Staff Mentoring Circles Program (MCP)

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 to all SEAS staff in 2017 -2018. 

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). Facilitators are members of Team Gator paired with a mentee from 2.0. They are: Jill Larson and John Girash, Tim Fater and Eliza Grinnell, and Diane Schneeberger and Steve Marley. Mentoring circles will meet for an hour-long minute meeting each month starting in late September through May, for a total of nine 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

SEAS staff members interested in applying to become one of the 18 to 24 participants will be asked to respond to a short survey outlining their interest. Supervisors should be supportive of applicants’ participation in a mentoring circle. Tim Bowman and the six circle facilitators will review survey responses and assign participants to circles. If there are more than 24 interested in participating, those not selected for 2017-2018 will be given priority status for 2018-2019.


Questions may be directed to Tim Bowman or any of the six facilitators.