Gavin J. Farber, Advisor Training and Development Advising Community Member
Mentoring is not a foreign concept in higher education, and through NACADA, programmatic efforts are in existence at the local, regional, national, and international levels. This article will review one local advising mentoring program that is located at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Whether readers are looking for ideas for creating mentoring opportunities on their campuses or seeking out a mentor or protégé (informally or formally), this guide will aid in showing how easy finding a mentor could be.
The Temple University Academic Advisor Group (AAG) Mentoring Program began in 2011, when the advising population was growing rapidly after the development of the advisor career ladder (2007). Added support from university administration, including the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, allowed advising units in schools/colleges and specialized centers to add new positions. By 2013, the advising population had doubled. The increase in new talent created a need to offer more resources to new advising practitioners. Over the last six years, new cohorts of mentors and protégés (new advisors) have entered the program to aid in their personal and professional development. Through the AAG, advisors created programs, including a New Advisor Subcommittee and the Mentoring Program, as ways to bridge gaps between advisors across academic schools/colleges and specialized advising centers.
The origins of mentoring come from Homer’s The Odyssey, where Mentor was an Ithacan noble and friend of Odysseus. Mentor cared for Telemachus, son of Odysseus, when he left for the Trojan War. Mentor served as coach, teacher, guardian, protector, and surrogate parent to Telemachus as he shared his wisdom (Johnson & Ridley, 2008, xi). The AAG Mentoring Program was designed to facilitate relationships that shared some of Homer’s characteristics of mentorship. The creator of the program intended these relationships would “promote interdepartmental collaboration and community, serve as a guide for insight into best practices across advising units, and assist in the retention of new advisors through increased connectedness to the advising community” (C. Hence, personal communication [AAG Mentoring Program Guidebook], 2015).
This voluntary program was a new advisor’s introduction to learning more about the university through a different lens of an advisor or administrator from outside of their home advising centers. While participation was not required, within two years, the programs became part of the advising community’s vernacular. Advisors were actively inquiring about joining the mentoring program.
The Temple University Academic Advising Group (AAG) Mentoring Program began in September 2011 when a mentoring committee formed. Throughout the fall 2011 semester, guidelines and goals were discussed with the Advising Directors Council (ADC), a body of advising center administration at Temple. The committee started recruitment for the program in January 2012 and the following month a formal mentor/protégé training was presented to the AAG by a Temple University Human Resources administrator (Farber, Hence, & Raab, 2015).
The mentoring program at Temple allowed advising practitioners to serve in the roles of mentors and protégés. Committee members trained advisors on their new advising role in mandatory trainings for new mentors. The trainings opened dialogue on how mentors were to approach their new mentorships.
Mentors are defined as a coach to challenge, inspire and demand your best. These professionals are people who help you to develop the self-awareness to integrate your professional and personal life with your core values. Mentors also help those new to an environment to learn about and adjust to the culture. (Damminger, 2011)
The role of the protégé is also one that is unique because while many consider them the followers in the mentorships, if they assist to shape the overall agenda that a mentor will use, then they assist in the shaping of their mentoring relationship. Protégés must be in open communication with their mentors. However, protégés should not expect mentors to have all the answers or to be an expert in every area (Inzer & Crawford, 2005, p. 34). Mentoring relationships have been described as “dynamic, reciprocal, personal relationships in which a more experienced person acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsors of a less experienced person” (Johnson & Ridley, 2008, p. xi).
The AAG Mentoring Program Subcommittee create each mentorship pair. These relationships materialize through the recruitment of advisors and administrators. Interested participants complete a questionnaire to provide their basic biographical information (name, email, position school/college or program, number of years worked at the university, and number of years worked in the field of advising). Specialized questions on the questionnaire ask participants to mark areas of advising a participant has an expertise in (transfer students, nontraditional students, career counseling, professional development, advising events, advising best practices, university policy design and implement, technology in advising, or other). The questionnaire also asks open-ended questions to provide additional insights about each participant (their strengths and weaknesses in advising, outside interests/hobbies, and personal views on what is important in a mentoring relationship).
Once all questionnaires are submitted (via email or Google-Document), the subcommittee meets to review all applications. Pairs are assigned and emailed contact information. It is encouraged that mentors make the first contact with protégés.
Each mentor and protégé in the AAG Mentoring Program abide by a set of expectations. The mentorships meet at least once a month. On the first meeting, the pairs discuss their goals for the upcoming year. Protégés set three goals for the upcoming year and their mentor can assist in reaching them. The monthly meetings are set up for the pairs to reflect on their practice and the protégé’s progress on their goals. The most important detail to these relationships is to maintain confidentiality, because the pairs could discuss sensitive topics such as office politics, details on specific student cases, or problems the protégé might be facing with fellow professionals on campus (Farber, Hence, & Raab, 2015).
There are various benefits to being mentored. New advisors have an opportunity to discuss their professional practice with another professional. New advisors also receive an opportunity to build their professional development through networking and collaborating with more seasoned advisors. They gain confidence with their professional and personal skills and create a greater awareness for the culture, politics, and philosophy of an organization (Rawlings, as cited in Knippelmeyer & Torraco, 2007).
Mentors are given the opportunity to give back to their professional communities. They are able to enhance their professional development through networking. Mentors are able to empower others through these relationships along with improving their personal and professional confidence (Temple University AAG Mentoring Subcommittee, personal communication, 2015).
Throughout the various cohorts, advisors engaged in the AAG Mentoring Program faced various challenges including mentor/protégé mismatches. At the start of each mentoring cycle, two subcommittee members serve as the contacts to report any issues that a mentoring pair could face. Some pairs might have a member that has a lack of commitment, such as someone who does not keep in regular contact. In addition, a balancing act occurs in mentorships. There cannot be a one-way communication; it is a two-way communication philosophy. Mentors might also offer too much direction for a protégé that leads a new advisor to feel dependent on them.
The end of any formal mentorship can be difficult. The AAG Mentoring Program created a mentoring closure workshop to discuss the issues that might occur between both mentors and protégés. While the program only lasts one year, these relationships can shift. The Temple program has seen a variety of outcomes including mentorships breaking before the one-year mark, mentorships extending for a second year, and mentorships blossoming into friendships, among other results. There were seven tips the subcommittee discussed with participants and were encouraged to follow to assist in the ending of their mentorships. These included:
- be proactive,
- look for signals,
- respect your partner,
- evaluate the relationship,
- review your goals,
- integrate, and
- never assume (Zachary, 1999).
Advisor mentoring programs have a positive impact on the development of new advising practitioners through offering a unique opportunity to create new connections for professionals at all levels to share their experiences with one another. This program is just one example of a local advising program within our NACADA community. Think about how mentoring might assist in your overall professional development and where it might help you land in the next chapter of your career.
Gavin J. Farber, M.S., M.A.
Academic Advisor II
Fox School of Business and Management
Damminger, J. K. (2011, May). Mentoring an avenue to success. Presentation at the Women's Leadership Symposium of Salem County, Penns Grove, NJ.
Farber, G., Hence, C. M., and Raab, L. (2015, April). Get connected: Become a mentor or protégé for the professional development of advisors. Presentation at the 10th annual Temple University Academic Advisor Day, Philadelphia, PA.
Inzer, L. D. & Crawford, C. B. (2005). A review of formal and informal mentoring: Processes, problems and design. Journal of Leadership Education, 4(1), 31-50.
Johnson, W. B., & Ridley, C. R. (2008). The elements of mentoring. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Knippelmeyer, S. A. & Torraco, R. J. (2007, February-March). Mentoring as a developmental tool for higher education. Paper presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development International Research Conference in The Americas, Indanapolis, IN. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED504765
Zachary, L. (1999, Fall). Mentoring relationships: 7 tips for coming to closure. Mentor and Protégé, 9(4), 4-6.
Cite this article using APA style as: Faber, G.J. (2018, March). Temple University advisor mentoring program. Academic Advising Today, 41(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]