Background/Context: Past research has focused on benefits that students reap from mentoring, but less attention has been focused on the faculty experience. Studies on faculty and mentorship tend to highlight the costs that can negatively influence faculty productivity rather than addressing any benefits they may accrue. Black faculty may be at particularly high risk for these challenges, considering their high rates of service and mentorship. By examining the nature of mentoring, this study clarifies how certain types of developmental relationships may distract, but also potentially contribute to the scholarly success of, Black professors.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study is to explore how Black faculty experience and perceive specific types of interactions within their mentoring relationships, especially in relation to their scholarly productivity.
Setting: Data were collected at two large predominantly White research universities of similar size, type, and mission: Oceanside University and Column University (pseudonyms).
Population/Participants/Subjects: A total of 17 Oceanside professors (10 males, 7 females) and 11 Column professors (6 males, 5 females) agreed to participate. Five participants were assistant, 11 were associate, and 12 were full professors. The largest proportion of faculty taught in the social sciences (n = 12), followed by professional programs (n = 5).
Research Design: This research is a qualitative multi–case study that uses pattern matching to analyze transcripts of 60- to 90-minute interviews with faculty participants.
Findings/Results: Interactions with students were perceived as having both costs and benefits, which had varying influence on productivity based on the type of interaction between the faculty member and the student. Collaborative activities (productive exchanges) have the potential to increase faculty productivity; however, interactions that are focused primarily on student development (generalized exchanges) can be rewarding, yet appear more likely to distract from research and limit scholarly productivity.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Although Black professors participating in this study perceived themselves as more likely to counsel students (generalized exchanges), they did not note that they were more likely to collaborate with students, particularly on research. Thus, rather than suggesting that Black faculty have slower rates of advancement and higher rates of attrition because they spend too much time working with students, this study suggests that perhaps their diminished outcomes stem from both frequency and form of interaction. Findings suggest that policy makers and institutional leaders, in addition to supporting Black professors as they work with students, could consider ways to foster the ability of Black professors to simultaneously counsel and collaborate with students as they develop strategies to encourage faculty promotion and retention.