Peer Mentoring Circles

What are peer mentoring circles?

Peer mentoring circles provide participants with an opportunity to develop a supportive, encouraging, and interdisciplinary support network. Unlike traditional mentoring arrangements where one junior person is matched with a senior mentor, peer mentoring circles consist of faculty members who have similar interests, or are at similar professional stages of development, working collaboratively to learn with, and from, each other. With peer mentoring, participants can engage in open dialogue without concerns of a hierarchy or power differential between members, which can be a concern in more traditional mentoring arrangements.

The objective of IWL Peer Mentoring Circles is for members to gather regularly to support and encourage each other to achieve their professional goals. The groups are a confidential space to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, share struggles or challenges, and work collaboratively to identify shared resources and solutions.

Peer Mentoring Circles FAQ's:

Expand all   |   Collapse all  

Why peer mentoring circles?

Research findings suggest that peer mentoring circles can provide an additional layer of support to the more traditional mentoring programs that may be offered by MU colleges and departments. For example:

1. Peer mentoring circles help to build supportive networks. Circles consist of an interdisciplinary community of faculty members who are at similar professional development stages of their career, are facing similar challenges, and in need of similar support and encouragement. Peer mentorship allows for a chance to receive, and provide, support to others in your community (Beihle et al., 2021; Darwin & Palmer, 2009; Waddell et al., 2016)

2. Peer mentoring circles can help reduce faculty members’ sense of isolation. Peer mentoring circles can create a sense of belonging and aid in career satisfaction and retention of women and BIPOC faculty (Dupree & Boykin, 2021; Moss-Racusin et al., 2021; Thomas et al., 2015).

3. Peer mentoring circles allow for sharing of information, open discussion of common issues and ideas, and the development of shared solutions or resources. This process has been found to decrease self-doubt, increase a sense of shared purpose, has been linked to successful career advancement, productivity, work satisfaction, and personal growth (Kensington-Miller, 2014; Waddell et al., 2016)

4. Peer mentoring circles can serve as a mechanism to change the university culture and promote a climate of collegial support (Thomas et al., 2015; Waddell et al., 2016). 

How will groups be formed?

These groups will be formed based on similar professional goals. During this pilot year peer mentoring circles were formed for:

  • assistant tenure track faculty members who are working toward promotion and tenure
  • mid-career faculty members (seeking peer support for progress to full professor)
  • non-tenure track faculty members (seeking professional support)

As the program grows, we hope to extend mentoring circles to other shared interest groups (such as faculty teaching about gender and diversity, or an interdisciplinary gender research) 

How do these groups work?

Mentoring is most effective when participants work collaboratively to identify their needs and are active participants in the mentoring process. In peer mentoring circles, much of the first meeting is devoted to the group members jointly identifying the topics or issues that they would like to cover during the year. Group members take turns facilitating future meetings on these topics.

What is the commitment?

Peer mentoring circles will establish their own meeting schedule. We recommend that groups meet at least once a month for a minimum of one hour. The group members will determine if those meetings are in-person or virtual. The groups will run during the academic year. Each fall groups can decide if they want to continue and new groups will be formed to accommodate new members.

Peer mentoring sounds helpful, but sometimes I want advice from a senior faculty member who has successfully accomplished the task that I am struggling with!

IWL has identified a pool of senior mentors who are happy to meet with any peer mentoring circle, upon your request. These mentors are faculty, staff and administrators who have expertise, skills, and knowledge on a variety of topics ranging from teaching, research program development, grants, work-life balance, dealing with difficult colleagues, and more. By using a pool of mentors, rather than assigning one senior mentor to a group, we hope to provide a “village of mentors” who all want to support you and your success at Marquette. We have also compiled a number of excellent resources, by topic, that we will provide for your group’s use.


Peer Mentoring Circles Resources

Best Practices and Recommendations for IWL Peer Mentoring Circles

First Meeting Recommendations

Pre-Meeting Self-Reflection

Participation Contract

Additional Resources 

Questions? Contact


"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." - Madeleine K. Albright