Almost every university has a mentoring program — independent initiatives hosted by campus life or student development. Wake Forest is one of the first higher education institutions in the nation to adopt a campus-wide model.
The Mentoring Resource Center supports people on campus who want to work together towards specific learning goals. “We want every student to have the opportunity for a positive mentoring relationship,” says Allison McWilliams who directs the Center. “At many schools, mentoring focuses on at-risk or high-potential students. Wake Forest invites all students to look for opportunities to work with faculty, administration, staff or peers to create purposeful, developmental relationships.”
This academic year, Mentoring Resource Center staff have trained more than 650 faculty, staff and student mentors and mentees and distributed more than 1500 mentoring handbooks and tool kits.
In some cases, mentor and mentee sign an agreement outlining their commitment to each other. “The agreement is a tool signifying that a mentoring relationship is underway,” McWilliams says. “It doesn’t require people to be best friends. Instead, the agreement says, ‘I’m taking a vested interest in you and will support and guide you in specific ways for an expected time.’”
The agreement between a mentor and mentee may last weeks or years depending on the goals for the relationship. Mentors help mentees determine where they are now and where they want to be. The next step is for the mentor and mentee to outline goals, expectations and measurements for success.
When writing goals, McWilliams suggests using the SMART model. Goal statements should be:
Specific — concrete and action-oriented
Measurable — to track progress
Achievable — require work but be attainable
Realistic — ability and commitment to reach the goal
Timely — set a time-frame for achieving the goal
Research indicates that undergraduates’ out-of-class experiences with mentors can be linked to positive academic performance. “In one study, mentored students compared to non-mentored students earned higher GPAs, enrolled in more credit hours per semester, and were less likely to leave their institution,” says Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior Melenie Lankau. “The mentoring relationship facilitated development of professional skills and behaviors and also helped students understand how to establish work and personal priorities. Research also suggests that mentored undergraduates are likely to return the favor by serving as mentors themselves.”
The Mentoring Resource Center was featured in the International Mentoring Association quarterly newsletter in June 2011 and was invited to present at the University of New Mexico Annual Mentoring Institute in 2011 and at the International Mentoring Association conference in Orlando in 2012
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