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‘Mentoring Scholars, Not Just Filling Sections’

Inside Higher Ed
April 29th, 2015 by 
Scott Mlia

In a recent feature story, Inside Higher Ed highlights the College of the Holy Cross for the success of its faculty mentorship program.  According to the article, both visiting assistant and tenure-line professors at Holy Cross say theirs is an example of what a visiting assistant professor program should look like.

“The mentorship experience was above and beyond what anybody — certainly I — but anybody could have expected in a number of ways,” said Matthew Dinan, who served as a teaching-intensive postdoctoral student for two years and visiting assistant professor in political science for one year at Holy Cross before landing a tenure-track position at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick. “From the get-go, every decision that was made was done with a view toward helping me, so helping me fill out my [curriculum vitae], and helping me build skills that are relevant to teaching at a liberal arts college, and support for research.”

In 2008, Holy Cross received an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish postdoctoral fellowships at the college, six scholars over four years. The idea was to give new Ph.D.s — many of whom have spent their entire academic careers at large research institutions — the opportunity to teach at a liberal arts college, said Margaret Freije, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, “So many of them haven’t had exposure to what teaching at a liberal arts college might be like, and what that teacher-scholar model might look like. We wanted to help them decide if teaching at a liberal arts college might be something they were called to do.”

Scott Malia, now in his fourth year on the tenure track in theater, was a postdoc and visiting assistant professor before a permanent position opened up in his department. Malia said his previous positions at Holy Cross have helped him manage his teaching, service and writing commitments. The mentoring he received, especially from his department chair, helped him advance as a teacher and theater scholar, he said. “I think that real-world experience before getting this type of permanent position is valuable in a lot of different ways.”

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Cristal Steuer. 

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