The Power of Passionate Mentoring: Mentoring Students for Professional Success Throughout the life of an individual, there are many opportunities to serve in the role of mentor as well as that of the protégé, both formally and informally. Some mentoring is done voluntarily, but some is accomplished completely without the knowledge of the mentor. There have been three important mentors ... Features
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Features  |   November 01, 2006
The Power of Passionate Mentoring: Mentoring Students for Professional Success
Author Notes
  • Gloria Weddington, is chair and professor of communicative disorders and sciences at San José State University in California. She has assumed a leadership role in the recruitment and education of culturally and linguistically diverse students and in offering distance education programs in foreign countries. Contact her by e-mail at weddingg@email.sjsu.edu.
    Gloria Weddington, is chair and professor of communicative disorders and sciences at San José State University in California. She has assumed a leadership role in the recruitment and education of culturally and linguistically diverse students and in offering distance education programs in foreign countries. Contact her by e-mail at weddingg@email.sjsu.edu.×
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Professional Issues & Training / Features
Features   |   November 01, 2006
The Power of Passionate Mentoring: Mentoring Students for Professional Success
The ASHA Leader, November 2006, Vol. 11, 16-31. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR6.11152006.16
The ASHA Leader, November 2006, Vol. 11, 16-31. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR6.11152006.16
Throughout the life of an individual, there are many opportunities to serve in the role of mentor as well as that of the protégé, both formally and informally. Some mentoring is done voluntarily, but some is accomplished completely without the knowledge of the mentor. There have been three important mentors in my professional life, selected years ago, and they continue to help even though I’m in the twilight of my career. The people who have been mentors to me are unaware of their role: I’ve never identified them as such in their presence. However, I continue to seek their guidance and encouragement. Most mentors are selected by the protégé in an informal process. The protégé looks for someone with whom he/she can relate, particularly someone who appears to be interested.
Mentoring is a mechanism that organizations, such as schools, universities, and businesses, use to nurture and encourage individuals to improve performance and remain in school or on the job. Protégés are expected to observe their mentors, question them, follow directions, ask for help, and explore. Mentors give directions to their protégés, offer suggestions, demonstrate as well as explain and model professionalism, good time management, ethical conduct, and humility.
I have served as mentor to hundreds of students and young professionals during the 37 years of my career. My role is that of coach as well as cheerleader. Through guidance, encouragement, nagging, pushing, and sometimes scolding, the protégé can ascend to much greater heights than he/she thought possible. Although the protégé/mentor relationship is dynamic and considered a joint venture, my style of mentoring is directive: I take the leading role. However, early in the relationship I have to determine how much I can push the mentee. I must measure the steps to avoid pushing too hard. My support is continuous, congenial, respectful, and courteous, but also conditional—the protégé must be responsive for the relationship to continue. Such relationships sometimes continue throughout the career and beyond.
Mentoring in the university can assist students in adjusting to the culture and preparing for careers in their chosen profession. Students expect a mentor to help them to gain insights into the professional or academic culture and to help them succeed both in attaining their degree and securing employment in their career field. Increased contact with a mentor is associated with better student academic performance; therefore, interaction with faculty is essential for student retention—especially for new students—particularly for those who are minorities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, regardless of academic level. Such students may need someone to guide them through the mazes of university and departmental cultures.
At San José State University (SJSU) there are two formal mentoring programs. The first is the traditional faculty-student relationship. The professor is assigned a student, sometimes within the professor’s department. Through this relationship the student is introduced to the university, the department, and the profession. This professor assists the student with decisions about majors, offers academic help, and provides a shoulder for emotional support. The results show that students who interact with the mentors on a regular basis are more likely to stay in school and complete their degrees.
A newer mentoring model at SJSU is that of peer mentoring. Mentors are other students who have good academic records and a willingness to help. The peer tutors are paid for their services. Within the SJSU department of communicative disorders and sciences, a number of models have been used for the recruitment and retention of students who are culturally diverse. In one program, students were paired with professionals within the same ethnic or cultural group; others have been matched for language. This program has had varying degrees of success since some young students are reluctant to seek out mentors who may be well-known and active professionals. Distance also has been a negative factor that acts as a barrier in developing a mentoring relationship. We have found that the best mentor-protégé relationships are those that are self-selected, informal, and accessible.
No matter the type of relationship, mentoring is a vital part of career development. Whether formal or informal, paid or unpaid, students and young professionals are more likely to thrive when they know that someone on campus or in their profession extends a permanent offer to help, which very few of us can resist.
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November 2006
Volume 11, Issue 15