You have a profound impact on your students' lives, and mentoring is a key avenue for making that impact. Read on for suggestions for how and why to build positive mentoring relationships in and out of the classroom.

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Defining mentorship

“A mentor is someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional” (National Academy Press, 1997, pp. 1-2). Mentors share their knowledge, give support, and help shape those students entering their field.

The effectiveness of mentorship

Approximately 50% of college graduates indicate that they had a mentoring relationship in college.

  • Close student-faculty interaction can be a factor in learning gains, overall student success, and retention.
  • “Students who are mentored are better at problem solving, decision making, goal setting…and overall they are happier with their educational experience” (Cosgrove, 1986; Kardash, 2000; as cited by Long, Fish, Kuhn, and Sowders, 2010, para 7).
  •  “Academic achievement, grade point average, school absence, dropout rates, satisfaction with the university academic experience, attitude towards the school, time spent on educational pursuits, and number of semesters to graduation were all related positively to academic mentoring” (Crane, & Prentice-Dunway, 2007; as cited by Long et al 2010, para 11).
  • According to Inside Higher Ed, mentoring can build a diverse campus that is engaged in the community. It can also help those students that feel unsure on campus or that are particularly at risk. Having a mentor can expose students to unknown and untapped resources that can assist the student in their college success (Taylor, n.d.).

Despite the benefits of mentorships on student success, studies show that professors only spend between two to six percent of their time working with individual students. Most students want this close interaction with faculty but they are not sure how to pursue it.

How to build a mentorship relationship

Mentoring forms a close relationship that does not cross any boundaries and helps the mentor and mentee learn from each other. It requires a genuine desire to get to know and assist the student. Mentors guide individuals and provide a sounding board for mentees. It involves listening, validating, and investing in the success of the student. These relationships can persist through graduation and well into the student’s professional career.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a good mentor is approachable, knowledgeable, willing, and available. The mentoring relationship can differ by students and the mentor. Students will have different needs and require different levels of attention and encouragement. There is not one specific way to mentor. The relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, and empathy. Mentors are good listeners, observers, and problem-solvers.

Good mentoring practice includes:

  • Careful listening without judging
  • Keeping in touch
  • Helping students building networks of contacts and other potential mentors.
  • Clear boundaries- no favoritism
  • The overall goal of the relationship is to advance the educational and personal growth of students
  • Evolving the nature of the relationship over time. Needs, advice, and attention levels may change as the relationship develops and progresses.

Mentoring across campus

Mentoring on campus can take many forms. Here are some examples:

  • Work Scholars
  • College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Faculty and Peer Mentoring
  • First Year Experience
  • Accessibility Services Peer Mentor Program
  • Student Support Services (Trio) Peer Mentors
  • Warrior Alumni Mentoring Program
  • Auxiliary Staff Mentor Program
  • Counseling Services Peer Mentors

Mentoring also occurs at the division such as in the following types of programs:

  • Faculty mentors- Tenured faculty serve as mentors for new faculty during their first year of employment.
  • Senior Research Project Mentors- Faculty members work with students in the 498 / 499 senior capstone sequence to help them complete their projects.
  • Faculty advising- Faculty often work with their students preparing them to apply for graduate programs.
  • Research mentoring- Faculty working with a single or group of students on a research project. The level of mentorship can range from impromptu meetings to regularly scheduled lab meetings. Usually the goal is to mentor a student through to a product of some sort, typically a poster presentation at a conference (local or national).
  • TA mentoring- Many faculty hire students as TAs.  The student might assist with labs or help with grading.
  • Division-wide peer mentors
  • Formalized faculty-student mentoring 

Free2Succeed

Did you know that there are students at LCSC under correctional supervision (probation or parole)? Many of these offenders are first-generation college students, and the majority require additional support to succeed in college. They often enter LCSC with a GED and are unfamiliar with the “unwritten rules” of college. They are looking for a friendly face to talk to, to encourage them, and to celebrate their successes with them.

The LC faculty community can help these students through the Idaho Department of Correction’s (IDOC) Free2Succeed mentoring program. The program matches community members with offenders that are getting ready to leave prison to provide support. Interested faculty can be matched with offenders enrolling or currently enrolled at LCSC.

Mentor meetings can take place during your office hours. The time commitment to mentor is a few hours a month, but the outcome can be extraordinary for both the mentor and student. The length of the relationship depends on you and your mentee. Some need a bit more help than others, while some just want a positive figure in their life. The IDOC vets each offender and the risk is minimal. You review the background of the offender before selecting them and you decide whether the match is appropriate.

If you are interested in this program, you can sign up at the above link at your convenience. Mentor orientations are conducted several times year. If you have any questions, please contact Angela Wartel or Harold Crook. Angela has mentored two individuals and still actively mentors one. She would love to talk with you about it.

References and Resources

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