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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.