Networking Mentor Circles Program

Background and Purpose

Participants in SEAS Leads 1.0 (2014-2015), known as Team Gator, researched existing mentoring circle programs at other institutions, conducted focus groups with SEAS staff, and outlined the framework for a SEAS Mentoring Circles Program (MCP). The program was piloted as a part of SEAS Leads 2.0 (2016-2017) with members of Team Gator serving as facilitators and participants for SEAS Leads participants. As a result of this successful pilot the program is being offered annually to all SEAS staff. 

By establishing developmental networks to foster the exchange of experiences, challenges, and opportunities, mentoring circles create an environment for teaching, learning, and professional growth.

Format and Logistics

A mentoring circle is a group of SEAS staff colleagues who meet regularly throughout the academic year. Team Gator’s research indicated that in traditional one-on-one mentoring pairs, there is a risk of mismatched goals, interests, or personalities between the mentor and mentee. This risk is mitigated in mentoring circles. Peer mentoring can occur naturally between all circle participants.

The SEAS program will include three circles, each with six to eight participants/mentees (learning partners) and two facilitators (who are also learning partners). Mentoring circles will meet for an hour-long minute meeting each month starting in late November through June, for a total of seven meetings. Each meeting will roughly follow the format of 25 minutes focused on a specific topic, 25 minutes of open discussion, and a 10 minutes recap and preview of the next meeting. The topic for the first meeting will be pre-determined with subsequent meeting topics determined by the circle.

Expectations for Learning Partners

Mentoring circles are most successful when there is active participation from all circle participants. Development is a self-directed process. Participants need to take responsibility for setting goals, preparing for group discussions, making suggestions, posing questions, providing feedback to others, and sharing ideas and experiences within their circle. Participants are expected to make attendance at all circle meetings a priority.

Role of Facilitators

In addition to acting as learning partners within the circles, facilitators support the circle’s discussions and activities, encouraging all participants to share their experiences and perspectives as appropriate. They are responsible for clarifying expectations for the group, fostering group conversations, and encouraging productive discussion.

Confidentiality and Trust

Circle members will discuss the level of confidentiality to be maintained regarding group discussions and how they will establish and maintain each other’s trust, as well as other norms and standards to which the circle participants will adhere. Creating a climate of trust is important for productive conversations.

Application and Selection Processes

If you are interested in participating in the program, please complete this short survey by October 27, 2023. Supervisors should be supportive of applicants’ participation in a mentoring circle. The circle facilitators will review survey responses and assign participants to circles. Those not selected for this year will be given priority status for next year. Questions may be directed to Kim Harris, Assistant Dean for Human Resources.

Testimonials from Past Participants

“The SEAS Networking Mentor Circles Program was a great way to feel more connected with my colleagues at SEAS and meet people I don't typically interact with in the course of my work. The group was excellent at helping to problem solve and answer questions.”

“This program not only helps you get to learn the tactics that others use to thrive here at SEAS, but also it helps teach you about what truly is important to you and your own personal ambitions.”

“I really enjoyed this experience! I felt like I broadened my support network at SEAS and received helpful feedback on career challenges and opportunities from both the mentors and colleagues in the cohort. “

“This was a great way to connect with a new set of colleagues outside of your own team which is a great asset as we return to more days in the office.  I now have new colleagues I can ask questions from, say hi in the hallways or at SEAS events and that I consider trusted individuals based on our conversations throughout the program. I believe that both Mentors and mentees gain this benefit from the program.”