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Janice Hamlet brings experience and passion to expanded faculty mentoring role

November 10, 2021

On more than one occasion over the past two years, Janice Hamlet pulled into a parking spot near Reavis Hall, only to realize she needed to be across campus.

It was understandable. Since 2019, the veteran NIU professor of communication split time between teaching classes at Reavis and developing a university-wide faculty mentorship program, a post that had her spending much of her time at Altgeld Hall.

Now Hamlet knows where to park.

Janice Hamlet began her role as Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Mentoring on Nov. 1, 2021.

On Nov. 1, she started in a newly created role as the full-time Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Mentoring and Diversity, a job that makes her a key member of the provost’s leadership team and has her coordinating mentoring efforts of all junior faculty.

“I am delighted that we were able to attract Dr. Hamlet into this full-time role. Her vast experience and expertise, and her own success as a faculty member and mentor, made her the perfect person for such a critical program,” Provost Beth Ingram says. “Dr. Hamlet brings a vital voice to our conversations as we pursue goals for diversifying the faculty, assessing academic policies and procedures through an equity lens, and supporting the success of our faculty. When our faculty succeed, NIU succeeds.”

Hamlet will continue to serve as liaison to department chairs and mentoring facilitators, while also providing leadership and vision for the recruitment and retention of faculty of color and strategies for diversifying the pipeline of graduate students seeking to become university professors.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and faculty mentoring are two of our highest priorities within our academic units and Provost’s Office,” Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Chad McEvoy says.

“Over the past two years, Dr. Hamlet has done exceptional work in launching a university-wide faculty mentoring program and taking on DEI initiatives in her role as senior faculty mentor. Creating this full-time role of associate vice provost provides the opportunity for Janice to devote greater focus to these diversity and mentoring efforts. We’re really excited about the ability to further this work in our office.”

For her part, Hamlet says she is excited and honored.

“Having the opportunity to do this full-time allows me to put my heart and soul in it,” she says. “It also communicates a sense that we care about our faculty, we are invested in their future and want them to succeed.”

She brings an abundance of experience to the job, having served as a faculty member in higher education for 30 years, with the past two decades at NIU. She previously served as DEI director for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and coordinator of academic diversity programs for the vice provost for undergraduate studies.

“I could not think of a more passionate advocate for faculty mentoring than Dr. Hamlet,” says Vernese Edghill-Walden, chief diversity officer and vice president for Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “She is a great colleague, and I look forward to partnering with her to support faculty success.”

Hamlet is a familiar face to many across campus, in part because she has an extensive listing of university-wide service efforts. They include previously acting as a college representative to University Council, current membership on the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and past membership on the Academic Task Force for Program Prioritization and the Committee for Academic Excellence and Inclusion.

“In this new position, my main responsibility is to make sure that all incoming faculty, particularly those who are coming in as assistant professors, are matched with a mentor in their own department, and I’m amazed at the positive attitude I’ve already seen among both junior and senior faculty,” Hamlet says.

“I’m also responsible for communicating with faculty of color concerning retention and helping to facilitate their success,” she adds. “I meet with faculty of color as separate groups to determine their concerns. Once faculty of color are here, I want to make sure they have a sense of belonging, can be successful and stay here.”

Hamlet, who has spent considerable time researching faculty mentoring programs at other universities, currently coordinates about 75 NIU faculty mentor-mentee pairs. She created an onboarding checklist for chairs to provide to new faculty hires and has developed a number of initiatives. They include:

  • Training sessions for faculty who are interested in or have volunteered to be mentors.
  • Coordination of opportunities for group mentor and mentee gatherings.
  • Coordination of faculty table talks where mentors can share with each other what’s working and get ideas from each other.

Hamlet also is in the process of developing a number of new initiatives that include:

  • Establishment of a mentoring website.
  • Implementation of an annual Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award.
  • Creation of a literature library where mentors can find strategies and tips.

As the mentoring program strengthens, Hamlet believes the university will reap a wide variety of benefits in the form of professional satisfaction (for mentors and mentees alike), a greater sense of belonging among all faculty, new research collaborations, improved retention of employees and greater Huskie pride. She also hopes to encourage associate professors to continue to work toward full professorship, while nurturing graduate students of color from NIU and other Illinois institutions to pursue the professoriate as a career path.

Toward that end, she founded the annual Diversifying Faculty in Illinois conference in 2015 to encourage graduate students of color who were recipients of the Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education in Illinois (DFI) fellowship to pursue faculty careers in higher education. The conference grew from 18 attendees in its first year to a pre-pandemic attendance of nearly 100.

Because of the interest of graduate students of color who are not DFI fellows and in trying to cast the widest net, the conference is now called the Preparing Future Faculty of Color Conference.

“When I was offered this position, I indicated that this program has to come with me,” Hamlet says. “The program has gained the support of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The success of this conference has the potential to be transformed into an entity in and of itself, joining many other institutions of higher learning as part of the Preparing Future Faculty National Movement.”