NIA Field Faculty Mentorship Program

The NOLS Instructor Association is collaborating with the NOLS Field Staffing Office to create the Field faculty mentoring program. It is our joint goal to help facilitate a process for faculty to seek out advice from their more senior peers, not only in navigating NOLS staffing and career opportunities, but also in developing and shaping their own realistic direction at NOLS and reaching their own balance of desired work at NOLS and beyond.

The goal is to help fill a gap in mentorship that has been identified by faculty and program staff of all levels of experience.  While faculty receive regular and focused short-term mentorship from our co-instructors on each course, and long-term guidance from the Staffing Office and from Program Supervisors, new instructors often lack longer-term, personalized mentorship from their more senior peers.  The NIA Faculty Mentoring Program provides a list of vetted, qualified senior faculty who are happy to be contacted by others for advice and conversation on the process of becoming a successful NOLS instructor.  The hope is that these contacts will be maintained and developed over time, so that the mentee has a reliable mentor who knows them and understands their progression at NOLS.  

Most mentors will be current field faculty, whose main role at NOLS is in the field.  Individuals whose main role is in-town, or who no longer work in the field, are also invited; we only ask that they put on their “field hat” and provide mentorship based on their field perspective, rather than on the needs of their in-town position.  The recommended qualifications are one or more of the following:

  • Current NOLS Senior Field Staff/Faculty (Level II or higher - > 100 field weeks ) who has worked a course in the past 2 years (minimum weeks is a guideline, not a rule)

  • Annual Field Staff Program (AFP) participants

  • Current NOLS Administrator (salaried staff/administrators, program supervisors/managers, etc.)

  • Former NOLS Instructor/Staff/Administrator with an interest in mentoring NOLS faculty who are seeking opportunities outside of NOLS for: work in shoulder-seasons, additional education/trainings, changes in careers, etc.

  • A clear understanding of one’s role at the NIA and at NOLS.  Mentors will not formally speak for NOLS or any NOLS office, and should be able to point their mentees in the right direction within the NOLS administration when needed.

  • A commitment to responding in a timely and professional manner (1-3 days) to mentorship requests and contacts from current mentees, and to consistently provide an email and phone auto-responder when in the field or out of contact.

Questions and Details:

What is the time commitment?

As much or as little as you like.  Mentors will not be expected to take on more mentees than they can comfortably handle, and will be encouraged to decline new mentees if they are too busy.  Mentors will be asked to commit thoughtful, caring, and positive advice, rather than large amounts of time.  This might look like a few long conversations when your mentees need you, but should not add up to a lot of hours over the course of a month or a year.  

Is this a paid job?

No.  The time commitment should be very low and should not impinge on mentors’ work or leisure activities.  Mentorship will be a responsibility, but it should be enjoyable, fulfilling, and not stressful.  The goal is for mentors themselves to enjoy playing an important role in supporting the careers of new faculty and using their experience and perspective to help others.

Will I choose my mentees, or will they choose me?

A list of current mentors, with brief bios and pictures, will appear on the NIA website.  The Staffing Office will have the list as well, and will point new instructors toward the program.  Potential mentees will choose a mentor to contact based on their bio, or on the advice of the Staffing Office, the Mentor Program liaisons, or other instructors.  Bios (5-8 sentences) should include the branches and skill types you work in, something about non-NOLS life and experience, and a reason why you want to be a mentor.  After an initial conversation (or at any time), mentors and mentees should feel free to discontinue the relationship if it is not a good fit.  Mentors should communicate with their mentee if they choose to discontinue the relationship.

What if I don’t like my mentees?

Mentorship should be a pleasure and should be based on real rapport and caring.  If progress towards this rapport does not seem to be happening, it is fine to tactfully pass off the mentee to a different mentor, or for the mentee to seek out a different mentor.

Who’s in charge of this program?

Aaron Divine is the NIA Board Member in charge of Mentorship, and is assisted by Sean Williams.  Aaron and Sean will be the contact people for all Mentors.  Pat Mettenbrink, Training Director, is providing advice and support from the Staffing Office.

What if I am frustrated at NOLS for some reason?

That’s okay, anyone who has worked long enough to be a good mentor is probably frustrated at something.  The primary goal of mentors should be to support the mentees, both with honest advice and with positive influence.  Mentors should have the self-awareness to distinguish any complaints or gripes they might have from real advice on building a career at NOLS, and should respect the excitement and enthusiasm of newer faculty.  

As a volunteer Faculty Mentor for a faculty organization that is not formally a part of NOLS, who do I represent - NOLS, the NIA, or myself?

Yourself, the NIA, and the community of NOLS senior faculty, in that order.  Mentors will not represent NOLS formally, but will still play an important role at NOLS in the training, development, and retention of new faculty.  They will need to take care to provide correct information and to know when to step back and connect mentees directly with relevant NOLS administrators.  Mentors will represent the NIA (but need not be members), since this is an NIA program.  A successful and positive mentor program will be a way that senior faculty, through the NIA, can support NOLS as a whole and use their unique skills and perspective to fulfill a need for the community.

Individuals wishing to volunteer/participate as a Mentor should send a statement of interest to one of the NIA Board Faculty Mentor Program liaisons, or contact them by phone:

Aaron Divine


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