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Inclusion, belonging at heart of faculty mentorship program

Inclusion, belonging at heart of faculty mentorship program

For Jessica Trier, participating in the Faculty Mentorship Program was an opportunity to step outside her department and connect with someone working in another discipline. It was a chance to see things from a different perspective and to learn about different leadership styles. It was also, as it turns out, an opportunity to form a lasting relationship with another, more experienced faculty member, someone who can provide not only sage professional advice, but also the wisdom of perspective, especially in terms of navigating life’s various challenges.

“I have always been a bit skeptical of formal mentorship programs because I have not had much success with them, but I am relatively new to Queen’s and Kingston – I moved here six years ago – and I work in a small department, and I saw this as an opportunity to branch out,” says Dr. Trier, a physiatrist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, who was paired with Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, Vice-Dean (Health Sciences) and Director of the School of Nursing.

“Our relationship has really added to my life, and it has helped me navigate my various roles, and work differently in these roles. We come from different disciplines, and I have appreciated the opportunity to see things from a different perspective,” says Dr. Trier. “I also mentor and coach a lot of learners and this has helped me think about how I could be a better coach.”

Launched last year, the Faculty Mentorship Program is designed to connect faculty members across the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), serving as a reciprocal process for sharing experiences and fostering a trusting environment for career guidance and psychosocial support. More than 30 faculty members participated in the program over the past year.

Klodiana Kolomitro, Director of Education Development in the Office of Professional Development and Educational Scholarship, developed the formal structure of the program, which included webinars on inclusive pedagogy and leadership development, among other topics, and mid-program check-ins to ensure the process was going well.

“Most of us, if we were fortunate enough, have had a colleague, teacher, or coach who has been a mentor to us and made a positive difference in our lives. Those people have acted as allies, advocates, guides, active listeners, and critical friends,” says Dr. Kolomitro. “Yet often these encounters have happened organically or at an ad hoc basis, and not everyone has had equal access to these opportunities. We wanted to create a formal, structured path for intellectual stimulation, personal growth, and psychosocial support for all our faculty in FHS.”

Dr. Kolomitro explained that her office and the faculty as a whole wanted to take the lead in redefining, reimagining, and repurposing the role of faculty development, and focus more holistically on the evolving needs, interests, and aspirations of faculty members. “We want to promote personal and professional development, and well-being, but in addition to that, the goal is to cultivate a greater sense of belonging among faculty members, and continue to foster a culture of inclusion,” she says, adding that pairing across the disciplines was intentional, enabling participants to diversify their networks. 

Meeting regularly since fall 2019, in person before the pandemic hit and online during, Dr. Trier and Dr. Snelgrove-Clarke have shared a great deal, delving into everything from weekly workplace challenges, to family life (with younger children and adult children, respectively), exercise routines, and current inspiring reads.

“It can sometimes feel like balance – the work-family balance, or the work-work balance, however you look at balance – can feel like this unobtainable goal. But when you relate to someone on this more human level, and you see how people are successful when they emerge at the other side of things, you realize that everything you are going through is completely normal,” says Dr. Trier, who on top of her teaching and clinical responsibilities is now beginning a Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE).

Dr. Snelgrove-Clarke, as mentor, says that the program and relationship was indeed reciprocal, and she has enjoyed observing and listening to Dr. Trier’s “less impulsive” approach to certain situations. She also thinks the program is crucial to building community at Queen’s. “We already are a tight community, but this program opens it up even more.”

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