We start asking kids at a young age who their role model is, who they look up to. When I was younger, amongst the “insert Green Bay Packer player here” and “singing celebrity here” there were always a few mom, dad, sister, and brother answers. This is all great, but when do we change the question to who is your mentor? Role models can only play a small role in someone’s life. A mentor, however, can help guide, develop and support in ways a role model never can.
In my time as an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to find great mentors who helped support me to attain my bachelor’s degree and move on to my graduate degree. During my time as a graduate student I was able to pursue courses in gender studies, which I hadn’t had time to do previously. I never would have thought that an independent study would change the way I practice student affairs, but the research I was reading seemed too important to not let it impact my practice.
My independent study was about how those of us in student affairs can help develop our female undergraduate students into confident leaders. Although there is little research on this topic, one of the suggestions that came through was having a strong female as a mentor. Which led me to grand ideas of mentor programs connecting our female students to strong women not only at the university, but in the community.
Being a grad student and working in housing didn’t leave much time to enact this grand idea, but I thought this blog may be the next best thing. Getting out the word to other strong women in student affairs about how important it is to not only have a mentor, but be a mentor and help our students find mentors in and around the institution where we work.
Some of us fall into mentorship, and do not realize the impact we have. I didn’t realize I was a mentor for some of my students until they told me how much I impacted their experience and how they had changed their thoughts, actions, or even life plans. Once the realization of having a student look up to you hits, there is automatically more responsibility. While this may seem like more work, what I found was a sense of purpose. I didn’t have to be the female who was forgetting other women or pushing them down- teamwork is about success of the group, not an individual.
I can also promise that I did not come out and tell my mentors how important they are in my life before graduate school. Although they did realize they couldn’t get rid of me; I just kept coming back. This is probably old news to many of you, but as women in student affairs, I think it is important that we begin to make a bigger deal out of helping develop and mentor other women.
Help a young professional out in her dream to affect women and student affairs. If we all start accepting that we are mentors to not only students but young professionals in the field, we can start intentionally helping so many more women. Knowing that this blog is about our development, think about how much we could change and grow if we took the time to teach others what we know about surviving as women in the workplace. One major issue is the dissonance between the ability to lead and one’s self-efficacy. Women need to begin to be confident in their abilities, and who better to encourage that than a strong female mentor.
And for me- while I still may dream to be in Lady Gaga’s shoes (not actually in them, I’d never last), I know that my support and mentorship come from two of the best women in student affairs, @shellymmumma and @nikirudolph. And because of their support, I can be a confident mentor to others both in and out of the field.
Nicole Micolichek is a Master’s Candidate in Student Affairs Administration and
Assistant Community Director at Michigan State University. Find her on Twitter: @nmicolichek.