Better with a Mentor
When the mentoring process really works, it is transformative, and when it works extremely well, it is transformative in two directions: both to the mentee and back to the mentor.
Mentoring is tightly woven into the fabric of the Governors State University experience. It manifests in two distinct ways at the university: peer mentoring (student-to-student) and faculty (or staff)-to-student.
Professor Steve Hyzny, who lectures in the Information Technology program, mentors students through the Student Leadership Institute (SLI) at GSU. He volunteers because “through the years I’ve been mentored by many people. I’ve had that help, so I want to help the next generation. That’s part of why I got into teaching.”
Stefany Sigler, who graduated from GSU in 2015 with a BA in Psychology, was a peer mentor in GSU’s Dual Degree Program (DDP). She says she felt grateful for the DDP Honors Scholarship she received and decided that the best way she could give back was to help others. The experience set her course.
“Being a mentor inspired me to pursue a career in higher education, and I’ve made life-long friendships through the program. I couldn’t be more grateful for it.”
Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies at North Central College, Sigler looks to the future and says, “All I know is that I want to end up at a college so I can keep impacting students the way that other people have impacted me.”
All I know is that I want to end up at a college so I can keep impacting students the way that other people have impacted me.
“Peer mentoring roles are embedded in several of our offices,” says Randi Schneider, Associate VP for Enrollment Management. “For instance, the Center for the Junior Year has the Title III grant-funded peer mentors. Peer mentors are part of the New Student Programs office and, although the Resident Assistants at Prairie Place aren’t called mentors, they do a lot of the same type of work. The DDP has an embedded student transition assistant program that also serves in the capacity of peer mentorship.”
The other way, involving faculty and staff mentoring students, is the SLI, now in its fifth year. SLI participants determine their strengths and weaknesses according to Kouzes and Posner’s nationally recognized “Five Practices of Exemplary Students Leadership” and attend workshops and training to learn ways to improve.
SLI mentor Hyzny says, “I would hope that the students I mentor would want to become mentors themselves. Once they’re established in their career, I hope that then they’ll lean back and mentor the new ones coming into that career. I hope they’ll take that into their life and build some relationships, a connection based on shared interests, even if it’s an informal process.”
Without question, those mentorship opportunities become extraordinarily good professional development tools for the students who are the peer mentors themselves.
Schneider’s thoughts on mentoring provide a crucial distinction in thinking about these kind of interactions, which is the difference between “transactional” and “transformational.” When the mentoring process really works, it is transformative, and when it works extremely well, it is transformative in two directions: both to the mentee and back to the mentor.
“These programs are useful in more than one way,” Schneider says. “They’re useful for the mentee, of course, but without question those mentorship opportunities become extraordinarily good professional development tools for the students who are the peer mentors themselves.”
Juan Gutierrez was a mentee and then a mentor in GSU’s Smart Start program. “My peer mentor really helped me to fit in here at GSU,” Gutierrez says. “He inspired me to want to help the freshmen. Being a peer mentor is helping me develop as a person.”
Being a peer mentor—because of the training involved and because you work so closely with the other mentors—really gives the mentor a lot of advantages, too.
One of Stefany Sigler’s more successful mentees is Bridget Drury, a DDP graduate who became a peer mentor and also participated in SLI. Drury is following Sigler’s footsteps and is about to start the same MLD program at North Central College. “Being a peer mentor,” Drury says, “because of the training involved and because you work so closely with the other mentors, really gives the mentor a lot of advantages, too. There are so many resources.”
January is National Mentoring Month. If you’re already a mentor, thank you for being a positive force in the world. If you’re not a mentor (yet), maybe you'll take a moment to think about all the help you’ve received in your life and you’ll consider becoming one.