Professional Development

Three Ways to Improve Your Peer Mentor Programs

Thursday, December 15, 2011 10:20 am

Allison McWilliams sent out an invite to the ZSR Mentoring Committee to attend a webinar: “Three Ways to Improve Your Peer Mentor Programs.” Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the webinar on the day that it aired. This week I was able to view the recorded webinar.

The webinar offered some excellent advice for staff who work with peer mentors. Webinar speakers were: Jimmie Gahagan (University of South Carolina); Craig Benson (University of Missouri); and Joe Henry (Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning).

Gahagan (who has published on residential learning initiatives) kicked off the webinar by defining the term peer leader as, “students who have been selected and trained to offer educational services to their peers.” He noted that there is value in the peer leadership experience for students in the following areas: academic success, leadership skills, and diversity. During the presentation, Gahagan mentioned the National Peer Educator Survey (NPES) which was developed by a team of researchers and college health experts. Gahagan referenced an article by Wawrzynski, LoConte, and Straker (2011) in New Directions for Student Services that describes learning outcomes for peer educators. An assessment of peer mentors’ needs at the University of South Carolina reveals that students want: professional development; networking opportunities; and feedback and recognition. These were identified by Gahagan as “The Big 3 Gaps.”

In terms of filling these gaps, Benson discussed professional development. Benson noted that “students are effective in helping others.” To assist peer mentors, a lot of training is provided. At Benson’s institution (University of Missouri), there is semester-long training. The Peer Mentoring Program at Sheridan has been around for 14 years.

At all three institutions, networking plays an important role in peer mentoring. Peer mentoring opportunities connect students with other students across campus. It also links them with potential resources for employment.

The third gap deals with feedback and recognition. It is important to create strategies to recognize the efforts of the peer leaders. For example, “A Peer Leadership Recognition Event” at the University of South Carolina provides an opportunity to recognize students and say thank you.

This webcast provided an opportunity to find out about peer mentoring at other institutions. I was able to pick up some ideas that the ZSR Mentoring Committee could consider in developing future mentoring programs.

ZSR Mentoring Committee Journal Reading Program

Friday, November 4, 2011 2:26 pm

On November 2, the Mentoring Committee sponsored a “Mentoring Skills Builder” program. The program was designed to provide an opportunity for assembly members and current mentees/mentors to meet and discuss two short mentoring articles. Committee members (Giz Womack and Bobbie Collins) volunteered to lead the discussion.

The articles chosen for the program look at both sides of the mentoring relationship. The first article written by Lois J. Zachary focuses on taking the time to develop yourself. Zachary offers “6 development conversations to have with yourself.” In opening up the discussion of this article, Giz asked the group to comment on the first conversation in the article, “Where do I see myself in five years?” This opened the floor to an active discussion by those attending of their various career paths. No two people had the same path, and hearing about the paths of others was both engaging and thought provoking.

It is interesting to note that several staff mentioned that serendipity played a role in shaping their careers. Career plans are sometimes altered when dual-career couples relocate to a new geographical area. There can be some fascinating possibilities in this situation. The key is to be flexible and be willing to try new experiences which can often lead to more career options. In addition to discussing career paths, we also discussed the roles mentors had played in our careers thus far.

Another key point mentioned in the discussion centered on being part of a supportive organizational environment like ZSR. Having colleagues and a library administration that support and assist you in professional development activities are critical components of the workplace.

The second article which appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of American Libraries discusses the benefits of mentoring and notes that sometimes “mentors need advice.” Years later after mentoring a library school student, the author found herself seeking help from her former mentee. Those attending the journal reading program agreed that networking can be beneficial in opening new avenues for a successful career.

Although just six people came to the program, the discussion was very lively. Participants were very willing to share experiences about their career paths. All in all it was a great mentoring conversation! (post co-authored by Bobbie Collins and Giz Womack)

 

Mentoring Program Coordinator Council

Friday, November 4, 2011 2:07 pm

On Thursday, November 3, Bobbie, Giz, Craig, and Molly attended the third campus-wide Mentoring Program Coordinator Council. Organized once each semester by Allison McWilliams, Director of the Mentoring Resource Center, the Council brings together the coordinators of various formal mentoring programs at Wake Forest. Programs include those involving peer-to-peer mentoring among undergraduates, professional mentoring matches with MA and MBA graduate students in the Schools of Business, and faculty to student mentoring through the Chaplain’s Office, as well as our own Librarian’s Assembly program.

The Council began with a discussion led by Evelyn Williams, who came to Wake Forest in August and holds multiple appointments across the Schools of Business, School of Medicine, and Office of Personal & Career Development, where she is Associate Vice President, Leadership Development. She spoke about the importance of harvesting emotional intelligence in mentoring relationships. The old adage that “nice guys finish last” is now being supplanted by data that backs up the claim that “nice does matter.” Being aware of how others perceive you, and how your actions impact others, is crucial to success, including in mentoring relationships. Effective mentoring relationships are ones where mentees are encouraged to develop their self-awareness and self-management skills, and where mentors and mentees interact across the continuum of behaviors from sounding board to feedback. Evelyn explained the IMPACT-feedback model, where impact stands for the manner in which feedback is given:

I=illustrative
M=empathetic
P=prescriptive
A=actionable
C=concise
T=timed appropriately

Just as with any relationship, time is needed to build trust in mentoring relationships. It is important for mentors to understand that they cannot and should not solve their mentees’ problems by launching the relationship in feedback-giving mode; rather, they need to seek the mentees’ permission to give feedback, as the mentee needs to feel comfortable enough with the relationship to be receptive. One way for mentors to help build comfort and trust with their mentees is to use stories and examples from their own personal experiences. Mentors should also think through the launch of the relationship, and find a balance between inquiry (really trying to understand) versus advocacy (problem-solving) based on cues from their mentees. After explaining how emotional intelligence and the IMPACT-feedback model work in mentoring, Evelyn then opened discussion to the group for assessment on how our various mentoring models can more effectively incorporate these strategies.

The second half of the Council included a period of updates from Allison on campus plans for National Mentoring Month (January 2012), new assistance measures for students studying abroad, lessons learned from the recent University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute, and upcoming development opportunities.

I believe I can speak for my fellow Mentoring Committee members when I say that I have found the two Councils we’ve been invited to attend to be quite beneficial, both in giving ideas for our own mentoring program and in making us aware off all the mentoring opportunities taking place around campus. We are quite fortunate to have Allison here at Wake Forest to serve as a resource and expert on mentoring, and all our programs are stronger as a result!

Mentor/Mentee Training

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:11 am

One of the goals of the Mentoring Committee is to offer training/educational programs for both mentors and mentees. One way that we have accomplished this goal is to organize journal reading groups that focus on some aspect of mentoring. The Committee has also been interested in hosting a training session for both mentors and mentees.

Late last fall Susan Smith (former Mentoring Committee member) suggested that we contact Allison McWilliams. Allison came to Wake Forest in the summer of 2010 as the Director of Career Education and Counseling, Professional Development, and the Mentoring Resource Center. In the spring of 2011, the Mentoring Committee met with Allison to discuss offering a training session on developing effective mentoring relationships. On August 16, Allison provided an excellent workshop on mentoring to 10 participants.

Allison’s program included the following objectives:

1. Understand principles of effective mentoring practice
2. Understand and use skills of effective mentors/mentees
3. Develop goals and identify opportunities for personal growth and learning
4. Identify and use tools and resources for effective mentoring conversations

During one active learning exercise, we responded to questions such as: (1) Who has served as a mentor for you in your life? (2) What did that person do for you? (3) What worked well and did not work well in the relationship? and (4) What did that relationship teach you about being an effective mentoring partner? After completing the questions individually, Allison asked that we work in pairs to discuss our answers. We also shared some of our answers with the larger group.

During the session, Allison introduced us to WFU’s definition of mentoring:

“A purposeful and personal relationship in which a more experienced person (mentor) provides guidance, feedback, and wisdom to facilitate the growth and development of a less experienced person (mentee)”.

Allison also covered the three phases of mentoring relationships: beginning, middle, and end. We also learned how important it is to have a set meeting time, create goals, and an action plan.

If you want to learn more about mentoring at Wake Forest, you can go the Mentoring Resource Center’s page at http://mentoring.opcd.wfu.edu/ It provides a wealth of resources about mentoring including the Wake Forest University Mentor Handbook. and the Wake Forest University Mentee Handbook.

The Mentoring Training session was very informative, and I came away with a lot of good advice as well as some practical tips that I can implement very quickly.

ZSR Mentoring Committee attends Council meeting

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:16 pm

On May 10, Vicki Johnson, Molly Keener, Giz Womack, and I attended the Mentoring Program Coordinator Council meeting. The council meets about two times a semester and provides an opportunity for WFU personnel who lead mentoring programs on campus to exchange ideas. Allison McWilliams (Director, Career & Professional Development, Counseling, and Mentoring) kicked off the morning’s agenda by highlighting some of the accomplishments of the Mentoring Resource Center and presented 2011-2012 goals. One of the overarching goals is to “build a network of strategic partners” who can communicate and inform others about the value of mentoring at Wake Forest. In discussing this goal, several council members offered suggestions on how to promote mentoring on campus. Ideas included reaching out to faculty advisors, Campus Life, and other student organizations.

Allison also sought ideas and recommendations for recognizing National Mentoring Month which is observed every January. National Mentoring Month draws attention to the need of more volunteer mentors to help young people achieve their potential. Council members also discussed the idea of establishing an online social network to help students share what they learn when they go abroad. Although this idea is in the beginning stages, the goal is to tie this back into mentoring. Allison mentioned an exciting women’s leadership program called the Hot Mommas® Project (http://www.hotmommasproject.org/home.aspx). The project includes women’s personal case stories and allows “readers to interact with the role model/case protagonist via social media avenues.”

The guest speaker was Melenie Lankau (Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior) who discussed her research dealing with mentoring in organizations and the relation of mentoring to personal learning. Lankau has studied both formal and informal mentoring. According to Lankau, mentors provide three specific functions. First they provide vocational support by offering opportunities for protégés to acquire new skills through direct coaching. A mentor also provides psychosocial support which sometimes creates a strong relationship between mentor and mentee and often includes counseling and friendship. The third function involves mentors serving as role models for protégés. Lankau noted that “not everyone can be a mentor.” Individuals in the mentor role may have the expertise and competence but lack specific mentoring skills. If mentors and mentees are mismatched, there could be potential problems in the relationship. In fact, one area of concern mentioned by Lankau is “marginal mentoring,” and as she pointed out, “marginal mentoring is worse than no mentoring at all.”

The Council meeting provided an excellent professional development opportunity for the ZSR Mentoring Committee. We were able to meet with other staff on campus who coordinate other mentoring initiatives and to discuss in an informal setting some of the challenges we face in sponsoring mentoring programs. Our speaker (Melenie Lankau) was excellent and can serve as a great resource for the Mentoring Committee. Both Melenie and Allison are willing to share their ideas about how to build and sustain effective mentoring programs.


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