The Role of the Mentor
The role of the mentor is to establish a personal relationship with the student to:
- Help the student become acquainted with the University of Washington Tacoma;
- Guide the student to learning and career planning resources; and
- Support the student in the pursuit of realistic educational and career goals
The mentor serves as a guide during the student's transition period to college and as the student begins his/her commitment to self-development. Critical to this period are questions posed by the mentor to the student: Who do you want to become and how do you envision reaching that goal? What skills and talents do you bring to the process of becoming the person you want to be? What skills and knowledge do you need? How can UW Tacoma help you achieve your goal?
The mentor is not a substitute for a counselor, an academic advisor or an instructor; rather, the mentor fills the role of a thoughtful supporter who is familiar with the UW Tacoma environment. On occasion, the mentor advocates for the student to resolve problems that can arise in situations that are unfamiliar to the student. In responding to the student's needs and questions, and by giving encouragement, the mentor supports the student in a way that promotes a sense of belonging to the UW Tacoma community. A mentor is not a person with "all the answers," but someone who provides support, offers advice, opens doors of opportunity and possibility, and sometimes serves as an advocate for the student.
A Mentoring Checklist
- Once you have received the contact information for your student, communicate with her/him immediately to identify yourself, your role as a mentor, and to establish a time and place to meet.
- It is advised to communicate regularly with the student you are mentoring, preferably by in-person meetings. At the least, check in with your student three times per quarter: beginning, middle, and end of the quarter. Remember, students do not always read email, so if you are not getting a response from the student, try calling her/him on the phone. You, the mentor, are the initiator for meetings, so persist when first calls or messages are not answered.
- Every time you meet with your mentee, you should conclude your meeting by submitting an electronic meeting log with your mentee. The meeting log link is https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/uwtssp/148308. This link is embedded in the SSMP Facebook page (facebook.com/uwtssp) and will soon be available on our institutional UWT-SSMP website. These meeting logs do not need to be lengthy. They are just your notes on when you met, what you discussed, and any follow-up you and/or your mentee need to take. Such notes should help remind you of how often you are meetings and if there are any recurring issues that might require a referral: such as to her/his academic advisor, or to financial aid.
- Encourage your studentâ€™s involvement on campus. Perhaps you can attend an event together.
- At the beginning of the quarter when the mentoring relationship is new, engage your student in one-on-one discussions that help her/him find meaning and relevance in her/his UWT experiences. At the middle of the quarter, you may want to continue this type of discussion while making certain that the student is on-track for keeping up with courses, getting ready for mid-terms, finishing projects, etc. Then, at the end of the quarter, you should inquire about the student's plans for the upcoming quarter and suggest faculty or staff appointments as seems necessary.
- At the end of the academic year, if the student is continuing at UW Tacoma and you or she/he expect to continue your mentoring relationship, then be sure to agree to continue in the new academic year. The responsibility to re-engaging in the next year is that of the mentor.
Questions to Help Students Find Meaning/Relevance in the UW Tacoma Experience
A mentor is in a unique position to provide as much personal support to a student as possible. By engaging the student in discussions about the meaning or relevance she/he finds in their UWT experience, the mentor can learn about the studentâ€™s views and wishes, strengths, concerns, and needs. With such information, the mentor can guide the student toward university resources and, perhaps, explore them together.
All conversation begins with an exchange of basic information. From the student, this would entail his/her year of status at UW Tacoma, major/concentration, job/career, and family background. From the faculty or staff member, this might include your position and office/unit at UW Tacoma, number of years at UWT/UW, research or special academic interest, history that led you to your current work.
Once the mentor and student have exchanged basic information, open questions can then help to engender a more meaningful dialogue between the mentor and her/his student. Open questions solicit personal feelings and reflective thoughts and can lead to new insights. For example, these questions may be useful to launch dialogue:
- How do you feel about your progress at UW Tacoma? What do you like and/or dislike about your experience? What steps can you take to change the part you dislike?
- What experience has been most meaningful to you at UW Tacoma? What about it was meaningful? How did you feel? How does this relate to your life more broadly?
- How are your classes related to your long term goals? How do the topics in your classes affect your overall life?
- What have you learned about yourself? Will this awareness lead to some change in your life? Why or why not?
Dialoguing with the student about her/his ideas, feelings, and dreams, is one way a mentor can listen to, encourage, and help problem solve with a student. The key is to be consistently available to communicate with your student.