5 Fairy Tales People Believe About Mentoring in Higher Ed

Individuals with flipcharts planning a project

by (Ginnifer) Cié Gee, Director of Registration and Records, UTSA

Once upon a time, I lived in a magical fairy tale world where higher education professionals, educated and insightful individuals, knew exactly how to navigate a mentor program and the results were nothing less than charming.

Then I woke up.

Sadly, the real world presents many obstacles to this "happily ever after," and a belief in the fairy tale mentorship creates unsuccessful and unsustainable mentor programs. The five fairy tales below highlight five major lessons learned from designing and growing a university-wide mentor program.

Before I begin, a caveat: Everyone’s story is different. Yet perhaps you can find relevance to your own institution and inspiration to begin or improve your mentor program.

For almost ten years, I have worked with a university leadership development program that cultivates faculty and staff from every area of the university in a series of day-long sessions. Part of this development includes an embedded mentor program. The leadership program was created in 2008 through a cooperation of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to cultivate leaders within the university. The goal is for participants to use these new skills in their current position and to hopefully grow into executive leadership positions. The mentor portion was designed to connect participants with executive leadership and take the curriculum outside the constraints of a monthly meeting. Mentors are approved by the Provost and can fluctuate year to year depending on availability. Through analysis and feedback from over 200 participants, the leadership team and I have discovered that having a fruitful and sustainable mentor program is not an easy task. It takes time, resources, dedicated people, admission of failures, and courage to take risks.

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