My mother experienced her parents’ divorce early in her life and lived through the financial impact of their separation. She always emphasized completing an education as a means to ensure I could support myself. Both of my parents struggled in their own ways to be first-generation college graduates; I am second-generation. I enter this conversation as an African American woman. I have chosen to work in higher education for more than 18 years at research-intensive, predominantly White institutions. Mentoring has been a key part of my success as a tenured faculty member and a senior administrator. Bill, what are key mentoring experiences in your life?

Bill: When I reflect on my experiences as a mentee and mentor, it’s clear that customized mentoring matters. Looking back to being mentored early in my career, I realize that I, perhaps needlessly, imposed limits on the bonds I could develop with my mentors by not being fully out as gay. It didn’t feel safe. Today, I strive for mentees to feel safe with me, to meet each mentee where they are, and to be open to different mentoring approaches. I focus on my goal as a mentor, which might be to get a junior faculty member to tenure, a postdoc to a permanent position, or a graduate student to a publication or diploma. My goal must align with the goal of the mentee. Together, we blend practical, pragmatic strategies with the struggle to overcome insecurities that can hamper progress. My style and methods of mentoring vary with each mentee based on their aspirations, strengths, and challenges. I also must acknowledge that my mentoring has been constrained at times by my availability. Tera, I know that you feel strongly about being accessible, right?

Tera: Yes! For me, what really matters in mentoring is accessibility. When asked to serve as a mentor, one of the first questions I ask is, “What are your expectations and needs for meeting and contact?” I cannot commit to meeting with mentees weekly, notwithstanding critical matters and seasons that require this kind of support. For me, it cannot be the regular meeting schedule. If it’s not a fit, then I will spend time supporting mentees to find a mentor that better meets their needs for accessibility. Along my mentoring journey, I have observed the role of privilege. Let’s touch on this next, Bill.

Bill: Being raised with a college savings account within an education-centric, supportive family gave me early advantages. I have wondered how strongly my outward-facing majority status in the predominantly white institutions I attended influenced the opportunities presented to me and the luck that seemed to come my way. I probably embarked on my career path with a stronger level of confidence than I would have had if the circumstances of my upbringing or my societal status had been different. I try to remember to be grateful. Although I have worked hard throughout my career, I benefitted from an advantageous foundation. Tera, what are your thoughts about the advantages and challenges you have faced?

Tera: As I think about privilege, I have benefitted from advantage—primarily others’ capital and willingness to invest in me. For example, as first-generation college graduates, my married parents were able to invest in the college savings account you mentioned. I was able to leverage their investment with scholarships and fellowships to pursue my education through my doctorate, without delay or interruption. I was also privileged because my mother spent her whole career working in the school district where I was educated; for better or worse, I always had eyes on me in the schools where I was educated. These lived experiences shape who I am today, as a person and a mentor. In what ways have these experiences cultivated your mentoring philosophy, Bill?

Bill: Two mentoring principles stick with me. One came to me long ago from a professor on my doctoral program committee. He advised that if graduate school and being in the academic world weren’t fun (at least much of the time), pursue something else. Life is too short to stay on a path that is not the right fit, something that may resonate with me more that it does for others due to my father’s death in his 40s. The other principle is from a faculty colleague at Iowa State who says his job, as a mentor to graduate students, is to build confidence.

Tera: Those are great principles. For me, a key principle I abide by comes from a long-time mentor I met in graduate school who said, “There’s nothing more important than people.” Make the time. The work can wait. Now as a senior administrator with endless competing responsibilities, I understand her perspective. I have reflected upon her wisdom and shared some best practices in guiding others in Mentoring Graduate Student Scholars, A Conversation about Mentoring Excellence, and Lessons Learned in the Major Professor-Graduate Student Relationship. Bill, this has been fun learning more about you and your background. Thank you for taking the time and for being a wonderful colleague and a mentor to me.

Bill: I owe you the thanks, Tera. Your professionalism, poise, and grace have inspired me as we’ve worked together. I’ve seen the impacts of your excellent mentorship work. Interactions with colleagues like you are highlights of my career.

Mentors – How Many of Us Have Them 

For me, the people who showed up for me as mentors in my life were those who cared about my success, and who saw things in me that I did not see in myself. They reassured me that I could stretch myself and inspired me to take risks. They provided me with the encouragement that enabled me to envision a brighter future. Their belief in my potential transformed me.

Gina Sanchez Gibau, Ph.D.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion

PI, Midwest Experiences in Mentoring Excellence


There is no shortage of conversation in academia regarding the importance of mentoring to faculty success. Nowadays, there is a variety of formats through which a faculty member can be mentored. Gone are the ideas that a single mentor can shoulder this responsibility of ensuring the advancement of a junior faculty member.

As I reflect upon the benefits of the activities that inform the Midwest Experiences in Mentoring Excellence (MEME), I cannot help but recall my own experiences “growing up” in the academy. Both as a graduate student and a junior faculty, I did not receive any formal mentorship; I was not “assigned to” or “matched with” any specific person, that I can recall. And yet, I somehow was able to navigate higher education with relative success thus far in my career.

This may be because mentorship came from less formal means and from outside of the institution. For me, the people who showed up for me as mentors in my life were those who cared about my success, and who saw things in me that I did not see in myself. They reassured me that I could stretch myself and inspired me to take risks. They provided me with the encouragement that enabled me to envision a brighter future. Their belief in my potential transformed me.

While I did not necessarily receive the specific disciplinary mentorship that is so critical today to the success of minoritized junior faculty in STEM, the universe assembled a constellation of people from which I drew strength and aspiration. Yes, the people on whom I came to depend on were family and friends but also faculty, staff, students, and administrators. In concert, they have and continue to provide me with a broader, developmental model of mentoring that has allowed me to thrive and sustains me amid ongoing challenges. 

As a Team Lead for my institution’s participation in the Aspire Alliance’s Institutional Change (IChange) Network, I was heartened by the enthusiasm I received in the Spring of 2020 for an idea of partnering to foster a culture of mentoring that could leverage collective work across institutions, with the goal of ensuring the success of faculty of Color in STEM disciplines. Miraculously, during a global pandemic, the idea of the MEME initiative took shape and came to fruition. Our multipronged approach to affecting systemic change in the quality of mentorship in STEM departments involves four primary activities: mentor training; mentor-mentee matching across institutions; mentoring circles for women of Color; and resource development.

Mentoring is no longer a one-on-one activity. It is important to consider mentoring as a multiply constituted relationship of mutual benefit that takes on many forms. We invite you to join us as thought partners as we endeavor to improve the retention, satisfaction, and advancement of women and minoritized faculty in STEM.


Higgins, Monica C., and David A. Thomas. 2001. Constellations and Careers: Toward Understanding the Effects of Multiple Developmental Relationships.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 22: 223–247.

Vandermaas-Peeler, Maureen. (2021, February 18). Mentoring for Learner Success: Conceptualizing Constellations [Blog Post]. Retrieved from