Mentoring: Relationships that can last a lifetime

TaLeiza Calloway

Freshman English major Tiara Stevens said being a part of the Student Mentoring Program in the Multicultural Center has helped her get to know other students and the campus better. The mentoring program started in 1999 and has 70 participants.

Abby Fis

Credit: Ron Soltys

Mentors can change lives.

Just ask Marisia Styles, senior political science major, who found a mentor in Thomas Brewer, assistant professor of justice studies.

During her sophomore year, Styles took a law and society course with Brewer. Students had to write a 10-page research paper and Styles was unsure about how well she had done on the assignment, she said.

She was encouraged by Brewer’s suggestions and remembers him telling her, “You write well enough to go to Yale or Harvard.” Styles had not considered these options before that moment, and Brewer’s encouragement gave her confidence, she said.

Brewer’s class is the reason Styles is interested in law, and she plans to apply to law school when she graduates.

“He’s inspirational. For a teacher to reach out and take time out to mentor and build up a student is awesome,” she said.

This was not the first time Brewer supported Styles. In Fall 2005, she applied and was accepted to the Washington Program in National Issues offered through the political science department. Students in this program go to Washington, D.C. and complete an internship in their perspective fields.

When Styles was accepted, Brewer sent her a card and a book about Washington, D.C. that included maps of the city as well as transportation information, she said.

“I thought that was one of the greatest gestures,” she said.

Learning and accountability

Encouragement is also something Lisa Wilson, sophomore athletic training major, gets from her instructor and mentor Cary Hale. Even though Wilson is no longer her student, Hale asks her every time she sees her, “What did you learn today?” Wilson said.

“It’s her personal goal to make sure you learned something,” she said.

Wilson has known Hale for two years and had her as an instructor for three semesters. Hale always makes time for her students, and when students approach her, it doesn’t seem to be an inconvenience, Wilson said.

“She wants you to understand what’s going on in your field. It’s really beneficial,” she said.

Multicultural mentoring

Mentoring is an important part of the educational process – so important that Kent State has a mentoring program for freshmen students offered through the Student Multicultural Center.

Shana Lee, director of the Student Multicultural Center, said there is a lot of impromptu mentoring that goes on within departments, but there was a need to create a main center to house a mentoring program for students.

“Freshmen students come in and want to connect with someone that knows the ins and outs of the university,” Lee said.

Gina Spencer, graduate assistant for the Student Multicultural Center, runs the University Mentoring Program. She explained that it is a voluntary program geared toward first-year minority students.

The program started in 1999, and currently there are 70 participants. Incoming freshmen who participate in the program have a mentoring team that consists of the student, a peer mentor and a professional, Spencer said.

Leadership and networking

Students can gain a lot from mentoring relationships. Going to college is not always an easy transition, and having a mentor can help.

“Students gain confidence from the program,” Spencer said. “It shows them that they have a support system and that they are not the only one going through this.”

From helping students get familiar with the university to providing workshops and different activities, the mentoring program seeks to help students with personal, academic and professional development, Spencer said.

“It (mentoring) helps to build networks and shows students that you can make mistakes and still be successful,” she said. “It builds leadership.”

Previous participants in the program, such as sophomore exploratory major Damien Payne, come back as peer mentors for other students.

“It helped to guide me and provided insight into things like financial aid and protecting your GPA.” said Payne, who participated in the program last spring.

Payne thinks the University Mentoring Program is important and plans to be a mentor until he graduates, he said.

“People don’t always have the motivation or determination to succeed,” Payne said. “A mentor helps you stay on track.”

Contact features correspondent TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected].